Just as on the road to Emmaus when, Luke writes (24:13-35), Jesus walked along (unrecognized) with the two disciples and “interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures,” today’s reading shows him again interpreting himself: “he opened their minds to understand the scriptures” (vs. 45). This is the appearance narrative that follows the Emmaus story. It introduces a risen one who is fully flesh, even to the point of eating a piece of fish.
This is no ghost. Luke is keen to emphasize the reality of Jesus’ presence and the disciples’ need to hear again a reading of the holy scriptures that insists on his death and resurrection.
What are they to do with this experience of his presence? They are to witness to “these things,” namely, repentance and forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus.
Long ago, Jesus ate a bit of fish in the presence of his disbelieving friends. They were thunderstruck, and who could blame them? The resurrection hardly freed them of their anxiety. As Thomas Cahill said in his book, Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus, ‘‘If the crucifixion left the disciples utterly desolate, the news that Jesus was risen came on them like a tidal wave following an earthquake. They knew, as do we all, that death is the end and that there is no possibility of reversing its finality. If their world had been destroyed, would nature now play tricks on them, upending the only things they still knew to be true, the constant and reliable laws of the cosmos? If one has just suffered a tragic loss that sucks life dry of all its joy, one may somehow find the dull courage to go on—but one doesn’t want to open one’s door two mornings after such a tragedy to find that earth and sky have changed places’’ (New York: Nan A. Talese, 1999).
Like those first followers of Jesus, the good news of the resurrection does not exempt us from anxiety. We are not freed from the anxious concerns of this world; no, on the contrary, we are sent into the world and charged with the task of sharing the anxiety of those who are most in need, so that they might be less anxious. We are charged with the task of reading the most alarming headlines, responding to the most devastating emergencies, listening and answering the most desperate cries for help.
But we are freed from another kind of anxiety: we are freed from the anxiety that we face the world—and death itself—alone. We are gathered joyfully around a meal of thanksgiving, breathed upon by Christ himself, and reassured that whatever befalls us, we will lie down in peace. –Steven Crippen, Homily Service 39, no. 5 (2006): 56-64.
Having prayed over and seen the healing of a man who could not walk, Peter explains to the people who witnessed this event the true origin of healing power. Healing without knowledge of God’s power is beside the point of the resurrection. Calling people to repent and be forgiven without their understanding liberation into a life of joy and meaning is also beside the point of the resurrection. Peter is continuing Jesus’ task here––opening minds.
In our former fellowship hall, there used to hang a framed poster with a likeness of Jesus. Across it was written the brash and sassy saying, “He came to take away your sins, not your minds.” Jesus, according to Luke, on the very evening of his resurrection devoted himself not only to opening scripture but also to opening the minds of his disciples so as to understand the scriptures—meaning what they had to say regarding his messiahship. Opening minds is what it means to practice resurrection, opening minds to the truth about Jesus. As St. Paul put it to the Christians in Rome, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds . . .” John Rollefson –Homily Service 42, no. 2 (2008):118-126.
1 John 3:1-7
Liberation is the result of Jesus’ making us “children of God” and “what we will be has not yet been revealed.” That last promise is saturated with hope. Whatever situation is now your lot, what will be in the future has not yet been made known. We have, in other words, room for hope that in a world where God’s own son can be raised from the dead, there is no telling what can still come upon us.
Stephen Crippen is a psychotherapist and a deacon in the episcopal Diocese of Olympia, Washington.
Homily Service 39, no. 5 (2006): 56-64.
John Rollefson is a Lutheran (ELCA) pastor.
Homily Service 42, no. 2 (2009):118-126.