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Sunday, May 4, 2014

what happened?

Luke 24 Jesus Appears to the Disciples
The Gospels cover the resurrection in a far more minimalistic way then our contemporary world would have. Something so amazing would easily generate books of 500+ pages with extensive interviews and attempts to reconstitute a timeline of events. Not so the New Testament...
In Luke 24:34 we read: “They were saying, “the Lord has risen indeed, and He has appeared to Simon.” However, this encountered is never detailed to us at all. Rather it is the woman whose encounter we read about. It is interesting that Paul makes no mention of the women in his discussion of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 (then He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve, Then He appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me.)

Paul may have omitted the women because they had no legal status as witnesses. So it is hard to piece together exactly what took place. My guess is no one knew. How could they? Who was dispassionately taking notes of the mind-blowing events?
Our approach to scripture (and history) is different from the ancient approach. The Gospels spend much more time on the miracles and teaching of Jesus then the resurrection. We are consumed with "proving" things while the Gospels shoot a bit higher. Each Gospel is a call to faith providing us insight into what happened and what it means. They demand a response (faith and repentance) and a call to action: how shall we live.
Lk24:1-12 has features similar to the other Gospels in which Mary Magdalene and others (exact number is not clear) find an empty tomb and encounter some men/angels. Here Peter runs to the tomb stoops down and looks in and leaves amazed (in the Fourth Gospel the BD outruns him and he does the stooping while Peter enters). A basic idea about what happens is provided, but the more important element is what it means....

The story makes clear that NO ONE  expected this. The words bewildered and terrified are reminders of the chaos on Easter morning. And the disciples do not believe the women. We do well to remember that those women saw how (awful) Jesus died. That image hardly prepared them for what they confronted on Sunday morning. Ancient people do not expect dead people to become alive again. The disciples sure didn't. And the fact that their expectations of Jesus as Messiah (they thought He would deliver them) had been shattered by a criminal's death on a cross (He is cursed according to Scripture) created a huge crisis of faith for them. Jesus was apparently a phony, a false Messiah (at worst) or deluded and mistaken (at best). At any rate, their love for Him and trust in Him was sorely tested by His wretched demise. It is not the sort of combination which leads to a naive expectation that 'things will be better' and a psychological "fantasy" that Jesus is risen...

Meanwhile there are two travelers headed to Emmaus [about 7 miles]. I assume, depending on terrain, it took a couple hours to walk. We are told, rather cryptically, that their eyes were “kept” from recognizing Him. A “spiritual” reading of the narrative, however, illustrates the parallels to our life. 
The journey is a metaphor for life (and they are headed ‘away’ from the trouble!). There are two companions which is a sign of the church (Jesus said where two or three are gathered in my Name, I am there). The instruction in Holy Scripture echoes our own gathering, where we break open the Word of God; while the breaking of bread certainly reflects the eucharist. The two say their hearts burned with fire as He spoke, but their eyes were opened to recognize Jesus in the breaking of bread. This makes sense of our Eucharistic celebration.
Obviously, we are struggling pilgrims trying to make sense of our lives and the world. We long to see Jesus, but as Jonathan Barrett made so clear last week, when He appears to us we do not “see Him”. After they encounter the Living Jesus (in church, for us) they are empowered and excited. They hurry back to the twelve to share their good news when suddenly Jesus appears again. With proof that He is concrete and no ghost, He upbraids the weak faith of His followers, He instructs them and He sends them to proclaim repentance and forgiveness.

I believe we are called to, like them, journey together and open our hearts to the Scriptures and let them burn. We are called to open our eyes and see Him in eucharist. We are called to share the good news: sins are forgiven, repent and believe. The new life of Jesus is a new life for us. We must be more energetic in proclaiming His Kingship and providing hope for a weary world.

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