Date: Sunday, April 18, 2021
“They are startled and terrified and think that they are seeing a ghost.” “Startled and terrified” aptly describes the followers of Jesus after his crucifixion and death. We too readily dismiss their “trauma” and highlight their coming to renewed faith in the Resurrection. Mary and the women are “seized with trembling and bewilderment” (Mark 16:8). Disciples out of fear go into hiding behind locked doors (John 20:19). The symptoms exhibited by the disciples are not uncommon after a trauma. We can understand how they think they are seeing a ghost. We are familiar with ghosts in Harry Potter, in Shakespeare and in Charles Dickens, “Christmas Carol” when Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his dead business partner Jacob Marley. But Jesus, the Risen Lord, is not a ghost. He comes not from the realm of the dead, the netherworld, but from God, the “author of life.” Jesus Christ comes not as a disembodied spirit but appears in his glorified or resurrected spiritual body. They can see his wounds. There are three elements that are part of the resurrection narratives in the four Gospels that explain how the disciples come to recognize Jesus as the Risen Lord: Jesus speaks to them. Jesus eats with them. Jesus sends them into the world.
Jesus stands in their midst and says, “Peace be with you.” Jesus comes not to haunt or warn them like Marley’s Ghost but to calm their fears and to forgive them. The words of Jesus convey “shalom” the precious gift of God’s peace. Jesus then explains the hidden meaning of the Law, the Prophets, and the Wisdom of Israel that the Messiah, the Anointed One, had to suffer and die. It is not what the disciples expected but very much a part of the mysterious plan of God.
Jesus, the Risen Lord, eats with them at table when the two disciples ask Jesus, the stranger, to stay with them at Emmaus and again when they return to Jerusalem in Luke and by the Sea of Tiberias in John. Eating with Jesus recalls the last Supper when Jesus takes the bread and says, “This is my body, which will be given for you, do this in memory of me.” And then the wine, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.”
In his resurrection appearances, Jesus sends his disciples into the world and commissions them to preach forgiveness of sins and to be “witnesses of these things.” That mission has been given to us. Everywhere we look these days there are disturbing events that increase our anxiety, fear, worry and stress. It is increasingly difficult to listen to the news. But we are called to be messengers of hope, of peace and of healing. We are given a higher purpose.