Father George Homily Inspirational

Proving the Resurrection

Easter III (RCL Cycle B); 14 April 2024

Happy Easter!

This morning’s Gospel takes us to another resurrection appearance. This is Luke’s version of the appearance we considered last Sunday. It’s Sunday evening the disciples are gathered, and Jesus suddenly appears in their midst. Invites them to be at peace. He, then, invites them to touch him in order to satisfy in their minds that the were not seeing a ghost or a group hallucination. It’s really Jesus in the flesh standing in their midst.

In first-century Jewish thought there was belief in a general resurrection at the end of history, when God would raise the righteous to participate in the new creation. But bringing back to life one individual before then was inconsistent with that understanding. Thus, among the Evangelists, Luke is particularly concerned to connect the identity of the Risen Lord with the earthly Jesus. He did this by describing what the Resurrected body of the Lord was like, as well as how the disciples responded to him.

Jesus was indeed alive and present more powerfully than ever, appearing at unexpected times and places. His presence was at once mysterious, physically real, and difficult to comprehend, as his followers struggled to make sense of this miraculous event.

Prior to today’s Gospel passage, the disciples had received as an idle tale the astounding news from Mary Magdalene and the other women that Jesus had been raised from the dead (Lk. 24:1-12). Later in the day the witness of the women was confirmed by the testimony of two who walked to Emmaus with Jesus and ate with him (24:13-35). After Jesus left them, they immediately set out for Jerusalem to share their experience with the disciples.

At first, when the disciples see Jesus they think they are seeing a ghost. But a resurrected body is no insubstantial ghost. It has mass and substance; just as Jesus presents himself. He bears the nail-scars in hands and feet and thus verifies continuity with the physical body of the Crucified One. Luke is determined that his readers will not be thinking that this story is “devoted imagination” or wishful thinking.

Even in their joy and wonderment, the disciples still cannot quite bring themselves to acknowledge that the Crucified One is the Risen Lord (v. 41). Jesus — less out of hunger than to demonstrate the corporeal as well as the spiritual nature of his Resurrected self — asks for something to eat.

He takes a piece of fish and eats it in their presence. This act would certainly refute any docetic tendencies in Luke’s readership — that is, the belief that Jesus only seemed to have a physical body. The Risen Jesus does have a concrete reality; he is no vaporous specter. He has identifiable signs of the violence he has endured, and he is able to consume broiled fish.

Jesus returns to a simple mealtime gathering — not a rally or public forum — which brings the Easter miracle around full circle to the ordinariness of human existence. It is an existence which, in the Resurrection, has been set free. The real presence of redemption is known in the most physical and human of ways: companionably eating with friends.

But Jesus does more than eat. He also teaches the fellowship around him from the point of view of the Resurrection (v. 45). It is important that they now understand what is occurring in their midst, by reflecting on the meaning of the Cross and the Resurrection in salvation history.

Jesus maintains that the heart of the Gospel message has already been set forth in Scripture. Luke mentions specifically that the law of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms find their fulfillment in the Risen Jesus. The death and Resurrection of Jesus conform to Scripture. Therefore, the Risen Christ is not only the fulfillment of Hebrew Scripture, but he is its interpreter as well.

Easter is the event through which Scripture is to be interpreted, and the Resurrection must now be proclaimed to the world. The Messiah is much more than a savior from political oppression and economic exploitation. He had to suffer and die so that in his rising from death the whole creation could become new. But only the Risen Christ could open their minds, and ours, to this truth.

The Resurrection is real – it shapes our lives and our believing. Thus, we can be at peace, knowing the Good News is still in our midst.


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