The apostles and their companions are gathered together, talking about some of them having just seen the resurrected Christ. Can you imagine their astonishment? “We have just seen Jesus!” And during this conversation Jesus appears in the midst of them. No wonder we hear that “they were startled and terrified,” and thought that they were seeing a ghost. How does Jesus keep showing up like this? We locked the doors!
A scholar’s “raw translation” (by D. Mark Davis) of the continuing passage reads something like this:
And he said to them, “Why are you having been troubled and on what account are deliberations arising in your heart?
These words put us in the middle of the crowd and into what has been going on: we are troubled about what is continuing to happen – people keep seeing Jesus! – and we remember the empty tomb and what the women said, and credible people are telling us that they’ve seen him. We are walking around, puzzled and afraid and we cannot get away from all of these events …. These are not light thoughts that flit through our brains and move away; we are deliberating deep within ourselves about what is going on … “Why are you having been troubled … on what account are deliberations arising in your heart?” [Remember that heart is the seat of the intellect, not of emotion. These are ponderous thoughts in our brains.)
Jesus tries to soothe us:
See my hands and my feet that I am he; touch me and see, because a spirit does not have flesh and bone just as you view me having.
“I am he.” I’m the real Jesus. Not a ghost, but a flesh and bone body. “I am he.”
Resurrected Jesus is not a ghost, not some filmy apparition who can melt through walls and doors, but a real man with a body. His body bears the scars of his death; we can see his wounds. Jesus is risen and real.
Yet while they were disbelieving from the joy and were wondering he said to them, “Do you have something edible here?”
The apostles are both joyful and in disbelief – he’s here – he’s real – is this the Christ? Can it be? It is he! Jesus again becomes known to us in the “breaking of the bread,” in actual food and drink. Here, he eats broiled fish!
You may recall that my favorite theological explanation of this event is this:
“Ain’t no soul ever ate a fish.” (Dr. Don Armentrout)
In that brief statement we get to say “ain’t” in church, we proclaim that Christ is risen not as a soul but as a body, and we know Jesus again in the way he eats with us, joins with us in his body and blood. “Ain’t no soul ever ate a fish.” Jesus is real.
In case we are not quite connecting theologically, there is another way to approach this story. Most of us have been in this situation, either ourselves or through observation of a brother, a spouse, or especially a teenager. This other person walks through the house, open the cabinets in the kitchen, sighs, opens the refrigerator door, peers inside and says – “isn’t there anything in this house to eat?” It is Jesus in front of that refrigerator with the door wide open.
What are we to do? [Let me hear you say it …What do we do when someone comes in to our home?] We feed him. And we feed Jesus not some generic, intellectual analysis of the last few days, his trial, death, the waiting, the empty tomb …. No! Luke tells us that we feed Jesus broiled fish. We feed him. We sit down with Jesus for a meal of broiled fish.
In only a few moments of time, Jesus soothes our worries, stops the deliberations of our brains and reassures us once again that it is indeed the risen Christ who is with us. And he is hungry. (Are you smiling yet? Go ahead – this is humorous, funny –we are upset and sad and reeling in disbelief and Jesus steps in and says “I’m hungry!” C’mon, it’s funny!)
You know what? Jesus is hungry, not so much for the food in our cupboards and refrigerators, but for the food of our souls – our companionship and our yearning (known or unknown to us) for Him. We are hungry, starving for Jesus. And yet we do not recognize him until he slows us down to be with him. We feed Jesus real food, and we know that in Him we are fed.
When rabbi Jesus speaks, he again begins to teach us, he “opens our minds to the Scriptures.” He tells us “you are witnesses of these things.” (The Greek does not have a verb.) ὑμεῖς μάρτυρες τούτων. you [are] witnesses of these things.
Witness is a scary word for us. We have tied the word witness to overt actions that we cannot imagine doing. To witness for Christ means proclaiming him as our Lord and Savior, probably to people we don’t know. Witnessing means going door to door, handing out brochures … witnessing means being uncomfortable.
Being a witness can mean all of those things. Or only a few of them. We witness all the time. Did anyone watch a sports event this weekend … this season? Who won? Who was the best player; who is the best team? Who got kicked off “Dancing with the Stars?” Who ought to win? Tell me about Felder Rushing’s talk at the library a few weeks ago… read any good books lately? I thought so. We witness every day. It is we who put up barriors to being witnesses about God and our faith.
Jesus reminds us what is supposed to happen after his death and resurrection. In other words, he is telling us what to do: “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his [the Messiah’s] name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.”
Rabbi Jesus has told us how to witness. You who have seen, go and tell. Go and tell the story. Start here. Start right here. Sit with Jesus and be fed; be filled. Remember how it is that Jesus has changed your life. Then go and tell, in how we life, in how we interact, in the fact that we pray; in the stories that we tell. Feed people real food; broiled fish and the Christ. Invite them in, so that they, too, can go and tell. We are witnesses. Tell the story, just as our Savior has told us to do.