All four Gospels talk about a time when Jesus appeared to his followers after his rising from the dead and before he physically ascended into heaven. Jesus was not a ghost, but flesh and blood that could be touched, who ate, who was solid. He would suddenly appear and just as suddenly disappear. The different Gospels, have different accounts of whom he appeared to and different stories about those appearances. He appeared to his loyal women followers early in the morning on the day of his resurrection. He appeared to his disciples and followers when they were huddled together behind a locked door, hiding from the soldiers thinking, they too would be arrested and executed. He appeared to two of his followers as they returned home from witnessing his crucifixion. One time it was on a beach when they had been fishing all night. He had a fire going with fresh bread and fish. Finally, he gathered them together to make sure they understood what they needed to do and then he ascended into heaven as they watched.
These appearances were as much a part of his earthly ministry, as his time among us as flesh and blood. His followers were frightened, disheartened, disappointed, feeling that all was lost. They needed to know that God had power that transcended death, that mere death could not side track God’s plans for us in Christ. His disciples had an important role to play, and they needed to move beyond these feelings of failure into hope and joy. They had to know that they were ready to play their part in carrying God’s message, as Jesus had taught them through his words and his actions, to all the world. In each of the stories about his followers meeting the risen Jesus, there is a theme of joy. Jesus was putting the final touches on the spirits of his followers so that, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, they could be beacons of light that would draw people to God. When Jesus had completed this final part of his earthly ministry, he ascended into heaven, both his body and his spirit, so that, with Jesus our human nature is in heaven.
It is interesting that it is the women who discover the tomb is empty as well as being the first to see the risen Jesus. Women were of little worth at that time and yet Christ chose to reveal himself to these loyal followers is significant. In scripture, women are few and far between in the grand story. Their roles in the ongoing story of God’s work among us is reduced to a line here or there, with the exception of the book of Ruth and Esther. For women to have such a prominent part in Jesus’ story is a wonderful witness that even though God works with us in our human culture, God transcends it.
In the stories there is a recurring theme that his close friends and followers don’t recognize him. It is often in something that he does, which is something he had done time and again when he was with them, that triggers recognition. His followers had the same problem that you and I often have, not recognizing God when God is working in our lives. Take heart, as dense as we can be, God is persistent and does not give up. God is like the air we breath, unseen, but life giving.
May God continue to bless you.
The “In-between time” is our theme for Messy Church this month. Messy Church is May 14 from 4:30pm – 6:30pm in the parish hall. There are crafts, songs, and dinner!
Image taken from: Title: “The Life of Our Blessed Lord & Saviour Jesus Christ. An heroic poem … Illustrated by necessary notes … also a prefatory discourse concerning heroic poetry. With sixty copper-plates [by William Faithorne]” Author: WESLEY, Samuel – the Elder Contributor: FAITHORNE, William. Shelfmark: “British Library HMNTS 644.l.14.” Page: 491 Place of Publishing: London Date of Publishing: 1693 Publisher: Charles Harper; Benj. Motte Issuance: monographic Identifier: 003892868