Thursday, March 31, 2005

Luke 24:36b–48

With this greeting Jesus culminates the resurrection appearances in Luke. The story as Luke has told it is as follows. Early on Sunday the women came to the tomb, see an angel, but not Jesus, and return to “report everything to the eleven and all the others.” The story “appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.”

Then as we had yesterday, the Emmaus story, which is thus the first actual resurrection appearance in Luke. The two unnamed disciples tell Jesus about the vision of angels and the missing body, and at supper they realize they have been with Jesus all along on the road.

And now, back in Jerusalem, they find that Jesus has appeared to Simon in the meanwhile: “It is true: the Lord has risen; he has appeared to Simon.” And they share their story.

Now amidst the excitement, “there he was, standing among them.” Once again, the suggestion is of a recognition, as if he were there all along and they didn’t know it. They are frightened, and think they have seen a ghost, but he invites them to touch him, and he eats some food to prove that he is real. And then, just as with the Emmaus incident, he shows how “the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms” foretold what has happened.

Once more, there is a sending out. The women at the tomb were sent to the eleven. The two in Emmaus were sent back to Jerusalem to rejoin the community. And now, the whole community is sent out “to all nations beginning from Jerusalem.” It is this sending and this telling which is so crucial to Luke, at every stage. It isn’t nearly as pronounced in Matthew; in Mark it doesn’t even get obeyed; in John the focus is entirely different.

But for Luke, the whole nature of the resurrection is to be proclaimed, sent out, published abroad. Jesus leaves them once more, for good this time, or so it seems, in his ascension. Luke’s gospel ends with that. But no, wait, it doesn’t. It ends with this: “And they returned to Jerusalem full of joy, and spent all their time in the temple praising God.” Jesus hasn’t left them, but the need for these resurrection appearances has been completed. Each of them was designed to bring the community together and to urge it on its way of proclamation.

Now they have learned to see Jesus in each other, in the breaking of the bread, and in their distribution of this message to the four corners of the world.

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