We continue in our lockdown for another week after which we will get to know whether the lockdown will be extended or not. Meanwhile we are all in our own homes, not being able to venture out unless we are an essential services worker.
Many of us are still filled with fear and anxiety as we hear of friends and neighbours suffering from this Covid Virus. The disciples too were in a similar situation after the death of Jesus. They too were filled with fear and anxiety. The disciples had hoped that Jesus would lead them into a new kingdom where they will be free from Roman rule. They never expected the crucifixion of Jesus despite Jesus repeatedly teaching them that the Son of Man had to suffer and to die and then be raised again on the third day. The death on the cross seemed to be irreversible. The disciples themselves were filled with fear that they had locked themselves for fear of the Jews on the evening of the first day of the week. The threat was too real for them. Their leader had been crucified and now they were like sheep without a shepherd, frightened and scared. They were also terribly depressed that their leader who had promised them a kingdom, was now cruelly snatched out by the cross.
However, the resurrection of Jesus radically altered human history. The disciples who were scared a lot were filled with boldness and confidence. They were transformed because they were witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. This morning, the theme for our meditation is ‘Witnesses to Christ’s Resurrection.’
On the first day of the week when the women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women went to the tomb, they found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb and when they entered they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. Matthew records an earthquake and then the presence of an angel who tells them that he is risen and has gone ahead of them to Galilee. So also does Mark record an angel. Luke records two men who ask them ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?’ The reaction of the women in all the accounts is the same.
They were terrified on one side but they were also filled with joy and so they run back to inform the disciples about what they had seen. The disciples think that they are uttering nonsense. In fact the word that is used in the Greek is the word leros which means ‘nonsense’ or ‘idle talk a term used in medical settings of delirious talk of sick people.
Here again we notice Luke the Physician with his medical terminology. Peter and John then rushing off to the tomb and finding it exactly as the women had informed them. John records that they still did not understand from scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.
As the women were returning Jesus meets them and greets them. In John’s Gospel Mary Magdalene is crying outside the tomb when Jesus himself asks her, 'Woman why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’ Mary thinking he was the gardener says, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’ Jesus addresses her by name ‘Mary’ and she immediately recognizes who it is and holds on to Jesus responding to him as Rabboni!
On the same day of the resurrection two disciples had set off to a village called Emmaus which was about 11 km from Jerusalem. The two disciples were talking with each other about all that happened as they could not get their head around it. They were so caught up in their conversation they did not even see Jesus joining them.
They were probably going to Emmaus for the remaining part of the Feast of the Unleavened bread, as the main Passover celebrations were over. Even though they were leaving Jerusalem, the events that had happened in the last three days dominated their discussions. Jesus asks them what they were discussing about and they retort by saying whether he was the only one who was oblivious to all that had happened in Jerusalem.
Jesus then explains to them beginning with a rebuke. They were foolish and slow to believe all that the prophets had spoken. The disciples were slow to understand what the OT scriptures had foretold about the Messiah. Jesus himself kept on teaching them that it was necessary for the Son of Man to suffer and die and then be raised again on the third day (Mk 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34). The disciples did not understand the witness of the OT Scriptures. The Suffering Servant in Isa 53 should have shown them that glory would be reached only through suffering.
Jesus would be taken up into heaven where he would receive his glory. Jesus will return also as the glorious Son of Man. The disciples on the other hand were looking forward to an earthly king and kingdom who would uproot the Romans and give them political freedom. Luke basically records that Jesus used all of the OT scriptures to explain that the Messiah had to suffer and die and then be raised again on the third day. The disciples’ minds were informed and their hearts were touched. The irony of it all was they were seeking empirical evidence of the resurrection when the risen Jesus himself was in their midst.
The disciples are keen that Jesus stays with them and joins in the meal. Even though Jesus is actually the guest of the two disciples he plays the role of the host and breaks the bread. And as Jesus broke the bread their eyes were opened and they recognized Jesus. It is not a communion service that Jesus is enacted here; rather, Luke wants to make the point that the Christians of his day were able to have the living Lord made known to them in their “breaking of bread” in a manner that was at least similar to the experience of the Emmaus disciples. The hospitality of the disciples was well rewarded! Christ’s absence turns into presence. Their eyes were opened.
When we encounter Jesus our eyes will be opened too and our hearts will be warmed. The disciples were transformed because of the resurrection and they were witnesses to it. Because of their witness the Church exists today. We too are called to be witnesses to the risen Christ. May we too encounter the risen Christ and be his witnesses.
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