Friday, May 6, 2011

A sign for the Jerusalem 11 (7)

Station #7: Jesus appears to the disciples in Jerusalem.

And they [began] to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread. And while they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst. But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." Luke 24:35-39 NASB

The disciples of the Emmaus road, after doubling back to Jerusalem, told about their experience to the disciples who stayed in Jerusalem. Even as the two from the road were speaking, Jesus shows up, seemingly to confirm their witness with a sign for the Jerusalem 11. Jesus accompanies their witness, or as Mark tells, "while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it." Mark 16: 20.

The sign is, of course, Jesus himself. When we speak of Christ being present, we describe the sacrament as a sign. Here, the real Christ is truly present. He is tangible. There must of have been some questions about Jesus' identity, given the fact that the disciples respond with fear and doubt.

I've long reflected on this passage, especially the reference to Jesus' own wounds (which are mentioned also in John), his flesh and his bones. What are we to make of it? Jesus clearly suffered and died. And, in his resurrected body, Jesus is more than a spirit or ghost. Is it a spirit-body, as Paul taught in I Corinthians 15:35 ff?

It is clear, however we conceive it, that Jesus comes to anxious, doubtful, and fearful disciples, and they receive whatever assurance is needed. Whether we left town, or stayed behind. That should be enough. We shouldn't have to wonder if Jesus, as one scholar put it to me "still has to do his toe nails."

In the presence of the risen Christ, the hallmark spiritual work becomes, for weary or shell-shocked disciples, first and last, trusting God with our lives. It's the spirituality of the open, not the grabbing, hand.

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