Looking for Security and Finding Peace
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
24:36b While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
24:37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
24:38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
24:39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
24:40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
24:41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
24:42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
24:43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”
24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,
24:46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,
24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
24:48 You are witnesses of these things.
- This is Luke’s account of the story we read last week from John 20: 19-23.
- The disciples are huddled together behind locked doors, though that is not emphasized here. The women have given their testimony; two travelers on their way to Emmaus have shared what happened to them when they encountered a mysterious stranger; now finally they are all hanging out with each other in a secure location when a “ghost like” figure appears. Last week we approached this story from the perspective of the disciples needing to lean into faith and not fear.
- This week, we are considering the event, looking for security and finding peace.
- Folks in the text are on edge—filled with anxiety, fear and bewilderment. Their lives are in crisis. The person they thought would save them from the oppressive regime of the time has died and even though there have been several amazing accounts of a missing body, and sightings of someone who appeared to be Jesus, there is still confusion. While they are comparing notes and discussing all this, Jesus comes among them and they are terrified. He greets them with the familiar phrase “Peace be with you” and then surprisingly asks them why they are frightened, as if he didn’t know. Jesus meets them where they are in their confusion and disbelief and invites them, even emphatically challenges them to touch and see (though like Thomas, last week, it is not clear that they actually do). But Jesus goes a step further and asks what’s for dinner? After he gets some fish and eats it and in so doing, encourages them to go beyond their superficial understanding of the scriptures and all he had been teaching them throughout his ministry.
- Death has been overcome—the ultimate affront to one’s sense of security is death—and that has been overcome. Jesus then interprets Scripture so that they can see references to him and what has happened all throughout the Old Testament. Their minds are set free to see that death is not the end, then they are commissioned to go tell to the ends of the earth. Seeds are planted that will spring forth on Pentecost.
- Sequence of events in this story is important. Only after Jesus addresses the disciples’ fears and confusion does he engage in Bible study with them. Then he opens their minds to understand. Minds that are paralyzed with fear can’t be open. When we can imagine life after death, we are able to understand scripture differently and we can see how both the words and the person of Jesus truly reveal God’s plan to redeem the world.
- We can’t escape a world filled with scary and disturbing things. Things that make us want to just lock ourselves away behind closed doors or perhaps are the result of our hiding ourselves away physically or mentally…illness or fear of getting sick, loneliness and isolation, unemployment, terrorism, racism and violence associated with phobias of various sorts. And of course, there’s the fear of death and the unknown on the other side of this life that we know.
- It is hard to proclaim and even receive the good news with joy when we are afraid. That’s why throughout the scriptures, the common refrain from God is repeated “Do not be afraid…”. The seeds of transformation are offered by the power of the resurrection. And the hope of resurrection is offered by the experience and testimony of the first followers and now by us.
- The security that the disciples yearned for and perhaps we do too is that nothing would ever happen to us—there would be no trials and tribulations. But that is not the security God offers. What we can be sure of is God’s peace because Jesus overcame the worst that this world had to hurl at him. Jesus said, “In this life you will have trouble, but take heart for I have overcome the world.” John 16:13
- The life of faith is grounded in reality. Here and now. That’s why Jesus’ eating was so important. Give us this day our daily bread is a plea embedded in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples that references our real needs daily—both physical (bread) and spiritual (bread of life/ Jesus).
- In the world, we will face racial and political strife, poverty, illness, abuse, sin in all its ugly forms. To some God seems powerless, absent, or uncaring with regard to suffering and pain. I am here to remind you that wherever there is inhumanity and injustice, where hope and love are most absent, that is where Jesus shows up offering comfort and peace, perhaps through any of us as instruments of peace and provision in his hands. We are invited to be the witnesses to all that Jesus did and proclaimed to a world broken and mired in despair.
- The risen Christ shows up around our tables and places where food is being distributed and consumed—dinner tables and communion table.
- In his book Search for Common Ground, Howard Thurman says that “the contradictions of life are not final or ultimate”. God offers forgiveness, mercy, and peace and assurance that love will prevail. Within this dynamic perspective, one can find optimism and hope.
- Living with this hope, following Jesus wherever he leads, is risky according to the world’s standards, but living without it is riskier because one day we will be called to account for our lives and choices we have made. Don’t rely on the security that the world tries to offer. Let us stand with God in God’s peace and as St. Augustine is reputed to have said, pray as if everything depended on God and work like everything depends on us as we press on to bring God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.