Jesus resurrected was just as real to his disciples as I am to you--if we were meeting in person. The wounded and dead and now scarred but living man suddenly appeared in a room of people who were confused and frightened. Was he a ghost come to exact revenge?
It was the first Easter and the two disciples who had met Jesus on the road to Emmaus had returned from there. They were relating their story of meeting a stranger on the road, who turned out to be Jesus.
Jesus’ disciples were confused--what should they do? How would things change now that Jesus had returned alive? Would he continue his ministry? Would the authorities arrest him again? Would they then come for the disciples? How should they continue-how could they continue? Was this risen Jesus real? Was it really Jesus people had seen?
The two men who had just come from Emmaus were sure when they saw him, but faced with the skepticism of the others now they weren’t so sure. What sort of relationship would they have with Jesus if he was not always recognizable and if he could appear and disappear before their eyes?
Just then as they were discussing their Emmaus experience, Jesus appeared in the room. “Shalom,” he said, and they thought he was a ghost.
He asked why they were frightened. “Look, see my hands and feet--it is I. Touch me and see, a ghost does not have flesh and bones as I have.” They were happy to see him--joyful that he was with them once again.
Jesus asked them if they had anything to eat. It was past the meal time but they offered him leftover broiled fish that he took and ate. Often these post resurrection stories include eating meals together--sometimes Jesus cooked the food. Ghosts don’t eat.
The disciples were excited that Jesus was with them and Jesus was focused on having a snack. It reminds me how Jesus ate with anyone.
We often say that Jesus didn’t care with whom he ate. Yet, I think he cared very much about his dinner companions. I believe he was intentional in being inclusive. He ate with his family and neighbors in Nazareth. He likely shared mealtime with all kinds of people when he sat down for the midday meal when working with his father. He shared many meals on the road as he traveled between Nazareth and the lake district and West and toward the Mediterranean Sea and South to Jerusalem. He shared meals in boats on the lake and in Peter’s house and in the houses of those in power and with people like Zaccheus and in the houses of friends like Martha and Mary and Lazarus. He ate food he bought from street vendors in small villages and in cities like Jerusalem. He wanted to eat with every sort of individual because he knew it was important that someone was willing to eat with them. He knew that God wanted to be known to them all.
By eating with people after the resurrection he could prove that he was just as alive as he had been before he died, and it was just as important to him to eat with all who would share a meal with him. “Yes, it is I--see my scars--touch me and see. Do you have anything to eat?”
After he ate, he set about to instruct them. He spoke of the scriptures and the things he had told them before his death. He opened their minds to understanding. He said, “…a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations-starting from Jerusalem. You’re the first to hear and see it.” He was not there for revenge but for forgiveness. And that was the beginning of many meals, centuries of meals with the risen Christ at the center of them all. Then he sent the Holy Spirit to guide them and to be with them when they shared food with one another.
Eating a meal together is about trust, sharing and love. And it is also about forgiveness. With the living Christ at the center of our meals we can forgive one another, we can forgive ourselves and we can invite anyone to join us even if they are not like us.
Being forgiven and forgiving is life-changing. The disciples opened their hearts to the living Christ and this made it possible to go on when he ascended to his father. Once their hearts were open, they could accept anyone who came to receive life-changing forgiveness.
Who is hungry for forgiveness? The former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said in a sermon, “it’s the truly hungry who can smell fresh bread a mile away.
For those who know their need, God is immediate--not an idea, not a theory, but life, food, air for the stifled spirit and the beaten, despised, exploited body.” Most everyone is looking for some kind of forgiveness--how to receive it and how to give it. Jesus told his disciples how to continue his ministry when he was no longer with them: offer radical forgiveness to people. Even those who had rejected Jesus. He told Peter at another meal to “feed my sheep” and the early church did feed people. The way they lived was not a theory but action because they knew people were seeking God and they offered them God’s forgiveness: grace. They shared meals and everything else they had. Like we share what we have with Chaplains on the Harbor. Like the folks at Westport share meals every week. They emulate these disciples who sat down and ate together and no one was turned away.
Like the lunches that are distributed each week in Aberdeen--this isn’t done because it is nice, it is done because we all need acceptance, we all need forgiveness and we all need to be fed. We all need to be seen and heard--why not eat together? Well, when we can once again. God is here and now--touch and see.