A Meditation on Luke 24: 36b – 48
Rev. Cathy C. Hoop Grace Presbyterian Church April 15, 2018
Scarred and hungry. That is how Jesus appears to his friends. Scarred and hungry. Neither of which are their fault, but both of which are critical for them to remember if they are going to continue to walk in his way after he is gone from them.
Last week we heard the writer of John’s Gospel tell the story of Jesus’ reunion with the disciples at the end of that resurrection day. Today we have Luke’s version. If you don’t read anything else from the Bible this week, take a few minutes and read chapter 24 of Luke, in which Jesus moves so fluidly, to walk with those who need him. It begins with grieving women and the mystery of the empty tomb. It then takes us on a road trip to the town of Emmaus. Finally, we end up back in a closed room in Jerusalem, in which the disciples are given another opportunity to experience the hope of resurrection.
By dinner time on this first Easter, Jesus’ friends have been given several chances to understand that death was not the end for Jesus, that a public execution was not his final chapter. They had laughed at the women’s story of meeting holy messengers where Jesus’ body should have been. They didn’t believe Peter, who did not believe his own eyes after looking in the tomb. He was left “wondering.”
When Jesus joins two heavy-hearted friends on their way back home to Emmaus, he patiently teaches them the story of God’s plan for restoring humanity’s relationship with God. Though the teaching warms their hearts, they do not recognize Jesus until he enters their home, and breaks bread with them. Cleopas and his companion are so overwhelmed by Jesus’ presence that they sprint seven miles back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples, who still don’t believe.
Into this grief-filled, disbelieving space, Jesus intrudes. He simply “appears.” John and Luke want us to know that doors, especially locked doors, don’t really bother Jesus. It’s a small but wonderful detail; if an enormous bolder can’t keep him in the grave, why should a wooden door be problematic? Jesus will go where he is needed; the world’s structures are not an impediment for him.
Jesus appears: scarred and hungry.
Scarred – we get that. He was tortured and executed. But, if we are going to believe this resurrection business, we might also wonder why Jesus wouldn’t come back in perfect form. He doesn’t. His choice. He returns with the marks of a whip on his back, the scratches of a thorny crown on his forehead, and the piercings in his wrists, and feet and side. He returns in not much better physical shape than when he left. I would also hazard to guess that he is a little skinnier upon his return.
Jesus returns scarred so that they – and we – would remember that Jesus identifies with our suffering. He endured physical, emotional and mental abuse. He went without food and water. He was falsely imprisoned, and led through a farce of a judicial exercise. A peacemaker, he was treated with violence. An embodiment of forgiveness, he was assigned guilt he did not deserve. Knowing that the world will always continue to act in this way, will always continue to abuse its saints and servants, he returns with his wounds unhealed.
He returns scarred so that all disciples would remember the atrocities of which the world is capable, the atrocities which the world is able to protect and defend, the atrocities to which the world turns a blind eye.
He returns scarred so that they – and we – would remember that wounds may close, but scars remain behind. As we also know, wounds may close up, but without care and attention, they will close infection inside them. This truth plays out in our families, in our churches, in our society. A truth with a long and sad history.
Jesus returns scarred so that they – and we – would know the risks we accept when we say to Jesus, “I want to walk in your way.” We are not promised beauty or wealth or comfort; but we can expect to be scarred by a world which is frightened by the wideness of God’s welcome, by the depth of God’s grace.
He returns scarred so that we will remember that the world is wounded and in need of compassion. The world is wounded, wounded and hungry.
It is a “thick mystery,” this resurrected Jesus. He doesn’t need doors, but he refuses to take on a perfect body. He also refuses to be without needs. “I’m hungry!” he says to a room full of his friends. On any other day, if Jesus had entered a room, tired from a day of teaching and healing, someone would have offered him a place to sit. Someone else would have brought him a cup of wine, a piece of bread, some olives, some fish. But on this day, they forget everything! He has to remind them how to be hospitable.
They look at this person who they know to be Jesus, but who, in his resurrection, is a stranger to them, and they forget all their manners. They have forgotten that you welcome in the weary traveler, that you offer the stranger food and shelter and companionship. But Jesus isn’t shy. “Do you have anything to eat?” he asks so nonchalantly, as if hungry people walk out of tombs every day and look inside your cabinets.
Notice this – he doesn’t ask them to heal his wounds, but he does ask them for food. He invites them to touch his wounds, to recognize him in his woundedness. He knows these are his wounds to carry. No, the disciples can’t heal his wounds, but they can feed him.
They give him some of their left-over fish. The hushpuppies and slaw were long gone. Over the last three years they had eaten together more times than they could count! He had fed them fish and bread on a hillside with thousands in attendance. They had enjoyed meals together at Mary and Martha’s house. Jesus had fed them, and they had fed him. Only a few days ago, they had shared the Passover festival together.
But this time, they watch as Jesus eats fish.
Jesus appears, scarred and hungry, just like the world he came to save. He sits at their table and eats their left over fish. I’m sure some of you have wondered the same thing I have about this scene. Why aren’t his friends drilling him with questions? Why isn’t anyone saying, “What was it really like?” “Where have you been?” “How did you get out??” Maybe they did, and maybe he answered. Maybe he didn’t. Most likely not. Maybe they were too shocked to speak.
Instead they watch Jesus eat, which is always awkward. No one saying anything. So into the silence, between bites, Jesus says, “You are witnesses.” He doesn’t say, “Will you be my witnesses?” Or “Could you take turns being witnesses?” He says, “You are witnesses.” Each and every one. The fearful and the brave. The introverts and extroverts. Weak and strong. Serious and silly. All witnesses to the world’s most indescribable moment of ultimate forgiveness.
The disciples are witnesses to a world reborn, which is beautiful in and of itself. Stunningly beautiful. It is why Easter celebrations cannot be contained in one day, but why every Sunday is a “little Easter.” And there’s more. The stunning and incredibly humbling beauty of this moment is that the God of the universe, clothed in skin (and skin that has seen better days), turns to people and asks three things:
- Touch my wounds.
- Feed me.
- Tell my story.
God, who in all reality doesn’t “need” us, is not dependent upon us for anything, reveals once again how much we are wanted. The God of all creation loves nothing better than to sit down at our tables for conversation and the sharing of a simple meal. At this table we can be our true selves.
So many places Jesus could have been on the evening of the morning of his first day back. So many people Jesus could have visited on the evening of the morning of his first day back. So many things he could have done. What he chose to do was this: show his scars, ask to be fed, and affirm each disciple’s purpose in life: to be a witness.
Jesus says the same things to us.
He invites us to touch his wounds. Whenever we acknowledge the woundedness of others, we acknowledge his wounds. When we allow grace to those who are wounded, instead of condemning them, we are acknowledging his wounds, and in the recognition there is room for healing.
Jesus asks us to feed him. Whenever we feed someone in body or soul, we feed Christ. Know this: there are far too many people walking this planet who have been dead longer than three days; feed them.
Jesus asks us to tell his story. To be a witness. Wherever we walk, we are witnesses. However we interact, however we forgive or refuse to forgive, however we love or hate, we are witnesses. However we feed one another, or withhold food from one another, we are witnesses. However we honor one another’s wounds, or deny them, we are witnesses. In the ways we embody or deny God’s story, we are witnesses. For better or worse, in all the ways we live and move and have our being, we are witnesses.
By God’s grace, may it be for the better. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Sources Cited: “Scarred and hungry” is from an essay by Debi Thomas, https://www.journeywithjesus.net/lectionary-essays/current-essay?id=1750