Thursday, April 8, 2010

How "real" is our relationship with Christ? (Thursday in the Octave of Easter, Luke 24:35-48)

While they were still speaking about this,
he stood in their midst and said to them,
“Peace be with you.”
But they were startled and terrified
and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled?
And why do questions arise in your hearts?
Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.
Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones
as you can see I have.”
And as he said this,
he showed them his hands and his feet.
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
They gave him a piece of baked fish;
he took it and ate it in front of them.
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
and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.”
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
And he said to them,
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.”

* * * * * * *

This particular story in the gospel of John was a later addition to the gospel. Why was written? And why was it added, when the previous chapter already spoke of the risen Jesus appearing to his disciples?

It was to demonstrate once and for all the reality of the Resurrection. There were many, at that time, who said that the appearances of the Risen Christ were nothing more than visions which the disciples had. Many would admit the reality of the visions but insist that they were still only visions. Some went further and said that they were not visions but hallucinations.

The gospels go far out of their way to insist that the Risen Christ was not a vision, not a hallucination, not even a spirit, but a real person. They insist that the tomb was empty and that the Risen Christ had a real body which still bore the marks of the nails and the spear thrust in his side.

But our story today goes a step further. A vision or a spirit would not be likely to point out a shoal of fish to a group of fishermen. A vision or a spirit would not be likely to kindle a charcoal fire on the seashore. A vision or a spirit would not be likely to cook a meal and to share it out. And yet, as this story has it, the Risen Christ did all these things.

The first and simplest aim of this story is to make quite clear the reality of the resurrection. The Risen Lord was not a vision, nor the figment of someone's excited imagination, nor the appearance of a spirit or a ghost; it was Jesus who had conquered death and come back.

But there’s a second aim of the story, and that is to ask us—we who believe in the risen Christ: How real is Jesus in our lives? How real and personal is our relationship with him?

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)