Why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.
‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish.
You are witnesses of these things.
Debie Thomas finishes her commentary on this portion of Luke’s Gospel with these words:
Scarred and hungry. This is our God. This is resurrection. This is the Word made Flesh. May we be witnesses of these things.
Luke’s Gospel is clearly very different from John. But there are a number of common threads. The scepticism and doubt that we commented on last week is very evident.
“While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering….” Luke 24:41.
Isn’t that marvellous? That even after all this they still don’t believe. And even more marvellous, that they can be both joyful and disbelieving at the same time.
Doubt is not the opposite of faith. Doubt, in fact, is probably a necessary ingredient to faith.
Last week we saw that some doubt and scepticism is to be expected. We were encouraged to embrace those who continued to struggle with an overwhelming sense of doubt and/or anger at God. We are called to embrace them with gentle, generous love. And to embrace them for as long as it takes even if that is decades.
But David Lose is giving us permission to acknowledge our own doubt and scepticism and not to be frightened by it but to celebrate it as a part of healthy faith. It is normal and healthy to hold together joyful faith and a myriad of unanswered questions. Many of our questions will never be answered in ways that satisfy us.
Both in last week’s Gospel reading from John and this week’s from Luke we see the disciples invited to see the wounds Jesus has from the crucifixion. The wounds of crucifixion are very real and present in the risen Lord. Mind you Luke’s account of the road to Emmaus says they recognised Jesus in the breaking of the bread. It didn’t say because of the wounds in his hands when he broke the bread. And John’s story of Mary Magdalene encountering Jesus in the garden (John 20:11-18) doesn’t say Mary saw the wounds. It was when he said her name that she recognised Jesus. Never the less in both Gospels Jesus appears and says look at my hands and my side (John’s Gospel) and my hands and my feet (Luke’s Gospel).
Debie Thomas is keen for us to see these wounds not merely as a way of recognising Jesus but of knowing God in the risen Christ. Each of these things that bring recognition of Jesus are deeper in that they help us to know God. The breaking of the bread at Emmaus is the way we know God. We recognise God who delivers us from slavery and leads us to the land of promise, the one who delivers us from the captivity of sin and violence and brings us into a renewed relationship with him. In hearing her name Mary doesn’t just recognise Jesus but recognises the God who knows her personally. Indeed, the God who has always known her and loved her.
Recognising Jesus because of his wounds is more about recognising God who suffers with us when we are wounded. Debie Thomas tells the story of her own devastation when she thought her own 11 year old daughter was going to die. She burst into tears when the attendant in a Christian bookshop asked if she could help. The attendant went and found a small crucifix and quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “only a suffering God can help”. When the disciples see the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side and feet they recognise God. Our suffering is in God. God doesn’t just know when we are in pain but God suffers with us.
In Luke’s Gospel as in John’s Gospel Jesus eats fish after the resurrection. Next year in the Easter season we will hear again the story from John’s Gospel of Jesus calling the disciples who have been fishing. He has cooked fish over a fire. Again the Jesus that we fully appreciate as being alive and present in the eating of food is God who comes to us, the word made flesh. We encounter God providing a meal for us or needing to be fed by us. God is present wherever hospitality is extended.
The disciples recognise Jesus at Emmaus when he breaks bread as he did at the last supper, as we do at the Eucharist. Mary recognised Jesus when he spoke to her and said Mary. The disciples in Jerusalem recognise Jesus because of the scars from the cross and the realise he is fully alive when he eats with them. They were called to bear witness to these things.
Hopefully we have a strong sense of Jesus present with us in the breaking of the bread in the Eucharist. I trust that many of you have responded to your name been spoken at baptism or confirmation, at the greeting of peace or at the Communion or just as you sit quietly to pray. We know in that moment that Jesus is speaking to us. Many of us have experienced a greeting of deep love when we are in the depths of grief because a loved one has just died, or some sickness is destroying our own body. The person greeting us may not have words to say because our grief reflects their own deep pain and sadness. But at that moment we know somehow God is with us. From time to time we also have a sense that a shared meal is more than just a meal it is somehow a sacred moment of grace.
These are the things that we are to bear witness to. The disciples recognised Jesus in those days and week after his death on the cross. We also recognise Jesus, and know the living God in the sacramental life of the Church and in our everyday sacraments embedded in life. At least these are the things that I bear witness to. We are all called to bear witness to the living Jesus. May be others will hear our words as just idle tales that is how the disciples responded to Mary Magdalene. Don’t be put off. When we share our experience of the risen Christ a little spark is ignited in them. The Holy Spirit will do the work of making that spark catch fire.