Today we hear the story of another encounter the disciples have with the risen Christ and they are confused, frightened and cannot grasp the reality of the resurrection. This time they think they are seeing “a ghost.” He was alive but somehow, he is changed and is unrecognizable to his most intimate friends.
This should give us a clue about how different we should appear after our own experience of being “born again.” This becoming a new creation in Christ awaits us if only we can recognize what he is offering us – freedom from sin and a willingness to share the good news.
We see this transformation happen today in this encounter with Jesus. The disciples are terrified and troubled because they cannot believe it is really him. We have thousands of years of developed theology, so we accept his resurrection as fact, but do we accept his ability to change us by our own intimate encounter with him. Notice in this gospel and in all the other encounters how he dispels the image or concept of what it means to rise from the dead. He has them touch him and look upon his wounds and dines with them.
We have seen this before for just last week we heard Thomas declare he would not believe the story of his resurrection unless he touched him. We should be so bold as to say to Jesus we need to feel you, touch you or hear your voice so we too can have our moment when our faith changes from our head to our hearts.
We see this with the disciples walking to Emmaus on the afternoon of the resurrection when they are joined by Jesus and fail to recognize him. They walked all afternoon discussing the events of the crucifixion and resurrection. Sounds familiar because we love to discuss theology, dogma and studying things of faith all the while Jesus is there with us listening. Yet even as he listened he began to help them open their eyes to the meaning of the resurrection by explaining the scriptures to them and their hearts began to burn with in them.
Here he is today once again confronting a lack of understanding and failure to recognize who he is. He helps their lack of understanding by saying 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. We need to have that same kind of opening of our minds by allowing the Holy Spirit to help us discover God’s plan of salvation for us laid out in the scriptures. It is in allowing our hearts to burn for Christ that we begin to understand and believe and declare him as Lord and Savior.
Mary Magdalene when she encountered him thought him to be a gardener and it was not until he called her name that she recognized him. Have we taken the time to listen to our name being called by Jesus, so we too can cry out his name – Jesus.
We have the story of Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James, John and two other unnamed disciples who after several appearances of Christ seem to give up hope and they return to their boats in Galilee. It is there while they were fishing that Jesus once more appears to them on the shore and again they do not recognize him until he fills their nets with fish.
We, you and I, are seeking to understand the resurrection and its meaning for our lives so here is a question for us – what are we to do with this resurrected Messiah.
How can we learn from the scriptures about our own faith journey and how we are to respond to his knocking on our door? One lesson for us to learn is that it is probable that Jesus will be unrecognizable to us even when he is right before us? Most of us are too caught up in ourselves and our defining how Jesus fits into our understanding of faith to recognize his invitation to let him set our hearts on fire.
Perhaps the lesson we are to learn is that our ability to understand what the resurrection means for us and our call to discipleship can only be attained by an encounter with Christ. As believers, we need to ask ourselves one question – are we the disciples we see at the beginning of that journey who cannot see or understand what his resurrection means. Or are we the disciples of the end of the story who must share the good news of forgiven sin and eternal life?