By Jessica Malay
This morning in Luke we again see the first meeting of Jesus with the disciples, and it is useful to take a moment and step back from our familiarity with this scene, and put ourselves there. Remember, at this point they have been made aware that others have seen Jesus. They know the tomb is empty. Mary Magdalen and the couple, Clopas and his wife Mary have already seen Jesus. And if St Paul got it right, Peter had a meeting with Jesus also as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15.3.
We have no record of Peter seeing Jesus on his own, as we do with Mary Magdelan, and the Clopas couple. But we do know at that meeting, forgiveness must have formed a huge part. The two most prevalent themes of all the first meetings with the Resurrected Jesus are forgiveness and love. And all of these are set within very humble, very human settings and centre around eating. At the inn in Emmaeus Jesus reveals himself with the breaking of the bread, and in the upper room in our reading today Jesus reveals himself as alive, as a human being through eating the piece of fish.
All these meetings after the resurrection are human, but with a difference. They are love-filled moments that reveal what we as human beings can be and are destined to be. There is a gentleness and a humbleness in these very human meetings and I think it is important that when we read these meetings described we sit with them, in the company of the disciples in the quiet and the love.
In these meetings peace and forgiveness is made possible by infinite love. Even when Jesus shows the wounds he bears on his body, one feels that he has conquered the horror of those moments. Jesus’s self revelation, his willingness to humble himself so completely even through showing of the marks of violence on his body, takes them beyond the horror, beyond the violence. In John’s gospel that we talked about last week Thomas makes those really cruel comments that he will not believe unless he pokes his hands in Christ’s wounds – and here I think it's quite clear that the disciples told Thomas of Jesus showing his wounds to them. But Thomas takes it the wrong way, he has not seen Jesus and thus he can’t experience the peace and the reconciliation that the viewing of the wounds has effected in the other disciples. Perhaps this is why they are not too hard on Thomas. One hears the echo of John Donne in this moment of the disciples meeting with Christ: 'O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’
Jesus comes then bringing three gifts: peace, forgiveness, and love. He empowers his disciples to share these gifts around the world and through all time. He gives the Holy Spirit to them and continues throughout the centuries to give it to each person who opens their heart, and indeed does quite a lot of the heavy lifting to get that heart open. The holy spirit is that part of Christ that dwells continually within us. And it is that holy spirit that enables us to experience God’s peace, to practice true forgiveness and to look upon all people with love. We live in expectation that we will be more forgiving, more loving and more at peace. And we see that lived out in the Acts of the Apostles to a certain extent. We see Peter stand up in front of the crowds that he once cowered before, we see him proclaim Jesus…but perhaps most importantly, he forgave them, as he had been forgiven, and he invites them to join them – he even calls them friends, ‘And now, friends’.
And now friends, let us in this Easter time also forgive and love, sharing in the great peace that God has always intended for his entire creation.