In St Luke’s account of the post-Resurrection appearances, one of the most memorable occurs just before our passage this morning. It takes place between Jerusalem and Emmaus, which is a journey of seven miles. Cleopas and another disciple, possibly his son, meet a man on the Road, who engages them in conversation, explains the Jewish Scriptures to them. Eventually they invite him to eat with them and at the moment when he blesses the bread and breaks it, he disappears, and they recognise Him. It is the Risen Lord.
Cleopas and the other disciple immediately leave Emmaus and walk back to Jerusalem. It is now late on Sunday night, but they go to the disciples to tell them what they have experienced. What people are saying is true. Jesus is alive! They explain to the disciples how Jesus had talked to them on the road, and explained how Scripture was fulfilled in Him, and how they recognised him in the breaking of the bread. What is described here are the two parts of the Eucharist: the Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, enacted by Christ with his disciples on that first Easter Day. Two thousand years later, we are doing the same thing. For a hundred thousand successive Sundays, Christians have celebrated the Eucharist together because Jesus told us to do this. Today is the day when Christ rose from the dead. Every Sunday is something of a mini Easter, because the church gathers to celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection, just like the disciples in the Gospel passage.
Cleopas and the other disciple are discussing their experiences with the Eleven, when, suddenly Jesus is among them, and He greets them saying,
“Peace to you.” (Lk 24:36)
Christ can greet His disciples thus, because He has brought peace to the world by dying for us, and rising again. Christ is our peace, because He has reconciled us to God, and to each other. Our sins are forgiven and we are raised to New Life in Him. The disciples’ reaction, however, is not quite so positive. They are afraid. They cannot believe that it is true and that Jesus is really with them. So Our Lord speaks to them:
“Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Lk 24:38-9)
Jesus invites the disciples to touch Him, to show that He is not an apparition. He is flesh, and blood, alive, and there with them. Then Jesus shows them His wounds, proof that it is really Him, their Crucified Lord. They then gaze on the wounds of God’s Love, and see what God has done for them.
As the disciples are beginning to process all the wonderful things that are happening Jesus seeks to reinforce their faith:
He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. (Lk 24:41-43)
Ghosts do not eat. They do not eat grilled fish. This is not an apparition. It is the Lord. He is alive. Jesus then takes the opportunity to do with the Eleven what He had done on the Road to Emmaus. Before His Death, Jesus had tried to explain how the events of His Passion, Death, and Resurrection were foretold in Holy Scripture. Now, after His Death and Resurrection, He reinforces His teaching. The Church does this as well. For example, on Good Friday we read most of Chapters 52-53 of the prophet Isaiah and Psalm 22, which clearly show how the sufferings of Christ’s Passion and Death are prophesied in the Bible. At the Easter Vigil there is a long series of readings which go through Salvation History, from the Creation of the World in Genesis, through Abraham and Isaac, the Passover and Crossing of the Red Sea, to the prophecy of Ezekiel 36 which sees a new hope for Israel sprinkled with water.
The Old Testament is the story of God’s Relationship with the world in general, and Israel in particular. There are a number of covenants established between God and humanity, which Israel breaks by worshipping other gods. But God does not abandon them, instead He promises through the prophet Jeremiah to initiate a new covenant:
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbour and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer 31:31-34)
This promise is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, who came preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins. The Church proclaims the same message, witnessing to the world that another way is possible, through what Jesus has done for us. This is the same message we find in our first reading this morning from the Acts of the Apostles. Peter is preaching in Solomon’s Portico in Jerusalem after healing a lame beggar. He calls the people of Jerusalem to repent of their sins, and to believe in Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah. Jesus healed the lame man because the Kingdom is a place of healing and reconciliation, where sins are forgiven, and we are restored. This reality lies behind St John’s proclamation in our second reading. Christ is the propitiation for our sins, that means He makes up for all that we have done wrong. Jesus offers Himself, the Righteous for the unrighteous, to restore our relationship with God and each other.
That first Easter Day, the disciples were witnesses to the Lord’s Resurrection, and so are we. God calls all of us, you and me, to bear witness to the truth of the Resurrection, so that the world may believe and give Glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. To whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now, and forever. Amen