These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
“… their eyes were opened and they recognised him” (v.31) RSV
The story of the couple on their way home from Jerusalem to Emmaus is most beautifully and suggestively told. Their dejection and negativity is turned into an energetic return journey. As they had been walking home the risen Jesus drew alongside, engaged in conversation and then taught them that the scriptures (Old Testament) foretold his life, death and resurrection. Their spirits were excited by this cracking open of the scriptures. They were later to acknowledge, “Did not our hearts burn within us as he …” (v.32).
But it took more than a sermon to open their eyes to the presence of Jesus in their midst. Fortunately their hospitable attitude caused them to compel Jesus to stay over with them. If they had not pressed him he would have gone on and the moment of revelation would have been lost. As it was he stayed. At the moment of ‘fraction’ (the breaking of bread) their eyes were opened.
Was it the scars in his hands or (more likely) the familiar action of breaking bread and giving thanks? Something triggered recognition.
Many of us may have heard great sermons (see next week’s reading), yet sometimes it is not words that speak to us, but rather it is actions. The sacrament of Holy Communion (the Breaking of Bread) can bring the risen Christ to us in a special and unique way. Not every believer’s church offers Communion often, and some not at all. But all of us should try, whether in home of church, to meet with others and break bread together in remembrance of him. We shall then meet with him through that action: our eyes will be opened.
Thank you Lord for the gift of the Bread and Wine. May I never take these gifts for granted but avail myself of the opportunity to meet with you in that special way. Amen.
“… they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered …” (Luke 24:41) RSV
Each week we are observing how people have difficulty recognising the risen Jesus. No longer is he recognised purely by his outward appearance. Each person knows him by faith, not by sight. Our passage is no exception. In Luke, it says, “… they still disbelieved for joy, and wondered …” (v.41). Why should there be any reason to “disbelieve”?
Certainly, they were not expecting the resurrection of their dead hero. They had not believed his prediction that he would rise on the third day. To see him standing before them was a wonder, since the impossible had happened. But they also “disbelieved” (v.41) because they had no idea that their God could do such wonderful things for them. How often are our minds filled with what we expect God to do and what we think he can do? We can so easily limit God’s goodness. He really can do impossible things for us. They are not too good to be true.
John gives a more definite response from the disciples: “Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:20) What a joy and gladness it was that all was well. The end of Jesus on the cross was not the end. The death of Jesus had become the gateway through to something far better. This applies to our lives, both in this age (on earth) and in the age to come (in heaven). God’s nature is to break through and do wonderful things that make us glad, oh so glad!
No one is too bad or too lost, and no situation is too far gone that God cannot turn it around. “With God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
You are a great and mighty God, doing more than I can ask or think. Increase my faith and trust, and let me see you work. Amen.
Note the three occasions that Jesus predicted his resurrection.
Peter arrived first at the tomb. He and John had run there in response to the women’s message that the tomb was empty. When he arrived, he went in but didn’t know what to think. Now we read of him fishing on Galilee, hearing from John that “It is the Lord” (v.7), and consequently plunging into the sea in order to reach Jesus as quickly as possible.
All the disciples in the boat saw Jesus, and yet it took one of them, John, to recognise him with certainty: “It is the Lord” (v.7). There is a significant sentence that sums up this ambivalence of faith, “None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord” (v.12). What was their problem? Quite simply the evidence of their eyes was not sufficient. With their minds they questioned, but with their spirits they believed.
What had opened the eyes of their spirit? It was the miracle: the catch of fish. They recognised the Lord by what he did. They saw the ‘finger of God’ (Luke 11:20) at work.
We too have to live by faith not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). We do not see God and yet we recognise his presence by his activities. This what Jesus said about the Spirit; his presence is like the wind – felt and effective but unseen (John 3:8)
The catch of fish was not a coincidence, but a result of hearing the word of the Lord and obeying. The catch could be explained no doubt in many ways, but to the believer it was a direct activity of God. It was proof that it was “the Lord” (v.7).
It took one person to see and to have faith: John. The others caught his faith and his conviction. We thank God for people who inspire faith, and long to be such people ourselves.
Sometimes I long to see you, Lord, and one day I will. But now help me to see you in your handiwork and in your people, and to come running to you in gratitude. Amen.
Peter and John arrive at the tomb. The women had told them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (v.2). They have to run to check it out; they have no anticipation that Jesus has risen from the dead. On their arrival John pauses outside seeing that the stone has been taken away from the entrance, and peers in – the grave clothes are still there. Hmm. Peter comes after and blunders straight in. He also saw the evidence that the body of Jesus had not been stolen, but he couldn’t work it out beyond that. Finally John goes in and “saw and believed” (v.8).
The words that John uses for “saw” are most significant. When John arrived first he saw (or, looked). The Greek word, blepo, simply means the ability to see with the eyes. He has no particular thoughts or understanding. Peter then goes in and theorises, theoreo; he scratches his head and thinks, but comes to no conclusions or insight. Finally John goes in and “sees”, hodeo.
The light dawns and he understands the significance of the grave clothes. Jesus’ body has not been stolen, but has dematerialised through them and risen to new life. God gives the faith to John that is able to understand and believe, even though he may not be able to explain.
Within a few decades there would be no eye witnesses left. Future generations would only have the written testimony of those first witnesses. They will have the scriptures. John records how “they did not yet know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead” (v.9). Nowadays we do have those scriptures, and they are sufficient to believe. Yes, Jesus has risen from the dead, and as a result everything has changed.
Thank you Lord for the scriptures which bear witness to your glorious resurrection. May your Spirit confirm their truth to me. Amen.