“Confusion and Commission”
Yesterday’s passage, John 20:24-29, appears to be John’s version of this account from Luke.
In Luke’s gospel, Peter has run to the tomb to find it empty and left confused. Luke then inserts the Road to Emmaus story, which ends with the two running back to Jerusalem to inform the disciples what had happened. When they arrive they are told, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Remember how the two on the road had said to the stranger [Jesus], “some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
Imagine the confusion in the room!
“Where have you two been?! Didn’t you go home?!”
“Yes…but you’ll never guess what happened…!?”
“What!…No, wait! You’re never going to believe it!”
“Yes…wait….what!?? How do you….?”
“We met Jesus!”
“No…we met Jesus, or rather Peter has! Didn’t you Peter!”
“Well yeah…but…hang on. Did Jesus meet you two as well?! How’s that possible?”
There’s excitement. There’s confusion. There’s voices speaking over one another. There’s dawning amazement that the women were right all along. Could it be true?
Into this scene, Jesus enters.
36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Re-read this story today. As you do, imagine yourself as one of the individuals.
How long had this last week been? The entry into Jerusalem felt like a year ago, and the evening meal on Passover eve, well that was a bygone era! There’s noise, confusion and glimmers of real hope and amazement. Then Jesus appears. Would you be afraid? Joyful? Alarmed? Amazed? Confused? Probably a mixture of all of these and more!
There are so many details in this account that arrest us: the shock of Jesus arriving in their midst – remember, John notes that the door is locked; Jesus is bearing the marks of his crucifixion – so not an imagined hallucination of a perfect version of Jesus; and Jesus eats – disproving the worry that he’s a ghost. He appears, shows his body and eats.
Again, could you spend some time over a meal talking about your first encounter with Jesus? What was it like when you began to realise that God is alive and active in the world, and wanted to be with you?
The last part of this passage is Luke’s equivalent to Matthew’s record of Jesus’ Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).
Luke’s commission is simple: PREACH! (v.47) A word that can mean testify, witness to, speak about, herald, declare, announce, talk of.
This message, this Good News, this Gospel is summarised in verses 44-49:
- The Old Testament foretold of all the events that took place, in the law, the prophetic writings and even in the songs, the Psalms, (v.46)
- Jesus was the one foretold,
- Jesus died and has risen from the dead,
- Forgiveness for sins is available in His name (v.47)
- All the world, all nations, must hear of this (v.47)
- We are witnesses (v.48)
What is your Good News? Could you write down in a few words what you believe? Some people enjoy the challenge of seeing if they can tell their good news in 3 minutes, which would be about 300 words. Could you do that? What persuaded you to believe this message of the offer of forgiveness of sins?
Finally, Jesus reminds us that this task is well beyond our normal, human capacities. Just as Jesus walked the earth spirit-filled, so we too must first be filled with “power from on high.” The gift of the Holy Spirit is celebrated on Pentecost, and available today, right now.
Why not add this simple refrain to your prayers this day: Come, Holy Spirit!