3rd Sunday of Easter 2018
I love these accounts of when Christ appears to his disciples after the resurrection. They so underline the miracle of the resurrection. We are told in today’s gospel that they are still in disbelief. Even though the two disciples on the road to Emmaus tell them they have seen Jesus, they still can’t believe it. In fact, even when Jesus himself comes into the room they think he’s a ghost. The gospel tells us that of their reaction when he suddenly appears to them: “In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost”. Imagine your reaction if, this morning, when you were eating your toast and drinking coffee someone suddenly appeared, you wouldn’t say “good morning; fancy seeing you here”! You’d probably run out of the room; and the disciples would have done that too only the room was locked.
Jesus is clearly a bit annoyed and asks them why they are behaving this way, and why are there doubts in their minds. But, much as they want to believe, they do have serious serious doubts. And so he has to prove to them that he’s not a ghost. First of all he invites them to touch him. But that didn’t work. So, seeing they were not convinced, he eats fish; ghosts don’t eat fish do they. And as they watched Jesus swallow the fish you can almost hear the collective doubt going away. You can almost hear them thinking: “could it really be possible? Could it really be him? It looks like him. Talks like him. Even eats like him! But, we saw him die. And dead men don’t walk”.
We might think the Apostles were awfully slow to believe. Of course Jesus is alive! he died on the Cross and three days later he rose from the dead. Simple, why can’t they accept that? But can we really judge them so badly? It may all be clear to us with two thousand ears of hindsight. And yet, the difference between us and the Apostles is probably very little. But there is one fundamental difference: they were there, we weren’t. They saw him die. They would never ever forget what they saw that tragic Friday afternoon. To watch someone die is an unforgettable experience. To watch someone die as Jesus did, slowly painfully, upon a Cross, was doubly so. When they walked away that evening, having watched their friend breathe his last, words couldn’t describe their sadness.
I am sure that if we thought at little more about what it must have been like to see Jesus in the flesh again then we’d understand why they were so disbelieving. But notice Jesus doesn’t condemn them. Instead he understands. You see, that is the wonderful thing about Christ is that the is so understanding. He doesn’t condemn rather he forgives. Indeed he tells them to do the same: he asks them to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And they do.
To believe that Christ died and rose from the dead is not easy; and we shouldn’t presume that it is. Even though we say we believe this every time we say the Creed it does not follow that we really do. I say that boldly because it is such an incredible thing to happen. How we can know if we believe or not is by the effect our faith has on our life. If I really believe that Jesus died and rose again then I am blessed indeed. But if we don’t, we should simply say, ‘Lord, I believe, help my unbelief’. And He will.