While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’
I guess one of the biggest challenges for the disciples was the need to ‘see’ the risen Christ. Hearsay was not enough. Instead, there needed to be sight of the risen Christ. The Corpus Christi was something that needed to be experienced in person. He needed to be seen to be believed – even eating fish to prove it.
In the shadow of Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection Feast fades, children return to school and the normality of our lives begins to return. We return to our daily jobs and routines, which seem a million miles from the celebration of new life at Easter. The idea of seeing the risen Christ seems as far away from us now as the idea did to those first disciples.
Today we reflect the Body of Christ through the Church – the body of believers gathered around the cradle, cross and campfire. But, unlike those disciples, we cannot encounter the risen Christ in the bodily sense, with once-pierced hands reaching out towards us, but we can experience the risen Christ in other ways, both in and out of the Church: through our reading and study of Scripture; through our relationship of prayer and discernment; and through our engagement with the broken, hurt, damaged, remorseful, neglected and ostracised in the world.
As our ‘normal’ routines return, we can remember that the risen Christ encounters us in many ways, seen and unseen. And yet our Easter experience of the risen Christ gives us the duty to believe and to respond: to go out from our places of worship – our own Jerusalems – and witness to what we have seen and what we know of the promise of the resurrection. For when we do that, we can let others see the risen Christ alive in our lives and in the Church.
Risen Christ in the ways that we encounter you, in scripture, prayer and the other, help us believe in all that you promise and inspire us to share your good news in word and deed. Amen
The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett is the Trust Secretary for the Yorkshire Synod.
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