Third Sunday of Easter April 19, 2015
Jesus Familiar and Unfamiliar
In today’s Gospel reading, familiar images take on new meaning and offer fresh perspective. In a scene not unfamiliar today, mourners gather together and share their grief. But the one whom they mourn, whom they know was crucified, dead, and buried, is now among them. He is present among them, yet he speaks as if he is not, by saying, “While I was still with you . . .”
Jesus shows them that he has flesh and bones and eats fish as he did before his death, but he has materialized among them in a startling and terrifying way not before seen by them.
He is present with them in a new way, perhaps giving them a glimpse of what their own resurrected bodies will be like. He is, at the same time, both familiar and unfamiliar. He reminds them of what he has taught them, and notes well-known testimony regarding him, found in each division of the Hebrew Bible. Through the presence, words, and work of the resurrected Lord, there comes for his disciples a new and more complete understanding of both the Scriptures and the teachings of Jesus. Jesus’ words indicate his and his disciples’ place on the trajectory of Scripture and prophecy, and charge his disciples to witness to all nations.
Jesus’ words also place the disciples of today on that same path of witness and mission for Christ—to all nations. The Messiah appeared in the midst of ordinariness in both his incarnation and his resurrection. The Messiah that we can know continues to bring the extraordinary out of the ordinary. With our brother Jesus present, ordinary moments become extraordinary, simple words become powerful proclamation, minds and hearts are opened and changed.
Accepting our commissioning as Jesus’ disciples brings new meaning and new perspective to us too.
Walter Bishop, pastor, Hopewell Moravian Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina