The Holy Gospel according to St. Luke, the 24th Chapter
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.
When Jesus said, “Peace be with you” this wasn’t, Jesus saying, “Hey, guys you look tense. You should really like, you know, get some peace, man.” No. Jesus was ORDERING peace to get into the disciples! “Hey Peace! See these joy filled, disbelieving, wondering, freaked out, still hiding behind locked door, disciples? Get in them now!” Those disciples couldn’t get peace on their own! They couldn’t even go OUTSIDE on their own! In their entirely understandable, overwhelmingly human, completely flesh and blood, guy-who-was-dead-but-now-shows-up, shocked disciple brains… they needed peace, not SUGGESTED to them… No, they needed to be grabbed by the shoulders, thrown in the shower and the faucet labeled “peace which passes all understanding” turned on them full blast until they were soaked to the bone with it.
We forget, I think, having had this story told for the last 2000 years how traumatic this must have been for the people who first lived it! The person they had been following for years, who they pinned all their hopes on, gave up jobs, family, friends and everything to follow… had just being brutally crucified! Then his grave was discovered to be empty! Then these two jokers, Cleopas and that other guy, show up talking about seeing Jesus on the Emmaus Road and then BAM! Here he is in their living room! HOLY S#@T! If I had been in that room, FIRST I would have said it, THEN I would have done it!
Those disciples needed very tangible help with their very human, flesh and blood reactions to this mind blowing, earth shattering event. And so, Jesus says, “Hey, you got anything to eat?” Wait! Huh? Jesus Christ! They’ve just been through a horror that’ll be told for millennia to come and you want some SNACKS!? Apparently so… and so the disciples found him some broiled fish. Not grilled, fried or poached but broiled. Not baked, steamed, roasted or sous vie, but broiled. Not sushi, not sashimi, not en papillote, but broiled! What gives, Jesus? And what gives Luke, with your oddly specific “broiled” fish thing?
It turns out that both Jesus and Luke are first pretty smart, and more than that, just a little bit tricksy too. By asking the disciples this everyday question, “Hey, you guys got some snacks?” Jesus helps them get their brains un-stuck from that fight or flight, traumatized part of their brains so they at least have a chance at doing something more than just cowering behind locked doors. Human brains can’t resist thinking about a question. It happens subconsciously, so a question asked is a question wondered about, and in that moment of wondering, locked mental doors are opened up to new possibilities. Jesus was giving them the peace they needed so that they could step out from behind those locked doors and take one, next, step on The Way they had walked as they followed Jesus in his life before Good Friday.
Luke was being sneaky here as well. When Luke wrote his Gospel there was a debate over how the faithful were to follow Jesus after the Ascension. Some argued that since Jesus was now up in heaven, his disciples should now only concern themselves with heavenly things. The worries of the flesh, down here, were no longer to be a concern, they argued. Physical, fleshy, earthly things like sickness, injustice, wounds and hunger were simply inevitable consequences of a broken, flesh-filled world. It was just something to be endured until we all joined Jesus up in heaven in the sweet by and by.
But Luke didn’t buy that for a minute! Because he knew the story of this post-resurrection Jesus with his real, earthly, flesh and blood wounds and with his real, earthly, human, stomach-growling hunger! And clearly, if Jesus was concerned with those flesh and gut things before HIS ascension… then to Luke it was perfectly clear… us disciples were to be concerned with those things before we went to heaven too!
Luke reminded those early followers… Christ was PHYSICALLY present, giving his peace. That the disciples touched his REAL, flesh and blood wounds and fed his PHYSICAL, earthly hunger not with some symbolic, spiritual meal but with a piece of broiled fish! Luke was reminding them and us that all those human, earthly concerns that Jesus had before Good Friday for God’s people… THOSE were all STILL Jesus’ concerns after Easter too! This troubled world, filled with broken bodies, imperfect people and difficult neighbors… we aren’t to look past them in our lives, because they all bear the same wounds and hunger of the risen Christ!
With that oddly specific story about a piece of broiled fish, Luke reminds us that when we reach out to our neighbors in their physical, worldly hurts and pains, their every day grief and brokeness, their earthly flesh and blood, real-life wounds… When we do that… we reach out and touch something holy... in THEIR wounds we encounter the risen Christ with HIS wounds. In hearing someone whose physical, earthly, growling stomach needs something to eat... we hear the voice of Christ asking for something to eat. And in giving them something to eat, we see in their face the face of the risen Christ.
This story insists that our focus is to be here… in THIS world where Jesus breaks into the locked rooms of our biggest fears, gives us his PEACE and asks for something to eat. And that peace that Jesus gives? THAT’s the same peace we share with each other every Sunday. When we share the peace, it's not meant to be just a foretaste of the coffee hour to come, you know. It’s infinitely more powerful than that! It’s Christ’s peace we’re commanding to get into one another! The peace that breaks into fearfully dark, locked places… the peace that snaps us out of our deepest fears... The peace that drives us out into the world, to bind up the broken flesh of our neighbor’s wounds and satisfy the growling stomachs of our neighbor’s most profound hungers. THAT’s the peace we’ve been given. THAT’s the peace we give one another every week! It’s powerful stuff. Because it empowers us to reach beyond our fears and touch the wounds and feed the hungers of our neighbors… and in doing that, we see the face of the risen Christ. Amen.