The gospels are precise in highlighting the physical nature of many of Jesus meetings with his followers, from the episode with Thomas to the breakfast meeting on the beach of Galilee. Pauls writings include some vital details to emphasise the total or physical nature of the resurrection, notably the group experiences of meeting Jesus from the disciples in the upper room through to a report of 500 people at once.
In other words the appearances were not merely hallucinatory in nature.
If we were to go beyond these reports and ask what are the implications of such an event, I think we can answer in two primary ways:
The Afterlife - The most common response down through history has probably been to open the belief of an afterlife and we certainly value the notion that death is not the end.
A Living Resurrection - The second implication I want to emphasise is not so much its implication for when we die, but how does it impact upon our living experience.
In today’s gospel we read of the appearance of Jesus on the way to Emmaus. This is a story that heads the way in describing how the risen Jesus is encounterable in our living experience. We can draw information from other episodes that highlight how the experience of the risen Jesus is the transformative experience of our human life.
The story of the journey to Emmaus illustrates how these two people experience the risen Jesus…
After the trauma of Jesus death it would seem that they have stayed in Jerusalem a day or so before their journey back home. On the way back home they are still mulling over the events, including the rumour that some have reported seeing Jesus. In their grief they are confused, perhaps downcast.
The setting afternoon sun is turning the surrounds a little darker. The cool evening means they have pulled their hoods up over their heads as they look straight ahead and slightly down to note the uneven track. A stranger walks by them, perhaps others also walking ahead or in the opposite direction.
This stranger talks with them about what’s on their mind and together a review of past events in Jerusalem is shared. As their conversation proceeds they discover this stranger is extremely knowledgeable about the scriptures. He offers a comprehensive account of how the death and resurrection has been predicted through the Jewish history.
They find they experience a sense of excitement in the story the stranger relays to them. Ultimately they reach home in the darkened evening. They invite this informed and friendly stranger to join them for a meal. With little attention to his appearance they prepare food in the candle lit room and sit down to the meal. The stranger takes the initiative to offer a blessing in the form of the last super and their eyes are opened and now recognising him as Jesus he disappears.
FOUR VITAL ACTIVITIES
If we are to summarise the account four specific activities have taken place that have shaped this story.
- Quiet reflection upon the experiences they have encountered as the couple walk.
- The personal sharing of those reflections with themselves and the stranger
- The putting of the reflections in an authoritative context such as the scripture
- The humble eucharistic ritual.
I believe all four are activities that assist in bringing the risen Christ alive within our experience.
THE CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE
One of the great problems across the world is that beliefs can be so much part of ones cultural experience that we lose sight of what such beliefs speak of. Resurrection is a display of the divine spirit that liberates and fulfils the human experience. It is the transformative experience available for humans.
LOVE AND FORGIVENESS
Two other resurrection events are vital for shaping the nature of the living resurrection experience. In the upper room after Jesus has greeted the disciples with peace, he bestows a mission of forgiveness and reconciliation in their hands.
“Whoever's sins you forgive, they are forgiven them."
On the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus commissions Peter and hence the forthcoming church with the mission of love.
Resurrection means Forgiveness, and is unconditional with a love that has no bounds. From the couple walking to Emmaus, the disciples and Peter on the sea shore, people soon discovered that Jesus had risen to illustrate to people that there was an ultimate way for living as he had taught.