Luke 24:36-48 (NRSV)
Jesus Appears to His Disciples
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 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.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
44 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.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 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, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
This passage is full of feelings, some named and some that pervade the dominant mood; peace, joy, amazement, fear, doubt, power and disappointment; i-deal chat for a big feelings haver like myself. (What Myers Briggs Personality Type was our author Luke? [Don't] discuss.) The Easter service I attended this year honed in on this disappointment. Admittedly, I went to sleep at 4 the night before, so the sermon as a whole went through a sieve of exhaustion, and church allows way too much contemplation time on things like one’s own disappointment if concentration levels aren't there, so my recollection is a little hazy. What did register, was that the root of the word disappointment comes from the Middle French ‘desappointer’ - to be dispossessed of appointed office; to be deprived of a position, something that we perceive that we deserved or expected. The ground is made loose beneath us, it is shift in who we see ourselves to be, the steady made unsteady, miracles becoming memories, fading. This is where we find the disciples in this passage, placing all their bets on what is most troubling is the reality.
In the last chapter, the disciples ironically call the claims that Jesus was alive “leros”: nonsense, "stories told by those who fail to perceive reality". From the comfort of our panoramic distance we see their failure to see the world as it is. Their disappointment feels like both a by-product and a failure of hope. If we had no hope than we would be free from expectations, would never be disappointed. If we had enough hope, we could identify disappointment as a process rather than an end point.
The disciples’ own process in moving from disappointment towards understanding what is right in front of their eyes is fascinating. It seems to be first intuitive; they experience their hearts burning, they know joy and amazement but can’t identify why. It is then sensory – they see and touch and hear Jesus, and finally “their minds are opened”. Their rational minds accept that Jesus has returned. It’s like Mindfulness 101 has been snuck right in there.
For me this is a powerful reminder to check in with ourselves. To know why our heart is burning; why we’re eating too much or too little, sleeping too much or too little, talking too much or too little, risking too much or too little. The passage identifies some key ways that we can re-establish the links between all our faculties of understanding, and be realigned with our best purposes. The first is peace. Jesus comes and says “Peace be with you”. I imagine as realisation dawns, that flood of peace comes, that quenches burning hearts, that flows through disappointment, that washes the veils of their mind, dilutes preconceptions, cools the hurts; acting as a regulation station for the panic overheating when things seem certainly a failure.
The second are the words that God has given us. Scripture is the connection point, linking the intuitive and the rational mind. The disciples come to understand the greater unfolding narrative they have been invited to be part of, one that had been woven into their spirit their entire lives in the Temple, as they make the connections between what was promised and what is now right in front of their eyes.
It is Jesus himself who does all this. His power is present, and yet there is more to come. Luke and Acts are one continuous account, and this is the point where we get a hint of what is to follow. Their mourning robes are to be replaced, as they are clothed in power by the Holy Spirit – they are soon to be once again disrupted from their perspective of the world, this time by tongues of fire falling.
As this alignment occurs, between body, soul and mind, it is from this position that the game plan can be shared and understood. Like Peter when he is reinstated as a friend of Jesus in John 21, invited by Jesus to “feed my sheep”, it is when the relationship is restored to its proper order then the work no longer seems mysterious or out of reach. Jesus’ closing words are like the creed condensed.
“This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem”
Our flawed perceptions cause us to draw lines through things. We so often force our experiences into the rickety, leaking, not fit for purpose moulds of what we already know, when perhaps there is space for a fully new thing, a fully new thing like a man returning from death to sit and eat with you. May you know your disappointments be transitory, may your certainty of failure be revealed as illusory, may the word of God draw the best from your intuitive mind, may you know your role in the story unfolding, may you wear your clothes of power well and may peace flow through it all.
Emily is currently working part-time as a youth worker in Kilkenny alongside studying for her Masters in Community and Youth Work. She is passionate about tag rugby, proper conversations, dancing, poetry, public transport as a lifestyle choice and seeing people and ideas come together.