Have you ever wanted to be a ‘fly on the wall’ and listen in to a conversation that interests you? One I would so much have liked to listen to is that when Jesus took his disciples through the Scriptures and showed them how his coming had been foretold there. I would love to have seen the faces of the disciples as they began to understand how everything fit together. Jesus finished his conversation by telling his disciples that they were witnesses to all that had happened, especially the resurrection. Later it’s possible to read of Peter boldly preaching and telling the people that the disciples were indeed ‘witnesses of these things.’ There was no doubt in Peter’s mind that Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to him and to the others.
The readings on Thursday were Acts 3:11-26, Psalm 8, Luke 24:35-48. My reflection follows:
Have you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall, listening in to a very interesting conversation? I certainly felt I wanted to be recently. My husband, Phil, is in Australia on business and had a chance to meet with a friend of ours who lives in Melbourne. After they had spent the day together Phil told me that the two of them had talked a lot about me, and that it was all good as our friend is a ‘fan’ of mine. It was nice to hear that good things had been said but it would have been really interesting to listen in to the conversation and find out what was actually said. Ah well, I guess I shall never know.
I feel very much the same about the conversations between Jesus and his disciples at the end of the gospel of Luke. The gospel passage today begins when Cleopas and the other disciple who had met Jesus on the Emmaus road, had returned to Jerusalem to share the news with the eleven and the others who tended all to gather together at that time.
Imagine it, a hubbub of conversation as the Emmaus road pair recounted their story and the Jerusalem group told about Jesus appearing to Peter. So much excitement, joy and perhaps a bit of speculation. It’s unlikely that voices were kept hushed in fear at that time. The news was too special to talk about in hushed tones. Suddenly, though, there was complete silence. A ghost had entered the dimly lit room and all were afraid. Jesus, for that’s who it was, knew what was going on in their hearts. Hadn’t he always had an uncanny knack for doing that? He could see that some were afraid and some were hoping against hope that this appearance linked up with the wonderful tales they had just been listening to. Could it be he? Is this the Lord? Surely not … Doubt vied with hope in their hearts.
Knowing their difficulties, and despite his rebuke of them, Jesus helped provide evidence to bolster their belief. They were invited to look at his hands and his feet, still bearing the marks of crucifixion. They were even invited to touch if they wanted to. I wonder how many hands moved towards those wounds, how many eyes were drawn in fascination to look upon them. Jesus wanted to prove that he was ‘real’, not an avatar or a ghost, but flesh and blood which still carried the marks of his recent experience. Even as they looked on those wounds, some were still unsure. The final proof came as Jesus ate a piece of broiled fish in their sight. Amazing! He really was real but in some different way. A body which could appear through closed doors could also be touched and could eat food.
It seems that Jesus took the opportunity of a bit of calm to begin to teach the disciples.
As Cleopas and the other disciple had walked along the road Jesus had ‘interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.’ Now they were blessed with hearing it all again as Jesus ‘opened their minds to understand the Scriptures’, showing them where it was written about him. Imagine Jesus sitting down to teach as rabbis did in those days. Gradually the disciples are likely to have sat at his feet as this sounds like it was a very long conversation.
Those who have studied the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament say that he fulfilled more than 300 of them. There are more still to be fulfilled but they concern the Last Days. I would really have loved to have sat and listened as Jesus pieced all the details together. Is there any wonder that Cleopas and his friend had their hearts burning within them as Jesus had talked on the road? All those gathered must have hung on his every word.
Having listened, Jesus gave those gathered their commission. They had witnessed Jesus’ death and resurrection, written about in the Scriptures. The time was coming for all nations to be taught what had happened, and to learn of the need to repent and to receive forgiveness of their sins.
In the passage from Acts we can see the result of that teaching and of the power of the Holy Spirit. The Peter who hid away with the other followers of Jesus is revealed as a fearless preacher. Just before this passage, Peter had healed the lame man, telling him to walk in Jesus’ name. Everyone, including the man himself, was amazed and this certainly drew attention to Peter and John. Peter took his opportunity to teach and his were not easy words to listen to as he accused the people of killing ‘the Author of life’.
Reading what Peter said, I can imagine that it was an echo of the words of Jesus in that dark upper room as he went through the Scriptures. Peter recalled the God of the people, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and points to his action in the life of Jesus. He told them of the way the prophets pointed to Christ’s suffering. The greatest action of God, of course, was the raising of Jesus from the dead. He wasn’t raised from fainting or pretending but from being absolutely dead, as testified to by the sword that pierced his side and found that his heart had broken. Jesus told his followers: ‘You are witnesses of these things.’ Peter said to the people, ‘To this we are witnesses.’ It’s possible to understand Peter’s boldness because he is sure of what he has seen. He saw the Lord living after death, showing his wounds, eating fish, sitting and teaching. There was no doubt in his mind and this allowed him to be very straight in what he said to the people.
I often think of Peter as quite a scary, gruff person although very human and fallible also, but I think here we can see the compassion of Christ working in him. When Jesus appeared to his followers, he knew they doubted but he was kind to them and helped them. Peter accepted here that the people acted in ignorance and showed them a way forward. He explained that they should repent and that they would then receive times of refreshing. He recalled for them the promises of God to Moses, to help give them confidence.
Peter’s conviction that Jesus really did rise from the dead can give us confidence in our faith. We can take to heart Peter’s words to the crowd gathered at Solomon’s Portico: ‘When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.’ Once Jesus had been sent to the people of Israel we were able to become recipients of God’s promise to Abraham, “And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Helene Milena – Lay Pastor