A faltering faith on Easter Sunday – Thursday within the octave – Acts 3:11-26/ Luke 24:36-48

Read also https://www.pottypadre.com/easter-a-call-to-repentance/ based on the first reading of today.

Finally, at the end of the first and very eventful Easter Sunday, the Gospel of Luke has Jesus revealing himself to his inner circle and the reaction is ‘surprising’ to say the least; for want of using a stronger word. Let’s put this text in context. Jesus has risen as he said. The angels have proclaimed the resurrection to the women but their testimony was met by the disciples as idle tales. Peter runs to the tomb but is ‘amazed,’ there is no proclamation of the faith in the resurrection.

The Gospel on the first Easter Sunday, focuses on two more disciples who have quit the mission and head to Emmaus. They ‘invested’ their hope in Jesus and that hope was dashed to the ground. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus makes a choice to appear to two downcast and disbelieving disciples. But having warmed their hearts with his word and opening their eyes with the breaking of bread, their feet are set back on the path to Jerusalem.

On arriving in Jerusalem, the two disciples are told that the Lord “appeared to Simon” even though the text before this does not indicate that Jesus appeared to Simon. At this stage in the resurrection narrative, we are told that the disciples returning from Emmaus testify to the rest, their encounter of the resurrected Lord. All this takes place on Easter Sunday.

Now, very late in the evening, on the first Easter Sunday, the Lord finally appears to the eleven and their companions. This was it; this was the moment every knee in the room should have bowed and every tongue proclaimed the glory of God. Ironically, their response was incredulity. Let me list the words that follow; they were startled, terrified, thought they were seeing a ghost, while in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering. That is a lot of doubt and imperfection for the first Easter Sunday.

The Lord had quite a job on his hands. Strangely, it seems that he had now to ‘convince’ the eleven and their companions that he had risen as he said. He had to calm them down with words of peace, confront them about the doubts in their hearts and fear in their lives and prove that he was no ghost. He offers them his hands and feet as evidence so that they may touch him and see he is not ghost. Then as if to offer further proof, he asks for something to eat which he eats in ‘their presence’; not that he is hungry but because a ghost would have no need of food.

He then spoke to them, convincing them of the words he had spoken with them when he was with them. He had to teach and instruct them about the Law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms that spoke of the fulfillments in his mission. He had to open their minds (closed with disbelief even now) to understand the scriptures and reminded them of their mission to be witnesses to these events. Personally, I would have settled the matter with one hard, dirty stare to say the least…but then the Lord is kind and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in mercy.

To many, who actually read the Easter narrative with a keen eye, the entire episode appears as madness. The incredulity on the part of the apostles and disciples is shocking. Yet Jesus approaches all of this as with a method to the madness of our oft failing faith. To his disbelieving disciples, he first encounters them in their failure to recognize him. He then explains and interprets the resurrection through the lens of the scriptures. He Eats with them breaking bread or fish. He Enlightens the disciples and opens their eyes and finally he exits. He Encounters, he explains, he eats, he enlightens and exits. Such is the patient God we have.

Why does Christ do all this? Jesus came with a mission from the father. That mission needs to be strengthened in the face of faltering faith. God holds our hands when faith falters. Is it tiresome to God to remind us not to fail? I think not. At times I presume he is a bit vexed. In the Gospels he says to the disciples “have I been with you so long and you still do not understand me?” Those words could be said to us too.

For Jesus, the apostles had a mission to preach and proclaim his message of repentance and forgiveness of sins in HIS name. For many, this may sound like we have not left the themes of Lent behind. The reality is that the message never changes because the liturgical season has changed. The call to repentance and forgiveness is preached in season and out, be it Lent or Easter. The Easter message is not different from the Lenten message but a continuation of it because the mission of Christ was singular.

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