This Week’s Focus: I Told You So
While they were talking about this, 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. Luke 24:35-48
Any fair assessment of this week’s gospel would rate the disciples as pretty slow on the uptake. In various accounts, this is the fifth time Jesus appears and explains that, as prophesied, predicted and promised, he has died and is risen. He is not a ghost, but their friend and teacher, returned in triumph over death. No wonder they are dumb founded. Their instincts, reason and experience tell them: what’s dead is dead, end of story. Yet here is Jesus … to see, to hear, to touch. How can that be?
We have been raised in the gospel of God’s new covenant. We have more than a few Easter’s under our belts. We have read the scriptures and heard the stories over and over. Yet the idea of life after death remains a profound mystery that both challenges our reason and defines our faith.
Brilliant theologians have dedicated scholarly careers to expanding on the proofs of the historical Jesus and evidence of his Resurrection. Yet to date they have never established the absolute fact of the Resurrection unsupported by faith. But that is the whole point. We are called to believe, not to litigate the evidence. Oxford theologian John S. Whale reinforces the point that: “The Gospels do not explain the Resurrection; the Resurrection explains the Gospels. Belief in the Resurrection is not an appendage to the Christian faith, it is the Christian faith.”
Not surprisingly, no one could better sum up the centrality of the Resurrection than Jesus. Before, not after, he went to the cross, Jesus told us: I am the Resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. (John 11:25-26) In scores of sick rooms, Jesus has repeated this message to me over and over. I have been privileged to see the proof with my own eyes. I have seen the body succumb to the ravages of time and disease, while the soul goes home to God … sometimes in glory, other times in peace, many times in fear … but always in the hope of the Resurrection.
It is very rare that anyone can predict with certainty the exact moment of their physical death. It is common to all Christians that we can fix the precise moment of our eternal life as “the hour I first believed.” So if you are looking for proof of the Resurrection, look around you. We are the living witness to Christ’s love in the world. Amid the continuous chaos of the times, our lives proclaim: He is risen. And, by God’s grace when we stand before him, he will remind us: I told you so.
God love you!
Duccio, di Buoninsegna, d. 1319. Christ Appears to the Disciples at the Table after the Resurrection, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=49184 [retrieved April 11, 2012].