Before I dive into the Gospel appointed for this morning, it’s important to that Luke the Evangelist was also Luke the Beloved Physician, and as such, he was interested in things having to do with the body. This resurrection appearance is important because it tells us two things: a little bit about how Jesus came back from the dead, and even more importantly why Jesus came back from the dead.
By “how,” I don’t mean the mechanics of resurrection. The metaphysical “how” is enshrouded in the mystery of God: the Father raised the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. But beyond that, Luke wants us to know that Jesus did not appear to the disciples as a ghost, or as a collective hallucination. The disciples did not merely “sense” Jesus’ presence in some abstract, mystical way. No, Luke the Beloved Physician takes pains to point out that Jesus was truly resurrected in both soul and body. Jesus’ body is the same body that was crucified: it bears the marks of the nails in his hands and his feet. Jesus eats and drinks. So this is the how: the resurrection of Jesus was a bodily resurrection. “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
I love the detail Luke tells us next: “And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?” Luke’s point? The Man Was Hungry. You would be, too, if you had just come back from the dead. That is, if you weren’t a ghost. Ghosts don’t get hungry. But Jesus did. The resurrection of Jesus was a bodily resurrection. This cannot be stressed enough, because the belief in our own bodily resurrections at the end of time is grounded in our belief that Christ Jesus himself was raised bodily from the dead.
But I also wonder how we hear that question, “Have ye here any meat?” Some modern translations render this question, “Have you anything here to eat?” Do you think Jesus was like an Englishman politely inquiring after a cuppa tea? “Have you anything here to eat?” Or was he more urgent, more truly hungry? “Haven’t you got anything here to eat?!”
A couple of months ago, I learned a new word: Hangry. It’s a contraction of “hungry” and “angry.” Some people—one or two of them very close to me, in fact, but I won’t name names—get very “hangry” when they get hungry. That is, they are more prone to irritability when their blood sugar takes a nosedive. The funny thing is that “hangry” people may not even be aware of how “hangry” they are until they’ve had a little something to eat and calmed down. I can’t tell you how often I have seen this phenomenon at work: raging and storming, and then two bites of banana later, and everything’s fine with the world.
I may be reading into this passage a bit, but Jesus kinda sounds a little “hangry” to me. Once he gets a bit of broiled fish into him (and some honeycomb, too, according to the King James Version), he feels well enough to sit down with the disciples and explain to them the second, more important reason that Luke is telling us about this particular resurrection appearance. Because in this story, just as with the story of the Road to Emmaus, Jesus teaches them why he has come back from the dead. It’s not enough that we know that his resurrection was a bodily one, but that he came back to offer something.
What did he offer, you may ask? Well, before I answer that, I have to step back and observe that it’s a good thing Jesus was only a little hangry when he came back, because he certainly could’ve been in a much worse mood. I don’t know about you, but had I been betrayed, denied, abandoned, beaten, mocked, scourged, humiliated, exhausted, publicly executed, and then buried in haste, and then come back from the dead on the third day, the first word out of my mouth when I saw those good-for-nothing disciples again for the first time would not have been, as it is in this passage from Luke, “Peace.” I can’t tell you what word it would have been, especially not from the pulpit, especially not in front of children or the genteel folk amongst us, but whatever word it would’ve been, it would not have been “peace.” And that’s the first clue as to the promise Jesus is keeping through his resurrection: the promise of a particular kind of peace that passeth all understanding, that surpasseth hell and the grave; that even survives getting a little hangry with one’s loved ones from time to time.
Peace. That’s the Good News, you see. The crucified Christ, having conquered everything that Hell threw his way, comes back and the first words out of his mouth are, “Peace be unto you.” To me, that’s even less believable than the claim that he was raised from the dead in the first place, because it’s even more implausible. How could a guy take all that and yet say, “Peace be unto you”? No wonder they were “terrified and affrighted.” They probably didn’t even hear Jesus the first time. Jesus can be forgiven, then, for coming across a little hangry or annoyed:
“Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see it’s me. Touch me. Look at me, already! A ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones as you can clearly see that I have…OK, enough poking and handling, already!…Don’t you have anything to eat around here?”
So the disciples give him some meat—some broiled fish. And after the “meat” he eats, he gives the disciples, and us, something to chew on. Here’s the meaty bit for us:
“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…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.”
“You are witnesses of these things.” In other words: Get with the program. Stop gawking. Stop being frightened, disbelieving, wondering, joyful, whatever else it is you’re doing. Just get with the program.
And what is the program? Simply this: Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in Jesus’ name to all nations. That’s it. Tell people that because of Jesus, their repentance will indeed lead to forgiveness of sins; that they have been offered forgiveness and the peace of God even before they have repented.
And so that is our program, too: to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. But don’t be fooled: It’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s almost as difficult as coming back from the dead, convincing people you’re not a ghost, and getting them to give you something to eat when you get hangry at them. That is, proclaiming repentance and forgiveness, in one word, proclaiming “peace,” is a matter of relationship, of showing up; it’s not enough simply to proclaim in words. That’s the easy part, which is why I claim it as a preacher. No, the hard part is in the living of it, and there’s no two ways around that. The question for us, then, is: When Jesus comes to us and says, “Peace be with you,” will we get with the program, or simply gawk while he gets annoyed with us?