Easter 3 · Luke 24:36-49 · April 26, 2009
By Bruce G. Schuchard
To Seek Him
1. One must look for the right Jesus
2. One must find him where he may be found
For them, for Jesus’ followers, something had been and so still was sorely lacking. And the effect upon them was profound indeed. “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” declare the angels clothed in dazzling apparel to the unsuspecting women there in the tomb, perplexed at its emptiness, and more than a litde startled by the sight of the angels (24:1—5). “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” (24:6-7). This, of course, they had heard before. But this they had never comprehended, neither the women nor any of Jesus’ other followers. So when the time came for it all to take place, they all were more than just caught unsuspecting. They were caught unbelieving.
So Jesus says it again to the two on the road to Emmaus: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? And, beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (24:26-27). And for a third time he says it again and finally to the eleven: “‘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 and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead'” (24:44-46).
So he teaches them (again and again). For, if all this continues to fan them, the moment of his most glorious triumph will likewise fail them. For not to comprehend such things is not to know Jesus at all, is to be deaf, dumb, and blind to him, even when he’s standing there right in front of them. Under no circumstances can he allow such a thing. For great is his love. Great is his devotion. Great is his reason for coming in order that he might suffer, die, and on the third day rise. So he acts, he teaches (and two heavenly heralds do also), that none may be lost.
For lost are they without him. Lost. So when the women go to the tomb early in the morning, they are the first to indicate this, for they go fully expecting that they will find not a risen Jesus but a “dead and gone” one (an “all hope is now lost” one). He who lives (but they do not yet know this) they seek among the dead, because that’s all that they are initially prepared to know about him. He’s dead.
And when they return from the tomb and speak of their experience to the eleven and to all the rest, all that the apostles themselves are initially prepared to know about him too is that he is dead and gone. So “these words seemed to them utter nonsense, and they did not believe the women.” (24:11). Peter rises and runs to the tomb. He stoops and looks in. He sees the linen cloths by themselves. But all he can do thus far is to to marvel over it all, is to wonder what in the world has happened (24:12). But for him there are no answers.
And when two of them are on their way to Emmaus, and they are talking and discussing together all that has happened, and Jesus himself draws near and goes with them, their eyes are incapable of recognizing him” (24:13-16). For all they know at the moment about Jesus of Nazareth is that he was “a man” (and no more), “a prophet mighty in word and deed” (24:19), one whom they had hoped “that he was the one to redeem Israel” (24:21). “But we were wrong about him,” they say (to Jesus!). “Our hope in him died with him.” “Some women of our company amazed us,” they say. “They were at the tomb early in the morning, and … they came back saying that they had seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive” (24:22-23). “But we checked on this,” they add, “and did not find any corroborating evidence to support their claim. Therefore, naturally we did not believe them.” “O foolish ones,” responds Jesus, “and slow of heart to believe” (24:25).
Finally, later, after the eleven have heard both from the women and from the two who have returned from Emmaus, Jesus himself stands in the midst of them, and says to them, “Peace to you!” But instead of being elated and joyful, they are startled and frightened and first think that they are seeing an incorporeal spirit. So Jesus acts first to demonstrate to them that he is no such thing. He invites them to look upon his hands and feet, to touch and see. But still they hesitate to believe it. And so he says to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They give him a piece of broiled fish, and he takes it and eats it before them. For first they must know that it is really him. He is risen!
So much fails them (all day long!), but he will not. So he teaches them (“and they remembered his words,” 24:8), and he teaches them (“Did not our hearts burn within us…as he opened to us the Scriptures?” 24:32), and he teaches them (“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,” 24:45). And, yes, he eats with them (“When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized them. And he vanished from their sighd.” So later they told the others “how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread,” 24:30-31, 35). For those intent upon seeking him where he may be found must find him in these things, must look for the right Jesus in the right place, in the fellowship of the word and the meal, in the light of the things concerning Christ’s passion that his followers are caused to see.
He departs, but he is not absent. “You are witnesses of these things,” he declares (24:48), “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in [my] name to all the nations.” For “the stranger who walked with them on the road, who became a guest at their home and then host at their meal, is a stranger no more. He is now the host who gives himself for food every time the Church gathers in fellowship around the table to celebrate the presence of the eschatological kingdom through the teaching of his words and the breaking of his bread” (Arthur Just, The Ongoing Feast, p. 261).