36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 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.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
44 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.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 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, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:36-48)
Writing today more for myself, than for anyone else out there. This post is a sermon to myself and you are more then welcome to join if it resonates you in some way.
I haven’t posted in a while, because life has been rough and overwhelming: meeting near impossible deadlines at school, wondering in the labyrinth of financial problems and solutions, stressing over health issues and keeping up with a huge list of little and big things that I need to do but haven’t done yet. This concoction takes over my brain bandwidth, slows everything down and drains me emotionally and spiritually. So, as I am trying to keep my head above all this mush right now, I read the texts for this week. And the Scripture has spoken to me and I’ve found strength and hope by God’s grace.
The exegetical method today is quite simple, just stick myself right there with the disciples and bring all my mess there with me. Whatever your opinion of such interpretation is, it has breathed strength into my body and soul today. Here is my imaginary (or not) conversation with resurrected Jesus as He surprises me with His appearance while I am consumed with my ‘stuff’ trying to sort it out. Jesus’s disciples are there too, I don’t mind their company, they have their own ‘stuff’ too. Everyone does.
What is this ‘stuff’ I am talking about? It is usually a cocktail of the following:
- Troubles with relationships
- Troubles with finances
- Troubles with health
Take these three ingredients in uniquely calculated amounts, swirl them together, then pour them over your previous mistakes, regrets, guilt, insecurities, uncertainties about today, anxieties over future, and sprinkle on top whatever your personal secret ingredient is. Then sip slowly watching peace and joy slowly drifting away from you. Such is the state of myself as I join the disciples’ conversation, and then Jesus appears among us.
Jesus greets me, “Peace be with you, Zhenya.” Instead of greeting Jesus back, I get terrified. Instead of peace, I let fear flood me. This fear is totally irrational. Why would I fear resurrected Jesus? Don’t I know the entire story? I have read the book to the end. I let fear in because I am too tired to resist it, to stop it before it takes over my entire consciousness. The disciples are terrified because they think they are seeing a ghost. I am terrified because God appeared amidst my ‘stuff’ and I know that the Spirit will make me deal with it. The thing is that although I hate being stuck in this ‘stuff,’ I also have grown to enjoy my pity-party and all the excuses I make to myself. But once God shows up, ‘stuff’ will be dealt with. And I am terrified of the changes that are coming, of what I will have to do.
I am not sure if any of it is making any sense to you, but Jesus can see right through it: “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your heart?” Doubts! He nails it. At this point I am full of doubts. My irrational fear makes me doubt everything I know, in fact I lose touch with reality, because I am so consumed by it.
Jesus cuts right through it. He goes back to the basics: “Look as my hands and my feet.” I know the disciples still are figuring out the entire resurrection thing, but I have studied all kinds of theologies that the church history has produced and have no problem grasping the concept of bodily resurrection of Christ. I have other things on my mind. Look at what God has done for me, starting from the creation through the entire history of humanity. It has been nothing, but mess and God has proven over and over again to be the constant in this mushiness of human life. I am looking at what God has done in the 35 years of my life, and it’s incredible. Or in the words of Genesis, it is good. In my irrational fear all I see is ‘stuff,’ and Jesus is pointing out that it is good – fundamentally good, because God is with me. And God is so much bigger than the ‘stuff’ that I keep serving myself.
To get me moving, Jesus starts with something simple: “Have you anything here to eat?” Start simple. I may not be able to solve all my problems and meet all the deadlines, but I can get up and do the next thing that needs to be done. And keep at it, one task after another, keep moving through my ‘stuff’ but not lose sight of the bigger picture – God is with me and it is good.
After the disciples fix Jesus some fish, he brings us back to the Word, telling us what we already know but also opening our minds to understand the scriptures. As a Biblical Studies scholar I know that no interpretation can compare to the powerful experience of God opening my mind to the Word. It is like a spiritual, intellectual and physical wave slamming into me. Yes, physical, I usually get goosebumps and the hair on my arms stand when God reveals something to me. My heart rate raises, suddenly the revelation becomes the most important thing in the world! Like today!
After this encounter with Jesus, I am looking back at my ‘stuff’ that’s all I see – just ‘stuff.’ I also realize that God is with me and my life is good, because its work of God’s hands. I will take care of the current ‘stuff,’ then the new one will come and so the life goes. Thank God for the resurrected Christ and His appearances in my life that show me a glance at the bigger picture.
And just to make it easier for me not to lose sight of the bigger picture, God has blessed me with my son. His name is Theodore, “gift of God.” And he truly is my gift of God!
I finish with Psalm 4 as my prayer:
Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
You gave me room when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?
How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?
But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
When you are disturbed, do not sin;
ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”
You have put gladness in my heart
more than when their grain and wine abound.
I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.