18 April 2021Luke 24:36b-48
'You are witnesses of these things.' (v. 48)
There are perhaps just a few experiences in any lifetime when everything changes in a moment. Nothing – ourselves included – will ever be the same. This is the story of just such a moment. It is freighted with drama and emotion, as the disciples of Jesus come to the realisation that he is truly alive. Their first instinct is shock; the resurrection of Jesus is not the imagined fulfilment of a wish, but an unexpected, frightening development in a drama they thought had reached its tragic conclusion. In the previous passage, Luke tells the story of two disciples meeting the risen Jesus as they walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, urging him to eat with them and then, as bread is broken and shared, recognising him as their crucified Lord. Now it is the turn of the larger group of disciples and they, too, find recognising Jesus a challenge. But in the midst of shock there is the dawning reality of Jesus’ resurrection. Whatever the nature of Jesus’ risen body (and there are limits to what we can know and understand), he is genuinely alive and not some phantom.
The combination of shock and realisation leads to intense reorientation. Everything they thought they knew about the Hebrew scriptures, about the destiny of Israel, the person of the Messiah and the Kingdom of God now has to be recalibrated and understood in new ways. And Jesus himself leads them into this fresh understanding.
But a fresh understanding is not the end. The resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of something that is world-transforming, something that needs to be shared beyond the limits of the Jewish people, in fact to every group of people on earth. How can that happen? It can take place through the witness of the disciples themselves. If the gospel of Luke was a television programme, we might say that this scene was setting up the second series: The Acts of the Apostles, in which Luke tells the story of how the disciples did in fact become witnesses across the known world.
- Think of a moment in your life that has been a turning point and required a new understanding. What emotions did you go through? What was the result of the experience?
- What might it mean for you to be a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ? What would you share, and with whom?