36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”[a] 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.[b] 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[c] 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[d] of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
It is still Easter, folks. Jesus is alive! We’ve caught him, today, on what I like to refer to as his Back-From-The-Dead Tour. He’s appearing to his disciples in small groups, on after the other, as though he takes great pleasure in surprising each one.
First, the resurrected Jesus appears to the women at the tomb.
Then to the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus.
Today, Jesus shows up on the shores of Galilee, where his disciples—the whole lot of them—are going about their business.
They were likely there to fish—to gather up food for the week. The disciples, despite Jesus death and rumored resurrection, had to eat, after all. Life goes on.
The disciples were there, that morning, in the presence of the sea, listening to the calming sounds of the water. Feeling the just-warm sun as it rose and hung low in the eastern sky. They were talking amongst themselves about what some of them had seen—Jesus, not dead but alive!
Perhaps they were debating the merits of the story. The impossibility of the whole thing. Maybe one of them was crying, still grieving the death of Jesus and feeling hurt by these cruel lies about new life. He didn’t see any new life there—just the same old, same old…
The disciples were by the sea of Galilee that morning, when Jesus appeared among them. The scripture doesn’t say if he walked up the shoreline and stopped by their camp. It doesn’t say if he came up out of the water while they were talking amongst themselves, like a just-baptized spirit. The scriptures kind of indicate that he just—poof!—was there. Standing among the disciples. Not-dead-anymore-Jesus.
And so we can understand the disciples’ response… despite having heard several reports that Jesus is not dead anymore, their first assumption is that they are seeing a ghost.
They were startled and terrified, it registered on their faces. The breath caught in their chests. The whole world stopped for just one moment. What would this apparition do to them, they would have wondered?
Would there be a proper haunting? Was this ghost-Jesus angry at them for how they had acted just days before, that first Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday?
Falling asleep in the garden.
Failing to defend him from arrest.
Denying knowing Jesus, some as many as three times?
For abandoning him to death and fleeing the scene.
For hiding, faithless in a locked room.
For the debates they were having on the beach at just that moment…
Now here was Jesus, who they had failed so completely, back from the dead. What would he do to them, they must have wondered?
But there, in the presence of the sea, with the sound of the water and the gulls gently lapping at their ears, with the light breeze blowing in the just-risen sunlight, Jesus says to them, “peace be with you.”
He could have said anything in that moment but the resurrected Jesus chose to speak “peace.”
And then he proves to the disciples that he is not, in fact, a ghost, back for vengeance. He is fully himself.
“See me here,” he says. “Touch me. I am flesh and bone.”
Jesus shows them his hands and his feet, gored by nails. I imagine he shows his side as well, pierced by a spear.
It’s a mess, this resurrected body. It’s wounded. It’s been through some things. This is really Jesus.
See, there had been a lot of fake news going on about Jesus in the days following his crucifixion. Some people said that he had been raised from the dead, sure. Others, though, were saying that he never died in the first place. Still others that the whole thing was one big hoax, put on by a fledgling religion to scare people into believing.
Kind of like those folks today who refuse to see reality, saying that mass shootings in schools and churches are staged events. Not real. Ignoring the actual blood that’s spilled. The actual lives lost. The actual grief of the parents and parishioners.
But these tragedies are real. And here is Jesus now—real, too. Bearing the marks of death and yet not dead.
And then, as if showing the disciples his hands and feet wouldn’t have been enough, Jesus asks for breakfast. He’s hungry. Because he’s human and still alive. Life goes on.
Jesus takes a broiled fish from the disciples and eats it in front of them as they watch. Jaws slack. Eyes wide. Minds blown.
One by one the disciples move to sit by Jesus, their fear fading into awe. Their disbelief mixed, now, with joy. Wonder. They eat together.
A group of battle-scarred people. Imperfect. Wounded. A group of people who have been through some things. People who are still living, despite it all. Real people. Witnesses.
It strikes me that the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples in this way. So personal. So close. So… fleshy. Not in a shining white gown. Absent of a halo. Jesus is, simply, Jesus.
It strikes me that he bears his wounds, still. That he reveals himself to disciples, not as a vision of heavenly perfection, but covered in harsh reality. He had holes in him. Flesh and bone. Signs of his realness.
We all carry these kind of marks. Signs of our realness. Our living.
I have a scar on my upper lip—just a small one now. I got it when I was maybe about five. I was at the laundromat with my babysitter trying to pass the time, playing with this little stuffed toy I had. I think it was an elephant. It had a small, music box buried deep inside all of the stuffing, with just the metal wind-up key sticking out the side. I loved that thing.
I was running around the laundromat, with it playing its tune, when Ms. Pat told me to stop. Warned me that there were too many things to run into there. Not a playground and all that. But I didn’t listen. I ran myself and my little elephant toy right into an open dryer door.
On impact, the metal wind-up key from the elephant—of course—slammed into my mouth, leaving this little scar.
We all carry these kind of marks, I think. Signs of our realness. Some that heal up and make for cute stories years later. Some wounds that seem a little too real to talk much about. Cuts and bruises and gaping holes that haven’t healed up yet. Marks that we prefer to keep to ourselves.
Some wounds—carried and afflicted—are more unpleasant than others. And so often they shame us into silence or solitude. Into less real versions of who we really are.
But here’s what Jesus teaches us today: it is okay to be real. We are all wounded.
And, when we get to know each other like Jesus knew the disciples, like the disciples knew one another. The more we live in community, spend time together, eat together. It becomes a little easier to just be ourselves… No shining white gowns. Absent of halos. Simply, us. The real us, in all our embattled glory. ________________________
It strikes me that the resurrected Jesus could have appeared to more people. Shown the whole world his hands and his feet, until every. single. one. saw and believed.
But he didn’t. He revealed himself to the ones he knew. He revealed himself to his church. He knew he was safe there. That he could be, simply, real with them.
It is my prayer that this can be that safe space for those who gather here. Or, better yet, forget the space altogether. Whether we meet in a sanctuary, or by the sea at dawn, or on the street corner, it is my prayer that we come to know each other.
That we come to find freedom in letting go of the veil of perfection and lean into the liberation of being real, like Jesus. Like those first disciples…
It is my prayer that owning our stories—every part of them—every tiny death, every miraculous resurrection—would bring us peace.
And you know, it starts in small ways, this being real thing. Like holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer, which we do every Sunday.
Hands are dirty. You might not know the people around you—strangers, for the time being. It’s a bit vulnerable and close and countercultural. Where else would you possibly grab onto someone’s hand—maybe someone you just met—and hold it? Nowhere!
It would be so much easier to just stay in our own little spots, in our own little pews, eyes forward, not even fully aware of who else is sitting in the sanctuary. And yet we are made to be connected. In relationship. At peace with ourselves and with others. And so we do something as simple and as terrifying and as real as hold hands. We get to know each other. For real…
The gospel for today is that Jesus wants the real you. No matter the wounds you bear. Jesus does not require you to present yourself unblemished, and neither does this church.
We are real people here. Not just spirits, but bodies who actually live.
It strikes me that there are many stories of Jesus appearing to his disciples in the Easter season.
First, the resurrected Jesus appears to the women at the tomb.
Then to the two disciples walking the on the road to Emmaus.
Then, Jesus shows up on the shores of Galilee, where his disciples—the whole lot of them—are going about their business.
And finally, the resurrected Jesus appears before us. Look around you. Here is Jesus. The beaten up, unapologetically real, resurrected body of Christ, alive in the world. Peace be with you. Amen.