Fears Comforted

What are the oddest things Jesus does? Each of us might have our own list of events that seem out of character or just curious. Jesus walking on the water has always felt pretty strange to me. Seems a little show-offy if that’s a word. Then he asks Peter to come on out and walk with him. Is he being a smart-aleck? Jesus falling asleep in the boat during a storm seems weird. I kind of expect him to be right there with an oar in his hand helping out those who are working so hard. But there he is taking a nap and letting others schlep him around. The miracle at a wedding in Cana, where Jesus turns water into wine, is exciting but it seems frivolous. Those folks had already had plenty to drink after all. Plus he’s a little rude to his mother.

But I think the story I find the oddest is when the risen Jesus appears to the disciples and asks, “Have you anything here to eat?” Does a resurrected body need food? Is Jesus really hungry at that point? Are they on the beach after a fishing trip or has he popped in right about dinner time? What’s going on in that interchange?

Jesus eating fish makes a little more sense given the context in Luke’s gospel. After the crucifixion the disciples are crushed, confused, and feeling mighty guilty. They’ve got a lot of regrets about their own behavior plus they surely are hurting for what Jesus suffered in his final hours. Their leader has been put through the worst sort of death. And they’ve got lots of questions about who God is and how God works. Have they been mistaken about everything they had come to believe and trust? Then the resurrection appearances begin. First, in Luke’s gospel, the story is told about two of the disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. Jesus appears to them but they don’t recognize him.  He has a long conversation with them and, even though they still don’t recognize him, they invite him to stay for supper. That’s when he is recognized, as he takes bread, blesses it and breaks it. Sure sound a lot like the last supper.

Those disciples go back to the others and tell them about their meal experience. While they are talking, Jesus appears and says, “Peace be with you.” He senses their fears – they think he is a ghost – and tries to reassure them. He shows them the wounds from the crucifixion to help them know that he is real. And then he says, “Have you anything here to eat?”

Maybe it’s significant that the two resurrection appearances Luke reports in his gospel both have to do with Jesus eating with the disciples. Maybe he’s making the point that, as we gather regularly for communion, we will know Christ in the sacrament. Maybe Luke is reminding us that communal meals help bring us closer to each other and God.

Probably it’s even more important that both of these events with the risen Jesus eating with the disciples occur in answer to the fears his closest followers are experiencing. Jesus tells them not to be afraid but goes on to add physical comfort. He hangs out with them for a while and converses. He eats with them and lets this strange news of the resurrection sink in a bit. He doesn’t just flash in and out like a superhero. Jesus abides with them while they are afraid. That presence is obviously comforting and empowering because the disciples go on to do some mighty courageous things.

What sort of fears are springing up in life right now for you? Are you wounded again, like you were when you were a child and felt helpless? Are you hopeless as you take in the news stories? Are you lost in a relationship with your hopes and desires not being met? Are you still reeling from the death of someone you loved? In answer to our fears, Jesus never says, “Don’t be silly; there’s nothing to be afraid of.” Jesus continues to come to us and abide with us. The world is set up to allow us time to be afraid and then offer us hope and healing. Fears initially separate us from that which is holy but, if we hang in there with those uncomfortable feelings, our hearts are mended and we are changed.

Your fears are not signals that you don’t have enough faith. Your fears are places where God is at work to bring you further into his loving kingdom. Look for the ways you are being fed and nurtured. Look for the risen Christ as he comforts you.

 

Yours faithfully,

Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.