When we normally think of a “resurrection appearance” by Jesus, we tend think of the kind of teaching, breathing, touching, listening moments that we hear about a lot on Easter morning. Matthew and Mark really groove on these for sure and they form the basis of the types of images that adorn Easter cards and stained-glass windows. And they probably should. Religious experiences, like the ones these stories describe have the kind of profundity that we have come to expect.
But as we turn toward Luke’s Gospel, as we do today in church, we see a different set of priorities. Yes, Luke has his fair share of ‘early morning in the garden” moments, but his attention quickly turns to more mundane interests. Jesus is back . . . and he’s hungry. On more than one occasion, it seems, and with more than one group of disciples, Jesus takes his first resurrection opportunity to sit down and table and break bread. In the portion of Luke’s gospel that we read this morning, it seems to be his primary concern.
Now, on the one hand, this desire to show Jesus eating has some very pragmatic reasons for both the risen Lord and the evangelists that are telling his story. Namely, this: ghosts don’t eat. Thus, Jesus eating with his disciples is a sure sign of his reality. Most folks do not offer food to figments of their imagination,and neither do the disciples. We know that Jesus is REALLY back, BECAUSE he is hungry. And the disciples see it, too.
Apart from proving that Jesus is really alive again, each of the instances where Jesus is described eating with his disciples calls us to remember that eating is a principle part of Jesus’ total ministry here on earth. Jesus sits down frequently through the gospels to either dine with or serve all sorts and conditions of people. Thus, the Jesus who has returned from the dead is not only really alive, but he is really the same. The ministry of the resurrection is the continuation of the ministry prior to the crucifixion. Same Jesus, same mission.
So, what is the take away (or should I say “take out”) for the Late2Church crowd in these peculiar stories? I think it is more the later than the former. The church has developed, over the years, a much more robust understanding of Jesus’ real return to life than simply “did he eat.” Life is, after all, more than food. What is important for us is the way in which sharing meals with one another is, in fact, more than simple proof-of-life for us. It is our own participation in the ministry of Jesus. When we share what we have, we join with Jesus who shares, continually, with us.