Rumours of resurrection
Have you ever doubted the existence of God? All of us have times when we doubt the existence of God. A Frenchwoman I knew said I don’t believe in God but I shout at him now and then! Even Job doubted. It seems to be part of our human condition that when things go wrong or maybe we get very comfortable we doubt God. If a member of the family or our loved one is ill or even dies we may doubt God exists because of the pain the suffering and loss we feel. If we experience a relationship breakup or divorce we may doubt God. How can you believe in a loving God when bad things like this happen? Doubt is the flipside to belief. The Psalmist cries My God why have you hidden your face from me and Jesus from the cross cries “My God why have you forsaken me?”
An experience of God leads and doubt turns to faith. God comes to us at strange times almost bumps in to us and jolts us from doubt to faith. We will not have the experience that Thomas had of feeling the holes where Jesus was pierced but something else cuts through and we believe. This story of Jesus appearing to the disciples could be the end of Johns gospel and this doubting disciple was so transformed by his experience that later he is thought by some to have Christianized India.
But later on the disciples are returning to their normal duties after the death of Jesus, to fishing, perhaps in desperation, intensified by the fact we are told that they catch nothing. Peter announced he was going to fish. So they went out leaving the house they were staying at in Capernaum, possibly Peter's house. The boat that the disciples used for fishing, possibly owned by one or two of them, possibly even the boat that nearly sunk two years before when weighed down with a haul of fish.
It was early in the morning, when dawn was already breaking when they were coming back and they saw Jesus on the shore but they did not realize initially that it was Jesus.“You haven't caught any fish have you? He said “Throw to the right side of the boat." And they did and this time they were not strong enough to haul the catch of fish. John realizes the man on the shore is Jesus and Peter on realizing this, he wrapped his outer garment around him, tucks up his working/fisherman's smock, under his belt before diving into the water, because to offer a greeting naked would be bad manners. We may assume that Peter had mixed emotions in this encounter with Jesus. He had denied any knowledge of him, 3 times.
Much has and can be made of the symbolic significance of the number of fish caught, 153, especially if you are a mathematician and we know that the symbolism of the fish in early Christianity is very widespread. The story also recalls for us Luke 5(the big catch).
We also realize that, because she was a woman Mary Magdalene’s resurrection appearance is discounted. Even today we find that woman are discounted as legal witnesses in many countries.
Jesus invites them to eat breakfast with him. Jesus had made a charcoal fire (notice the detail) and grilled fish on it for them to eat. He asks them to bring some of the fish they have just caught.“Come eat breakfast” Not one of the disciples dared ask who he was. They knew it was Jesus. If you have ever tasted fish grilled like that you will remember how delicious it is. Fishing is heavy work.
Jewish hosts always said a blessing at the beginning of a meal. Jesus is therefore following the norm when he blesses the food. So we have a ghost with a gaping hole that you can feel, a ghost who makes a breakfast barbecue. Or maybe it's just a story, a comfortable way of resolving grief, collective transference.
There are a number of resurrection stories. In all of them Jesus appears. In most of them he is initially not recognized . How often do we not recognize the spiritual in our ordinary lives? In all of them he gives his peace and in all of them (except the garden tomb) the setting is in the context of eating. There are eucharistic overtones. There may be a profound truth here that Jesus is always potentially to be found as we eat together.
Today many of us are hidden behind closed doors maybe of our faith or of our minds or maybe physically- because of fear. We doubt God is with us and instead are prisoners to ourselves. Others tell us that Christ is with us even in our own locked spaces. Gods Spirit is with us everywhere and in everything we go through on our journey of life, the ups and the downs, the joys and the sadnesses. Be prepared for God to bump into your life in the middle of the chaos of life. Ultimately it is only God who can convince us that God is with us even though we do cannot feel the marks of the crucified body of Jesus, although maybe we have our own scars, our own crucifixions. Unlike ourselves God never loses faith in us, never doubts us.
The problem is always the body! First there is “no body”. The women at the tomb were grieving for the body which they thought had been taken. The missing body is the beginning of the end.
Then there is a somebody but he is not easily recognized as Jesus. Not by Mary, not by Cleopas, not by Thomas and not by the disciples. But the body is of importance central to the tale. This is not any body-it is the body!
This story is not about some ethereal resurrection, the Spirit going to God. It is about the whole person being resurrected. God is concerned about the whole of us, bodies as well. If God resurrected Jesus’ body then he will resurrect ours! Jesus convinced the disciples he was alive, through convincing proofs, for 40 days after the resurrection and a promise of something more.