January 2017 has brought to light diametrically opposed forces to our city. I technically went to both the Inauguration and the Women’s March simply by opening my window a few blocks from the National Mall. The tension, the hurt, and the anger was palpable. I ended the weekend wondering, how did we get here? Is America capable of unity? Is reconciliation possible with justice? How does the church speak effectively into this hostility? I’m left pleading for a new reservoir of listening and understanding.
Listening and understanding is at the heart of this passage. Luke’s writing has always made Jesus accessible to all sorts of people, and it would make sense for him to end his book by asking us to relate to the disciples’ experience of Jesus’ resurrection. There’s something in their process that we can all correlate to our own story and to the story of others.
The disciples are discussing Jesus who they still assume is dead but appears to them completely unrecognizable. Distracted with their own presumptions of Jesus, they are oblivious to his presence. When they finally realize Jesus is there, their categories are totally blown. Jesus couldn’t really be resurrected; he must be a ghost. This leads to fear, shock and then disbelief. Emotions like this tend to appear when God does not fit in a neat box. Jesus knows that he needs to help them connect the dots: He is God resurrected in the flesh. He does so by…eating fish with them? Jesus expresses a quiet, tangible dignity in eating together with them. Because they realize the God who saves their souls also eats with them in body, the disciples are in awe. Awe leads to deeper understanding as God unveils their eyes to the truth of Scripture, which ultimately gives the disciples a lasting vision for the mission of God.
The Journey of the Disciple:
Limited Understanding → Jesus Shows Up → Fear/Shock/Disbelief → Connect to Jesus Body & Soul → Awe → Deep Understanding → Mission
It’s important to reflect on this story in two ways. First, this is our opportunity to ruminate on our own salvation story. What steps did God bring you through to grow a relationship with Jesus? What stage are you currently in your process with God?
Second, this is our mandate to engage the journey of unbelievers. Like the disciples, they have misconceptions about God. Like unbelievers, we still have misconceptions about God. The Left and Right, Christians and non-Christians are all on level ground because of the need for repentance and the forgiveness of sin (v.47). The appeal here is to see that the “other side” is not our enemy, but they are held captive by the enemy. Can we seek to understand opposing forces equally in need of forgiveness? Can we find common ground against injustice and sinful constructs? Can we, the church, connect the dots of our shared humanity to the Gospel the way that Jesus did?
If we could stop to listen and understand each other, the mission of unifying people to the Gospel may yet be possible.
Questions to ponder:
- Recount your feelings when you first encountered Jesus. How did you come to connect to Jesus in body and soul?
- How can your salvation story give you a vision to come alongside those who do not believe?
- Who in your life do you see as someone the Lord is asking you to listen and understand?
– Tony Wee