Flesh and Bones and Fish
Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 24:36–24:39
Third Sunday of Easter
St. John's Lutheran Church, Alexandria, VA
“Flesh and Bones and Fish”
“That sounds too good to be true.”
Odds are, you’ve said or thought this at some point in your life, usually after hearing about an opportunity or event that seems positively unlikely. “How’d you like a free candy bar?” “You just won a week’s vacation in Cabo St. Lucas!” “My teacher said we won’t have any homework this week.” Whatever it might be that sounds too good to be true, you might get suspicious. You’ve learned that the world doesn’t often give something for nothing (or even for very little). If you’re savvy, you’ll figure that someone’s probably trying to trick you or take advantage of you. Disbelief is a natural response. Did you know that there’s a punctuation mark that can help you convey that disbelief?
I don’t know if you have a favorite punctuation mark, but I’ve got one. It’s not the period; that’s too matter-of-fact. The colon and semicolon, merely “meh.” The exclamation point and the question mark are something more, to be sure, especially when you flip them each upside down. But which one of those punctuation marks is going to allow you to convey a mixture of incredulity and inquisitive excitement‽ Enter the interrobang.
The interrobang looks like the combination of an exclamation point and a question mark – one superimposed on the other – for good reason. It’s meant for those times when you’re left surprised or wondering, and might be used in questions such as, “I won the grand prize of how much now‽”, “You sat in traffic for five hours‽”, and, “It snowed in DC in early April‽”
I suspect that St. Luke might have used the interrobang in his account of the events of that first Easter afternoon – had it been invented before 1962 (and, I suppose, had they used any punctuation marks in the New Testament manuscripts). The opening verses of today’s reading might then have read something like this: “As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’ But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit [– and said, ‘Huh‽’]”
The disciples were still reeling from the report of the two who’d just run back from Emmaus. Jesus is alive‽ How could that be? They’d seen him crucified, they knew where he’d been buried. Some of the women, along with Peter and another disciple, had seen that Jesus’ tomb was empty. But alive‽ And then, suddenly, Jesus was with them. Standing right there. Was he a ghost, come to exact vengeance for their faithlessness? No? He’s proclaiming peace! And he’s showing them his hands and feet, the marks of the crucifixion on his resurrected body. It’s Jesus – alive!
As Luke records it, the disciples “disbelieved for joy.” It all seemed too good to be true, we might say. So what does Jesus do? He joins them for a meal. The risen Lord eats with his disciples, showing them that he’s not a ghost or spirit, but a real person. They can see him. They can hear him. They can touch him. Jesus replaces doubt with faith. Jesus shows his disciples, with flesh and bone and fish, that he is alive. It’s what he’d told them would happen.
Sharing this meal, Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” He showed them that he was the fulfillment of God’s promise to send a Savior for the world, to break the power of sin and death. Through his life, passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus overcame sin and the separation from God that it brought into the world. The whole of what we know as the Old Testament – the Pentateuch, the Prophets, the Writings – pointed to the work that the Messiah would accomplish, the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). It’s as if Jesus took the whole picture of the Scriptures and suddenly snapped it into focus for them.
That’s a clarity that we all need. In days when the news carries reports of civil wars, chemical attacks, and missile strikes, we celebrate news that sounds too good to be true: Jesus is alive! Really alive! With his disciples, you and I have this good news to carry out and proclaim in that faith that comes through Jesus. You who bear the name of the risen Christ are representatives of a living, flesh-and-bone Savior who has conquered death. He has come to deliver the renewal and restoration of all things, including our relationships with God and our relationships with each other, a victory that will reshape our world of brokenness – starting right here.
Jesus’ disciples were amazed when he stood among them on Easter afternoon. Here’s a good rule of thumb, though: Don’t be surprised when Jesus show up where he says he’ll be! And you know what? He’s promised to be here at his table.
Jesus comes to be among his people to overcome doubt with a meal, replacing it with faith. He comes to share his table with you, giving himself as the food and drink. He comes to forgive sins and deliver renewed and restored life with God. In Holy Communion, Jesus again is present truly and bodily, though in a different way than that first Easter. Christ’s body and blood are given in the meal that we share in, with, and under the bread and the wine: not mere symbols, but his sure pledge that God has come to be with you. In the Lord’s Word and in his Supper, you hear and see and touch him now, even as we look ahead to the day of resurrection when we get to be in his presence – all of us flesh and bone in the renewed and restored creation.
Jesus is alive, truly alive, and he lives for you and me and our neighbor, too. He has given himself to redeem all of us from sin and free us from doubting God’s grace. You have a Savior who is still flesh and bone, not a ghost, not a figment of anyone’s imagination. Even in uncertain times, he is here to bring the clarity that comes by his name for life as God’s beloved child. Jesus is the living witness of God’s love for every human being, and he sends you to be his witness in flesh and bone. As you share a meal with your neighbor, listen to their doubts, then speak the peace that Jesus brings.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Jesus is alive‽ That sounds too good to be true. But this news is that good, and it is still most certainly true.
This week’s memory passage:
“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” – Luke 24:45-47 (ESV)