I hope you are keeping well in these difficult times and that those of you who are on your own are not feeling isolated but are being buoyed up by phone calls/ video calls/ emails and even good old-fashioned notelets so that you know people are thinking of you and praying for you – just as indeed you are thinking of and praying for others. If you are able to, please do check the church website regularly and join in with the acts of worship and Bible teaching which have been uploaded on to it as well as on our new YouTube channel which you can access via this link (or simply by putting YouTube into your search engine and then Sandhurst & Yateley Methodist Church):
During the time since Easter, I have been thinking about the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus to his disciples and others. There are quite a few recorded in the different gospels…. Matthew tells how Jesus appears to the women as they hurry away from their encounter with an angel at the empty tomb; in Luke’s account, Jesus appears as a stranger to two followers on the road to Emmaus; in John’s gospel he appears to Mary Magdalene in the garden and then later to the other disciples behind locked doors, much later still he appears on the beach when the disciples are out fishing.
There are other mentions also of how Jesus appeared to many people but the ones above are the only ones where we have any detail in the stories and what has always intrigued me is that, in most of them, Jesus is not immediately recognised. True, the disciples recognise Jesus when he appears to them in the locked room, but they think he is a ghost – he has to prove to them that he isn’t. Mary Magdalene initially thinks he is the gardener until he speaks her name and the two on the Emmaus Road believe he is a stranger until he reveals himself in the breaking of bread. When the disciples are fishing and see a figure on the shore, they don’t immediately recognise him as Jesus until he gives them familiar instructions.
Over the years, many suggestions have been made as to why that might be: Mary’s sight blurred by tears, the setting sun in the eyes of those on the Emmaus Road, the haziness of the dawn light at the breakfast on the beach.
I have never been fully satisfied by those explanations. It seems to me that Jesus’ body after resurrection was not exactly as it had been before his death. He is able to come and go – one minute he is with the disciples, the next he has vanished. He appears in rooms with locked doors. Mary Magdalene is told not to hang on to him but Thomas is invited to touch the marks of his wounds.
In trying to understand and explain these mysteries, I think we miss something very important and very relevant to us. We cannot hope to meet the Risen Christ in the flesh – but we CAN meet with him nonetheless in our hearts. We cannot physically see him but we CAN find him revealed in others: in the ‘words that make our hearts burn within us’; in the familiar yet holy gestures of eating, drinking, blessing; in the shared conversation which we call prayer – and even through the blur of our tears. Jesus draws close to the sorrowing and broken-hearted. He shares the yoke of our problem-carrying. When we are struggling, like Thomas, to see him with the eyes of faith, we only have to look around us to see him evidenced in every kind word, every unselfish or self-sacrificing action, every loving look.
At the moment, we cannot draw close for fellowship and oh, how we miss that human contact! If ever we doubted it, we have been shown how much we need one another and how we have been created for relationship. What joy we shall have, what pleasure we will take in the simplest of touches: a handshake, a hug, a kiss, a sharing of the peace.
That time will come again but in the meantime, let yours souls be touched by the love of Jesus, feel his presence as you pray, acknowledge the Creator’s hand in the handiwork of nature and let the Holy Spirit come and fill your hearts as you read his word. For this Jesus whom we worship is not numbered among the dead but here with us during lockdown and out there in the world around us. He is risen! Alleluia!
With every blessing,