Scripture for the third Sunday of Easter: Acts 3.12–19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3.1–7; Luke 24.36b–48
Most of us don’t face the challenge of proving that we are alive. It’s true that occasionally I’m asked to sign a form to verify that someone is still eligible to receive a pension. But most of us have not been seen to die on a cross by a great crowd of witnesses. Jesus may not have needed to prove his eligibility for a pension, but apparently he did face the challenge of convincing his disciples that he was not a ghost.
The reluctance of Jesus’ disciples to believe what they were seeing amidst mixed feelings of joy, disbelief and wonder is understandable. So it is that Jesus showed them his hands and feet and asked for something to eat – and so affirmed in the most visible way possible his physical being. Ghosts don’t bleed. Dead men don’t eat fish.
These accounts of the resurrection invite us to place ourselves among the first disciples, to allow our imaginations to share in their terror, fright, and doubt that a body that ceased to have breath or to be warmed by a beating heart could somehow restart those basic functions of life.
This all runs counter to the idea that we are spiritual creatures trapped in temporary prisons of flesh. Jesus, the son of God, comes amongst us as flesh and bones, circulatory system and digestive tract. It is a reminder that we have been created as physical beings, something not to be undervalued or dismissed.
This should encourage us to maintain a respect for the physical world and our physical presence in it. I know that there is a strain of thinking that claims to be Christian that believes in a coming rapture, more than the witness of the gospels, to justify exploitation of this physical world because it counts as nothing compared to the new earth and the new heaven that God will prepare.
Well, I have news for them. Jesus didn’t come and tell people not to worry about their lives because the rapture would soon come. Otherwise he might have been faced with a plague of people running off cliffs like lemmings. In fact the Apostle Paul had to deal with a few people who went off in that direction.
God placed Jesus in this physical world with a physical body that some people tried to abuse, kill and destroy. They failed, as we celebrate during this season of Easter. They couldn’t kill Jesus, and we shouldn’t be killing him by ignoring his physical being, nor should we be killing the world to which he came to redeem us, nor the people whom he came to redeem.
If the life, healing, teaching, ministry and resurrection of Jesus tell us anything, it is that this world counts; that it is worth saving; that we are privileged to have a place in it; and that we should treat with respect our human neighbours and the habitat that we have been given.
So how do we show that we are alive, apart from eating fish? We can respect the physical world in which we live, our physical neighbours and our physical selves. And we can take seriously and follow Christ’s teaching – applying it to the physical reality in which we live and move and have our being.