19 April 2015 Easter 3 Luke
people who see Jesus today who are disbelieving and still
wondering are not hearing the news for the first time. This day - for
everything happens on Easter Sunday in Luke – they have already heard from the
women who went to the tomb, already they have heard from Cleopas and his
companion about meeting Jesus in the breaking of the bread and we have heard
that he has already appeared to Peter. Indeed they have already greeted each
other with ‘the Lord is risen’.
however, presents these fine guys as still quite a distance from anything like a
faith in the God who has raised Jesus from the dead. Despite all that has
happened since before dawn, they remain frightened,‘startled
and terrified’; in short, in the words of one commentator, “thoroughly
rattled”. It has not sunk in.
is at one level a taut narrative, courtesy of the scribe of the gentleness of
Christ; it presents those close to Jesus as being quite resistant to His
presence. Even while they are getting over the hang-up over his being a ghost,
they react with joy and wonder but are still disbelieving. The response of the
women we heard about at the Vigil in Mark was stronger than that; much stronger
in fact but why Mark has a claim to be the strongest of the resurrection
stories, that is for another day.
these guys are to be witnesses and on the first Easter what we have is a tale of
cold hearts, suspicious minds and a trying reluctance to see what is to us
hearers clear. Almost embarrassingly clear after Thomas on White Sunday; here we
have broiled fish, flesh, bones, hands and feet, to be sure; it is almost as if
Jesus is shoving it in their feckless faces. It does not say he actually burped
but it is of this order. This is so real and you lot are making heavy weather of
may call the attitude to the Risen Christ to be one of unbelief but that may be
misleading; happily the translation has “disbelieving”. Just as it is not
doubt which lets Thomas down - enough of that canard - it is not bare unbelief
which puts the apostles in a poor light; it is more like suspicion or at least
an attitude which is trying to hold things together and which fails. It is
similar to that attitude of looking at the world with in a double focus, in
which there is a simple one of acceptance
of what is and all its woe, naif if you like and the other stands outside with a
view of reality which it thinks it can judge. You know when you look through
binoculars, how it takes some care to avoid seeing things double.
When you do the two together, you get some confusion. The result of the
two together is often suspicion, especially of anything that which exceeds our
control and it marks much of late modern culture. It has been round for a while
and was behind the shift to the value of ‘self-expression’ in Romantic art
and why that remains such a pull but it is an assertion of self, the assertion
of the self in response to some daffodils.
be it from me to suggest that the right response to the God who has raised Jesus
from the dead, is something which is necessarily simple - straightforward even,
if you just go with the evidence, as some crude apologetics will have you
believe (dead end stuff that really). Rather, the force, the ground of belief is
in Jesus Christ, something full body, hands, feet, digestive system,
communications and stuff; what it gets is this long run of suspicion, a matter
of a response which is simple but which does not fit easily and a response which
is full of buts and no’s and oh yes! Luke’s Jesus is not limited by that;
what He is does not depend on what we make of Him, not in what our culture can
deal with but in Him, as we heard from Isaiah yesterday, ‘you are inscribed in
my hands’. Often our approach can be one which goes for that focus on the
attitude of suspicion which is common to modernity and its gaudy extension.
True, suspicion is part of us, part of the world we live in.
of the challenges it may be said now, is how to respond to the sure gift of
Christ while looking for a single focus. Some twiddling of the binoculars is
needed. We are to be witnesses and we cannot be witnesses unless we have
understood, perhaps in our person, that inherited suspicion which marks the age.
Yet you will not be a witness if you are seeing double. For that to be necessary
it requires that we see, with some apprehension, that the centre of gravity is
not in our possession, not at all but it is in the hands of
the divine Christ. He meets
us in disbelief and puzzlement; suspicion, to be sure.
that world which fails to trust, to trust whence it grew or to trust even in the
language which shaped it, needs to be seen as something which is addressed by
Christ, capable of being touched and brought to witness.
of being in a country which is so wealthy but where the difference between the
healthy and the sick and the rich and poor continues to widen and the cant to
cover it does so exponentially, mindful of the tender-parts-crunching ideology
of the pastor’s daughter from Templin-Brandenburg,mindful of the centenary to
be marked this week, that of the Assyro-Armenian Genocide, you would be right to
say that there is something to be said for suspicion, at least if one is being
critical. To be critical can often serve to foster trust, at least a single
The Jewish writer, Josipovici, regards trust as necessary for creativity, indeed for a responsible engagement. “The problem is how to keep suspicion from turning into cynicism and trust from turning into facileness”. Our challenge is how to keep a single focus in a world of cultural suspicion with a trust fashioned in the same world, a focus which owns itself held by that beautiful reality beyond our control, that divine reality, that Jesus Christ, those hands on which as we heard yesterday, God has inscribed your names. So pray and hope; one focus, one truth, one Lord