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“Have you anything to eat?”
There is something about the readings during the season of Easter that is very comforting; it’s all so familiar isn’t it?
These are the same stories of resurrection appearances that we read every year.
Easter Sunday morning we read about Mary at the tomb; at first mistaking Jesus for the Gardener and then being filled with joy when she finally recognizes Jesus.
Last week we bumped into good old Doubting Thomas, the guy who actually doubted for only a week but got burdened with the label of doubter for over 2000 years.
This week the gospel reading is this story of Jesus coming to dinner and eating fish with his closest friends.
We’ve had years of familiarity with these resurrection stories; we’re accustomed to hearing them every year at this time.
We think we know what they’re saying.
We might even tune out some readings after the first few words are read, because we think we already know what it’s going to say.
I’m pretty sure we all do it, unless we’re the one doing the reading
It seems to me that we grow up identifying passages by subjects: The Last Supper, The Good Samaritan, The Good Shepherd, The Labourers in the Vineyand, the Prodigal Son.
Or by a name given to it even if that’s not really what the story is about like Doubting Thomas.
It gives us a handle, a reference point, but in so doing, it also lets us be lazy.
We don’t have to think or look at the story for new, even deeper meaning, because we think that we already know the point.
Sometimes it helps to reimagine the stories if we rename them
The heading of the passage today is referred to as “Jesus Appears to His Disciples” but imagine how we would think differently if we renamed it “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”
What we usually hear and what is usually preached about this passage is that Jesus says, “Peace.”
The disciples are their usual frightened, doubtful, selves and Jesus reassures them and offers proof that he is the Son of God.
Then there is a long statement of faith which rehearses the history of expecting a Messiah.
We tend to assume that the story is about the appearance because that’s what we named the story but perhaps the most important part of the story is the eating part…”Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?”
More than one person has observed that Jesus showed up whenever there was food.
I find that kind of interesting, because a lot of people around here show up when there is food too!
In fact there are even some that only come to be with us when there is food!
So, let’s consider the story again with fresh eyes.
The great drama of the cross is over; the disciples are talking.
Jesus shows up and says, “Peace be with you.”
He seems to have to say that a lot….I imagine seeing someone they thought had been brutally killed would be a pretty terrifying experience.
Then Jesus asks all of the disciples gathered together: “Have you got anything to eat?”
Do you see why it might be appropriate to rename this “Guess Who’’s Coming to Dinner?”
Right after he says “Peace be with you,” he says “Do you have anything to eat?”
That has to be one of the great questions of the Bible, right up there with Cain’s question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and Jesus asking Peter, “Who do you say I am?”
“Do you have anything to eat?”
I suppose we could also call this passage “Jesus Gets Right to the Point,” because eating and food are so basic, so necessary, so very ordinary, and so very much a part of human life that the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, so to speak.
In Luke’s Gospel, the story is told in a way that emphasizes Jesus’ humanity—so it makes sense that he would first inquire about food.
Being dead for three days and rising again is probably hungry work!
But wait: having risen from the dead, would he need to eat? Would he even be able to eat?
If he’s not asking for food because he’s hungry, then what else might be going on here?
I think it’s as simple as this, Jesus wants to emphasize that the Christ of God is human as well as divine.
Asking for food and eating in front of the bewildered disciples is pretty human, because ghosts don’t eat, divine being don’t need to eat.
It’s important for Luke to tell this story because he sees that Jesus, eating with his disciples, is particularly meaningful.
Luke was Greek and writing for a Greek audience.
The popular religions of the Greek world were the mystery cults, where gods and goddesses—for the most part, goddesses—were worshipped from a distance in fear and awe.
Their divinity and other-worldliness set them apart as far-off deities, detached from the mundanity of human life; they don’t eat, they don’t sleep, they don’t feel pain.
Jesus brought a different understanding of God ; He is Emmanuel, God with us.
He is God yet one of us.
In this reading from Luke this morning, the disciples are so caught up in their misery, their fear, their doubt—that they forget their deeply-ingrained instincts of hospitality:
When a stranger visits, when a guest comes among you, you don’t huddle in a corner, you invite them in.
The disciples forgot their manners so Jesus reminds them.
“Have you anything to eat?”
Jesus reminded them in the simplest way that he was human, one of them, and he would only enter into their community if invited.
It’s what Jesus reminds us of too.
He has done his part and now we have to do ours.
Two thousand years later, I think we still prefer the divinity of Christ to the humanity of Jesus don’t we?
In the glory and grandeur of our Easter celebrations, we might have forgotten the message of Christmas: that Jesus is God in human flesh, one of us.
That is the mystery, the wonder, the miracle of the one we call the Christ.
Jesus reminds us this morning that he’s not only fully divine but fully human, however, there is more to it than that;
To enter into our hearts, our lives, our community, he wants to be—indeed needs to be—invited in.
Jesus was born into a tradition of absolute, compulsory hospitality; It’s what he lived and it’s what he taught.
And it is what we are called to do and to be also.
Offering hospitality to Jesus on a personal level is the stuff of altar calls in the best of Baptist tradition: “Invite Jesus into your heart today!
It is also the foundation of community, whether in our own household or our congregation of faith.
Coffee hour, our potluck dinners, any meal where people gather, gives us a chance to practice what we preach…gathering and offering hospitality as he taught us to do.
Eating together, offering hospitality is a deeply spiritual activity.
The next time you offer someone a cup of coffee, a bottle of water, a glass of milk, remember to offer them in the knowledge and love of Jesus.
See the face of Jesus in everyone you meet.
“Have you anything to eat?”