Updated: Feb 3
Jesus himself stood among the disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
This is the Gospel selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year B 2018. It will next be read aloud in church by a priest on Sunday, April 15, 2018. This is important as it tells how Jesus appeared to his disciples in his recognizable body, as proof that death had not maintained its claim on him. More subtlety, Jesus told his disciples, then and now, how repentance and forgiveness of sins can only be proclaimed in his name, which means disciples must be baptized by the Holy Spirit, so proof comes through being a reproduction of the Messiah.
In this Easter season, I have already compared the information in this reading with the information that comes from the Gospel of John. I have pointed out how Jesus saying “Peace be with you” is more than a greeting, being rather a command to become centered in spirit and emotionally stable from being soul-centered. All of that analysis still applies; however, I want to project a new light upon this event that happened then and relate that to how Christians now (and for quite some time past) are in this pre-state of Christianity, being disciples who are scared, where that uneasy state is due to a separation from the Lord.
When one immediately reads, “Jesus himself stood among the disciples,” the circumstances established is that a separate body, known to be that of Jesus, physically stood with his disciples in the upstairs room in Jerusalem. This becomes a parallel comparison to the Churches of Christianity (all denominations, including Jewish Christian), where congregations come into buildings that are designated as safe houses dedicated to Jesus. That means the upstairs room in Jerusalem can be seen as synonymous with the focus on special buildings where assemblies of disciples can sit and remember Jesus, as if reproducing that event in Luke (and John) when “Jesus himself stood among the disciples.”
It would not take much imagination to think that if an Episcopal priest were to be calling Jesus to come put his Spirit into some wafers and wine at the altar (or communion table) and if then a full-bodied Jesus were to suddenly appear beside that priest, he or she, the chalice bearer, the organist, the choir, and the rest of the assembly in that church would be “startled and terrified, [thinking] they were seeing a ghost.” The reason is that Jesus would have just appeared from out of nothing.
You called? I am here.
Additional information for the setting in the upstairs room is that Jesus had (not long before this) appeared (incognito) to Mary Magdalene early that Sunday morning, had appeared (incognito) to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and had appeared (as himself) already once prior to the disciples and their companions in the upstairs room (when Cleopas, Mary of Cleopas, and Thomas were not there). That scenario of prior appearances was more normal (incognito) than shocking; but his first appearance to the disciples (as himself) says terror comes as easily as someone jumping out and yelling, “Boo!”
That natural shock can then be related to my present day imaginary appearance, as an example of people just not comfortable with people suddenly appearing in such a surprising manner. Even though today’s Christian believe he did that before, long ago, there is no expectation of Jesus re-appearing before the end of the world. Therefore, if Jesus were to likewise appear today, and stand among of people who profess belief in the piety of that Son of Man, it would be natural for Jesus to ask the members of this imaginary church, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”
Jesus would most certainly ask the same questions if he appeared before any Christian congregation in that way in the year 2018. People would cry. People would scream. People would faint; and I imagine some would wet themselves, with a few children squealing with glee (if any still go to adult church services). Hopefully, God would block all cell phone use, so no pictures, texts, or tweets could act as proof for their claims of witness.
After all, in 2018 we have hologram technology, where many would think the priest planned some hoax to frighten everyone. Pictures can be doctored to make it appear Jesus was there (my insert as evidence). This means seeing is not belief worthy. Things are not always the way they appear. This means the truth of Jesus’ question about doubting hearts is valid, because it is the same in all doubters (such as Thomas the disciple). “No way I am believing that!”
If a pollster had been stationed outside this imaginary church on Sunday (or any other gathering day of the week), asking everyone entering, “Do you believe Jesus will appear here today, in full-body form, able to be poked and touched as proof he has resurrected?” The truthful answer would be “No!” No one would truthfully answer, “Yes” (save a few young children, perhaps, those who are known to have imaginary friends). Therefore, Christians today are just like the disciples were then, because without Jesus Christ alive and physically with them, they have doubts in their hearts.
Because Jesus asked his disciples to “Look at my hands and my feet” and then told them, “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have,” he knew they did not trust their eyes. That means belief is not reliant on seeing.
The disciples had to experience the body of Jesus, which they did with touch. They felt his wounds, maybe even smelt his divine presence was surrounded by a sweet, flowery scent. Perhaps they could hear Jesus chewing the broiled fish he ate before them, hearing him swallowing. The combination of physical senses led them to come to a personal conclusion that Jesus was indeed alive and present with them, even after having been known dead, prepared for burial and entombed. Because the sights of that death seemed vivid and real, they doubted if they could trust their eyesight ever again. However, the reality of touching Jesus’ body increased their faith to a solid level of belief.
The comparison that must be made is that the level of belief increased once the disciples were able to become one with Jesus physically. Even though that oneness came from the sensations of his external body of flesh and bones, it is like how lovers feel they are one while entwined in a partner’s embrace. When two souls become so close, oneness is felt on a spiritual level … a soul level. The symbolism then extends beyond Jesus being a separate and distant being, such that this “hands on” level of belief came from Jesus being one with each of the disciples, collectively and individually.
This is how Peter (in the accompanying Acts reading for Easter Three) explained that he was in the name of Jesus Christ when the lame beggar was healed outside the temple. Peter, as a separate disciple who knew Jesus of Nazareth, admitted he had no powers of healing in the name of Simon bar Jonah (Simon the son of John) … his human birth name. Therefore, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, as demonstrated by Peter, gains power from on high anytime the Holy Spirit of God has become ONE with flesh and bone … recreating the Father’s Son.
It is vital to see this union of one’s soul with the Holy Spirit, as that presence makes one capable of higher knowledge. When Luke then wrote, “Then [Jesus Christ] said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled,” that statement by Jesus accompanied vivid remembrances that each disciple had personally experienced with Jesus. “These are my words that I spoke to you” goes beyond the collective, to the heart of each disciple’s relationship with Jesus. As Jesus spoke then, it was as if all of his disciples were reliving everything Jesus ever taught them, which they had heard but not grasped.
That was the same synopsis of what Jesus (as a stranger) had presented to Cleopas and Mary over a forty-minute walk along the road to Emmaus. That synopsis of everyone present having their lives with Jesus relived as he spoke can be grasped by realizing the commitment the disciples all had. Their initial commitment was to God, as His chosen people, as they believed the prophets foretold of a Messiah. Still, it was due to their devotion as Jews that led them to follow Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, more than them being less by Jesus claiming that. They were led to follow Jesus (become his disciples) more from higher knowledge guiding them, recognizing their faith. Their devotion to God led them to find Jesus (and vice versa).
This is where the religious practices of Jews have merit, as learning Scripture becomes the first basic step towards a union with the divine. The Israelite peoples raise their children to learn what it is they have been chosen by God to do: Serve Him by learning the laws of Moses, learning the prophecies of the prophets, and learning the wisdom of the psalms written by unified Israel’s two kings. This devotion to learning their religion continues into adulthood, so parents teach their children the same things, from generation to generation.
This level of rehearsed memory of Scripture makes the base knowledge of Christians pale in comparison. Finding more than ten percent of a congregation that has time for adult religious studies is unfounded. Most Christians would fail a serious test that would be based on the writings in the Old Testament (Laws of Moses, psalms, prophets) … miserably. Christian church services are not conducive for discussion about the deeper meaning of the readings presented, as one speaks and others listen (depending on whether or not they like the sermon). A thirst for learning has been replaced by an arrogance of not needing reason to learn more than children’s church lessons.
Comparatively, the disciples of Jesus (which included all their companions, his family and followers) represented a minuscule number of all the sects of Israelites. For all who studied the Scriptures of the Jews, only a tiny sliver had been in touch with Jesus of Nazareth – Jesus the promised Messiah prophesied. Just as Jesus spoke and reminded about thirty disciples, “I have spoken about this being written in Scripture,” that went over as well as asking someone from a Christian church as he or she was leaving church, “What three points of the sermon were significantly enlightening to you today?”
The vast majority would stammer and walk on, not remembering anything when asked. The same state of having short attention spans was present in Jesus’ disciples. It is human nature to let one’s mind drift during boring lectures. This means there is a sense of pleasure that comes from “basking in the glory of a religious talker,” such that the disciples of Jesus felt the power of his speech, even if they did not understand the depth of what he was saying.
This tendency to get in line behind someone who sounds wise means human beings commonly allow others to lead them. Jesus was not the only Messiah “game in town” in his day, as the people were so much looking for the prophecy of the Messiah to come true, many jumped up to claim the right to pull that sword out of the stone. Following someone else means “sheeple” will always follow charismatic leaders, in any time or age; thus the warnings about “false prophets” and “bad shepherds.”
This means the disciples of Jesus were converted to Christians in this meeting of the risen Lord. The conversion of Jews (which all the first disciples were) to Christianity meant they had to actually hear the words, remember the past, and long for the future’s responsibility. That level of commitment required being in touch with Jesus Christ as a basic requirement. The same requirement is in place today.
It doesn’t hurt when I poke you there?
For all who have spent time studying and memorizing Scripture, the number who experience total enlightenment as to the meaning of the words of Scripture is comparable to the number of disciples who personally knew and lived with Jesus of Nazareth. It was a very small percentage; but that is always a number that is relative to the depth of one’s devotion. The more one devotes time to learning God’s Word, the more one will gain from that effort. When one understands that a “church” is the gathering of two or more in the name of Jesus Christ , that gathering is so two can compare spiritual notes and support the holy presence of Christ within each other. This is the ultimate purpose of a church.
That state of knowledge did not exist in the synagogues or the Temple of Jerusalem. It began small and spread, when Apostles allowed many to be in touch with Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ day, the Jews were lost spiritually, in spite of their varying levels of devotion to discerning meaning; but many sought proof that the Messiah had come. The meaning of Jesus of Nazareth could not be seen by Jews who never knew Jesus personally; but being lost led many to beg for answers. This is why Luke writing, “Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures” is so important to grasp. All the answers to their questions became known then.
Unless one’s mind is opened to understanding by the Holy Spirit (as written of in Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost), one has not become One with God (love and marriage through heart), bringing on the Christ Mind. The opening of human brains to the Christ Mind is the meaning of this verse. It is much more than a crack in the doorway of knowledge opening, as the Christ Mind allows all of God’s Knowledge to be at one’s disposal.
To fully “understand the scriptures,” one has to relive the writing of the scriptures. This means the “opening of the mind” is God’s ability to place a present day human brain in an ancient figure’s body of flesh and bones. For example, to know the meaning of David’s psalms is to become one with David’s mind. One must feel the flesh and bones of David, as if one has been reborn as David. This is the power of the Holy Spirit; and it was that power that Jesus knew his entire lifetime. That power was not born in a manger in Bethlehem and it did not die on a cross in Jerusalem. That power has always lived and will always live, through the Christ Mind in God-loving Apostles.
By having one’s mind opened to that understanding, one can then read Luke’s verses that state, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things,” and gain an entirely new perspective. Just as easily as one who is in possession of the Christ Mind knows the experience of writing prophecies that tell of the sufferings of the Christ, for the forgiveness of sins, one can then know the sufferings of Jesus Christ personally, when one is One with Christ, in the name of Jesus Christ.
This is how Jesus could say, “You are witnesses of these things,” because you have become all the divine personalities of Scripture. To know Adam is to know God. To know Noah is to know God. To know Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David and all the other holy Apostles is to know the love of God. One becomes Jesus of Nazareth reborn when one’s mind is opened to seeing through His eyes. One is Resurrected as Jesus Christ when one’s eyes see through an understanding brought on by the Christ Mind.
The spread of Christianity could never have expanded beyond the scope of Jews who knew the scriptures of the Israelites, had it not been for the ability of Gentiles to become the Israelites of Scripture, knowing the meaning of Scripture, by becoming Jesus Christ reborn, full of the knowledge of the Christ Mind. If anything can be called “a religious experience,” it is that. One does not come to a level of belief that one would sacrifice one’s life in a Roman arena, simply by being told about a man named Jesus, a Jew who lived in Nazareth of Galilee, who others witnessed dying and resurrecting, so they were confident that Jesus was the Savior that an Israelite God promised to send to his people.
Hearsay is rejected by rational minds. Proof is required for belief. No one can reach a reasonable, beyond all doubts level of belief by being told about Jesus or reading about him in a book. Belief in Jesus as the Messiah can only come from being One with Jesus Christ and having one’s mind opened by the Mind of Christ.
This knowledge is then understood by all Apostles of Christ as meaning they too will be called upon “to suffer and to rise from the dead.” Early Christians did suffer physical death (most of the first Apostles, who knew Jesus of Nazareth), so their “rise from the dead” was as Saints venerated by their followers. Saints are worthy of special recognition because they have proven to have been the embodiment of Jesus Christ. Still, the majority of true Christians are called upon to “suffer the death” of their devotion to self, where they prefer to be separate, worshipping in churches or synagogues, all the while being frightened and terrified of actually sacrificing themselves for the glory of God or His Son.
One has to die of self to become One with God and take on the Christ Mind. Only by that sacrifice can repentance be sincere and can one’s sins be forgiven by God. The sacrifice of self ego means one’s dependencies on selfish goals are self-forgiven … where “forgiven” means “forever given away,” never to be a distraction again.
From all of this, one needs to see how the Christ Mind has led whoever it has been who organizes the lectionary readings into groupings by season. Each Sunday readings and psalms are selected with deeper meaning, from a higher mind. Thus, as the Third Sunday of Easter Gospel lesson, amid a season that places focus on the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we must take firm hold of this lesson. The Resurrection of Christ does the world no good if no one else is ever also Resurrected to become Jesus Christ … his Holy Spirit reborn in true Christians. To wait for Jesus to suddenly appear from a cloud, at the end of the world, means to prophesy the end of a world that never knew Jesus Christ.
While that meaning has been lost from plain view, like so many other meanings of Scripture have been lost, we must see ourselves as devoted followers of the man named Jesus. Until he suddenly appears in our flesh and bones, placing each one of us in touch with Jesus Christ, we are full of doubts, which leave us full of terror at what might be … all natural fears when separated from the divine.
Thus, we must calm our souls – “Peace be with you.” We must prove to ourselves individually that Jesus has risen – “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Then, we must let our brains be opened to the Christ Mind so we can understand this Scripture as a direct lesson for us to know personally.