A reflection for the third Sunday of Easter

Reading: Luke 24: 36-48

While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them 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.

Reflection

When I visited the Holy Land some years ago, one of the things that made a lasting impression on me was the realisation that both the Hebrew and Arabic words of greeting, Shalom and Salaam, mean exactly the same thing – ‘Peace be with you’. Both words encapsulate a sense of wellbeing – of wholeness, health and completion or fulfilment. Thus, to wish somebody Shalom, (or Salaam) is more than just to say hello, or good day, it expresses a wish of all that is good for the person you address.

Both Luke and John describe the Risen Jesus appearing to the disciples with the greeting, ‘Shalom’ – ‘Peace be with you’. Of course, the disciples were anything but peaceful at the moment of Our Lord’s appearance – they were startled and terrified because they thought they were seeing a ghost and who could blame them in the circumstances.

If we turn back a few chapters in the gospel of Luke to the account of Palm Sunday, we realise that peace was very much our Lord’s desire, which he expressed for the people when he wept over Jerusalem, saying ‘If you had only recognised on this day the things that make for peace.’ They had greeted him as a conquering hero but they failed to receive his message, which could have brought them peace with God and neighbour.

In John’s gospel, when Jesus addressed his disciples in the upper room before his arrest, he said to them, ‘Peace I leave with you, my own peace I give you’. He was describing the sense of inner peace and fulfilment which they would receive through the Holy Spirit after he departed from them to go to the Father.

Peace with God, peace between the followers of Christ, and bringing peace to the world is at the heart of the gospel. We hear it at the very beginning of Luke’s gospel, when John the Baptist was born and his father spoke about God’s dawn breaking ‘to give light to those who sit in darkness and to guide our feet into the way of peace’. Then when angels announced the birth of a Saviour, they sang ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth, peace among those whom he favours’.

When the risen Jesus reassured his disciples that it really was him, bodily present with them, he opened their minds and, using scripture, explained God’s plan of salvation to them. He explained that his suffering and death, which had seemed to them to be a disaster, was God’s intended plan for humanity. Through the saving death of Christ, people would be able to receive forgiveness and be at peace with God.

The followers of Jesus, who witnessed his death and resurrection, were to proclaim this message of repentance and forgiveness to the nations, beginning at Jerusalem, the very place where he had been crucified just days before. Note the phrase ‘to the nations’. Here we see another kind of peace at work, because the good news of God’s love was to be shared with people of every nation and race. The age old barrier between Jew and Gentile did not apply in this new age inaugurated by the resurrection of Christ.

The Easter message is one of hope and peace – peace with God, peace between peoples and, for those who seek and receive forgiveness of sins, peace at the last. One of the notable things about all of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, is that his closest friends didn’t recognise him at first. Mary Magdalene thought he was a gardener until he addressed her by name. The two friends who walked with him to Emmaus only recognised him when he broke bread with them. The disciples in the upper room thought he was a ghost at first, until they saw him eat. Nor did they recognise him on the lakeshore in Galilee until he told them to cast their net on the other side and they landed a huge catch.

It was Jesus who appeared to them, bodily present, but somehow different, yet none of the gospels explain exactly how so. He came to show himself to his disciples, before returning to the Father in Heaven. So the risen Jesus in the gospels gives us a glimpse of the life after death that he promised to his followers, saying ‘where I am, there you may be also’. The Easter message brings us peace with God, peace with one another and peace at the last, in life eternal. Amen.

Collect for the third Sunday of Easter

Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
Give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened
and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers of intercession

Lord God, we offer our praise and thanks for the good news of Easter
in the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ from the dead,
for the hope of life eternal, for the forgiveness of sins
and the promise of new life in Christ.
Grant that your church may faithfully proclaim this good news to the world.

Lord hear us. Lord graciously hear us.

Your son Jesus sent his disciples to be his witnesses in the world.
We pray for all who are called to ministry in your church,
for bishops, priests, deacons, readers, and all who teach the Christian faith.
We pray for this diocese, for Pat our bishop, and for our local community of faith.
We pray for all who are preparing to be baptised or confirmed, that they may daily increase in faith.

Lord hear us. Lord graciously hear us.

We pray for all who long for new beginnings:
those who are unemployed or seeking a new direction in their work;
those in broken or difficult relationships,
those who are homeless or who are trapped in poverty.
Those who have lost hope and direction in life.
Help them to find new hope and purpose, and give us a willingness to reach out in care for others.

Lord hear us. Lord graciously hear us.

The risen Jesus brought peace to his disciples.
We pray for peace in the world, especially in those places of war and conflict;
we remember the people of Yemen, Tigray province in Ethiopia.
We pray for an end to recent disturbances in Northern Ireland,
and for an easing of tension on the borders of Ukraine.
Give strength and wisdom to all peace-makers.

Lord hear us. Lord graciously hear us.

We pray for all who are sick and those who struggle with pain.
We pray for all who are undergoing treatment, awaiting results of tests, or facing surgery.
Grant them your strength, healing and peace.

Lord hear us. Lord graciously hear us.

We pray for all who mourn, especially for Norris Beattie and family on the loss of his brother, Roy.
We give thanks for the promise of Eternal life as we remember all whom we have known and loved
and have passed into your nearer presence.
Bring us with them to the everlasting joy and peace of your kingdom.

Lord hear us. Lord graciously hear us.

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