The disciples were still speaking when Jesus stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Do you have anything to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.
In today’s Gospel, we read that the Lord ate a piece of baked fish and all his disciples were “incredulous for joy and were amazed”? You’ve got to be kidding me! How can eating a piece of baked fish be so meaningful? Was this the first time they had seen Jesus eat? Of course not! So what is the big deal? It’s simple and profound. The Lord wanted to prove to his disciples that he was not a figment of their imagination; that he was not the result of some bad fish; or that he was the result of some sort of collective psychological stress. He wanted to let his men know that he was back with them: literally, physically and objectively. And he did it with the most mundane of acts of humans: he ate in front of them.
I love to startle people. Actually, I love to surprise them. I love to turn human acts into Christian acts. I don’t know why but I occasionally get these weird thoughts in my head and then I find myself in the perfect location to act on them. For example, this morning I went to a bank teller to withdraw some money. I was in my uniform. As I was walking towards the exit, a Muslim woman was walking slightly in front of me. As we were both nearing the door to leave, I told her, “I go first.” She suddenly stopped. She looked me up and down with her eyes nearly out of their socket. I had definitely taken her aback and in a state of shock she asked, “Why???” I replied, “How else can I open the door for you?” A great big smile appeared on her face and she quietly said, “Thank you.” There you have it! A simple and/or mundane act of humans (walking) transformed into a startling and terrifying supernatural Christian act (if you wish to be the first, then you must serve) that produced a burst of love in the name of Jesus Christ.
This is what we do. This is how we live. Get used to it.
The Lord told his disciples, “The Christ must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
I was struck by the simple fact that the Lord immediately commanded his brothers and sisters to go and preach repentance; that is, the forgiveness of sins, and to start doing so in the city of Jerusalem. In Jerusalem! Out of all the places to start, Jerusalem? Yes! Jerusalem: the place where Jesus was crucified; the city where everyone was breathing murderous threats against them; the city where the majority of inhabitants were Jewish; the city where they were locked in out of fear. Isn’t this the ground zero for Christians? Yes. And yet, this is the place where the Lord wanted to rebuild his kingdom, where his disciples were to begin preaching.
And what were they to preach? Revenge? No. They were to preach forgiveness. You got to be kidding me! Forgiveness? Yes. Forgiveness of sins. And to do it in the name of Jesus Christ, the one who had been betrayed, denied, tortured and put to death. How more startling and terrifying can you get?
Forgiving someone's sins can be like opening the door for them, which can be like opening the tomb for them. The Lord did promise that we would do what he did, and even more.
O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth (Ps 8:2ab).