On Sunday March 28, 2021, a three-year old toddler named Jude Leyton wandered away from his family’s fishing camp north of Kingston, situated on 200 acres of dense bush near several lakes.
Jude had been outside with his grandfather in a work shed. Initially, his grandfather thought he had gone back to his father. It was some time before they realized that he was not with any of them.
The family searched for him then called the Ontario Provincial Police. In subsequent days and nights roughly 100 police and volunteers scoured the property on foot and by helicopter while police divers searched the lakes. Temperatures ranged from 16C during the day to -2C overnight.
As Monday turned into Tuesday then Wednesday, hope dimmed of finding him alive.Then, about 3 PM Wednesday April 1, police found him, curled up and sleeping but alive, alert, thirsty and hungry.
The beaming police spokesman said, “you can’t describe the smiles and the overwhelming joy.” Photos of Jude being carried by police across the field show him being hugged very tightly. In a tweet, his mother referred to his return as “miraculous”.
A CTV video clip of Jude’s grandfather, joyful and exhausted after three days and nights of searching, shows him searching for words to express the volcano of emotions at the reversal of the dread that had grown within them. When the fear of the worst had taken grim hold of them, the happy return released tears of joy.
This story came to mind as I read the gospel for April 18, (Luke 24: 36b-48)
Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” His first words took account of the fear and uncertainty his disciples felt. While there was much to tell them, to teach them, that would come soon enough. First, he reassured them.
I imagine that Jesus was smiling as he said Peace. These were his friends. He enjoyed being with them and when he returned to life he wanted to celebrate with them. He was happy to see them…even if it would take them a few moments to overcome their surprise and rejoice.
In the Greek, Jesus actually says, Peace with you. Peace is a noun. Translators insert the verb be. (The same is true in John’s account that we read April 11, where Jesus says Peace with you three times.) It recalls that the word “love” can be both a noun and a verb and makes one wonder if Jesus was saying something much more dynamic and exciting than wishing the apostles calm. I suspect that Christ’s broader intention was something along the lines of “I gift you with joy, assurance and confidence”.
But rather than the “smiles and overwhelming joy” of Jude Leyton’s family, Luke’s account said, 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.
Jesus must have looked the same but different. He was recognizable as himself, yet the fact that he was alive and probably transformed in some other way…the visual equivalent of a choir singing the Alleluia Chorus, compared to someone humming the tune…startled them into doubting their own senses.
Touch and see are ways to verify the truth. Luke may have also been stressing Jesus’ bodily resurrection to those who later thought that Jesus only returned as a spirit. Luke makes no reference to the marks of the nails in his hands and feet or the wound in his side as there was when Jesus had said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side, (John 20:27) but tradition gives us the understanding that the resurrected Jesus bore the marks of the nails and the spear as a sign that it was truly him, but also as a witness to his self-giving love that would do anything for us.
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. The reality and joy of Jesus’ presence, alive and well, took a while to sink in. The ancients believed that ghosts could not eat food. Eating the broiled fish proved he was not a ghost.
Next, Jesus ‘connected the dots’ for them. He helped them make sense of his counter-intuitive resurrection. “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…
Jesus had foretold his death and resurrection a number of times, most prominently saying, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:22) immediately after Peter had identified him as the Messiah. Again, when they were planning to go to Jerusalem for the Passover, he had told them the Son of Man … will be handed over to the Gentiles; and will be mocked and insulted and spat upon. After they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” (Luke 8:31-33)
Notable prophecies of the suffering savior appear in Isaiah 53:3-5
He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.
Surely he has borne our infirmities…yet we accounted him stricken,struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.
The Law of Moses likely applies to the whole of the Passover, in which God sent Moses to lead the Israelites to freedom from the slavery of the Egyptians at a time when they thought their escape from the power of the military force of the Pharoah would be impossible. By following God's Law (of Moses), the Israelites would remain free not only from slavery and persecution but from the consequences of sin. The whole of Exodus and especially the Passover was a metaphor for Christ’s saving act of setting us free from the slavery and consequences of sin.
Jesus continued the sentence that the Messiah is to suffer and rise again on the third day…by adding 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. He interpreted his death and resurrection as a sign of forgiveness of sins to those who repent: a promise that those who preach his resurrection will be saved. Then he said, you are witnesses of these things. You are to testify to not only the truth of my teaching but also the Father’s approval, proved by my resurrection.