“Do not be afraid, go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, there they will see me”
The words of the Master rang in her ears as she rushed into the city. Tears of joy ran from her eyes as she made her way through the crowded streets and caused quite a stir amongst the visitors.
The disciples were so overcome with grief and fear that the news came as a rude shock and they found it hard to believe. As usual, Peter took the lead and decided to go see for himself and John volunteered to follow. His love for the Master had increased since he had been committed with the charge of taking care of the Master’s mother.
True to the words of Mary, the tomb was empty and Peter and John left feeling puzzled. Coupled with the rumors flying about Jesus’ disciples responsible for taking his body, he was at a loss for what to do.
If the Master had indeed arisen from the dead, how come he hadn’t appeared to them? Were they not the closest people to him? Had he not called them his friends even? These thoughts waged a war in his heart.
Unable to bear the tension and the hanging threats on their heads, two of the disciples of Jesus decided to leave Jerusalem for Emmaus, a nearby city where they could lay low till things calmed down. Being known as a follower of Jesus was really challenging. The rumors about his resurrection was really causing quite a stir and emotions were raging. There were talks of a possible revolt against the romans.
The roads were deserted as most people were not heading out of the city yet. Normally, there would have been a lot of traffic away from the city since the day before once the Passover was over but the recent events had kept people interested enough to stay for a day or two.
The two disciples talked about these events with heavy hearts. They had given up a lot of things to follow the Master, the Messiah, and the very Son of God. Since his death however, their faith had begun to shake. There had been no sign, no pestilence or thunder from heaven against the romans or the chief priests for their atrocious acts. One doesn’t just up and kill the Son of God and live to tell the tale!
With each step away from the city, vestiges of their faith were beginning to fall away and doubts were increasing. One of them was close to tears. He felt disappointed. All the talks about the kingdom of God and how one needed to sacrifice everything and endure the wrath of the people and rejection from family really sounded like crap at that moment. Where was this kingdom of heaven now? The Son of God lay rotting in a sepulcher at the outskirts of the city, buried like a leper or someone that was deformed. The offspring of David that did not have a resting place in the city of the kings. It was all too disheartening.
Evening was giving way to the night as they approached Emmaus. They were tired and weary, more from a broken heart than from the exhaustion from the journey.
A stranger joined them as they were approaching the village. He passed by them and greeted them excitedly like an old acquaintance. Their responses were less than enthusiastic.
“What is the problem dear friends?’’ the stranger asked boisterously, “why the long faces?”
A faint wave of irritation passed over the face of Cleopas, the taller of the duo. They really were not in the mood for any chit chat and especially not with a happy go lucky stranger. Courtesy however overtook irritation and he replied “are you a stranger sir? Are you not aware of the things that have been happening in Jerusalem these past few days?’’
“What things?” the stranger asked
Cleopas proceeded to narrate the incident to him especially their shattered hopes of Jesus being the savior of Israel and of the reports by the women of how they had seen angels telling them that Jesus was alive but when Peter and the disciples had gone the tomb, they hadn’t seen Jesus, only an empty tomb.
The stranger listened patiently to their stories, his face betraying no emotion at all.
“You are not moved by these” the other disciple asked
He sighed. “You fools” he said quietly “don’t you know that all these things have been prophesied about the Christ and that he must suffer these things and afterwards enter his glory?”
They looked at each other and then at him, befuddled. He then explained to them from the scriptures the prophesies concerning the Christ and their fulfillment, from the virgin birth to the death on the cross.
When he had finished, they were at the village and he told them he had to go on with his journey but the disciples finding him a good company begged him to stay the night with them. They were eager to know more about all he had to say. All they had was some left over unleavened bread from the Passover and a half bottle of wine in the wine skin. He received it with cheerfulness.
He took the bread lifted it up and blessed it and then divided it amongst the two disciples. They froze in their seats and stared. They were looking into the face of Jesus, the Messiah. He was alive and sitting right in front of them with a smile on his face, one they were all too familiar with.
And then he wasn’t.
The savior was alive!
“My heart was burning within me when he was expounding the scriptures to us. I had this familiar feeling of having heard the scriptures being taught in a different way and with authority!” cried Cleopas.
“Me too” Simon, his companion shouted.
“We need to go and tell the others”
With that they headed back to Jerusalem. Their faith was restored and they were ready to publicly identify with the Messiah.
The upper room was filled to the brim. The news of the appearance of the Messiah to Cleopas and Simon had circulated amongst the disciples and they had all gathered to hear from their mouths. The duo had told the story over a dozen times already, their words had more effect than the women’s report. Women were often not taken seriously in these weightier matters.
Suddenly the room grew quiet and everyone stopped talking. The atmosphere changed and skins pricked. Then he was there, appearing out of nowhere.
The people closest to him scampered in different directions. They were afraid it was his ghost. He had never appeared before them before and no one could do that except a spirit.
“Peace be unto you” his voice was cheerful and a smile played on his lips.
“Be not afraid” he said, looking at their ashen faces one after the other “it is I”
Still no one moved. Not even Peter, who was making his way slowly towards the back of the crowd. His dreams was replaying in his head and the look on the Master’s face in them. He was overcome with shame and guilt. He wasn’t sure the Master would want to see him. The son of perdition had committed suicide and maybe he too should have.
Jesus turned to him and caught his eye. “Come, touch my hands and my feet”
Peter was transfixed. Did the Master just call to him? No it couldn’t be. The Master’s eyes never left his and he stretched his hands towards him. His eyes were urging him forward. Unwillingly, his legs moved forward till he was standing in front of Jesus.
“Here, touch them”
Slowly, he put his hands forward and touched the holes in his hands. Then the Master took his hands and put it to his side where the spear was thrust into him. It was indeed the Master.
“See? A spirit does not have flesh and blood” Jesus said, a hint of reprimand in his voice.
“Master, it is you” Peter said and bowed at his feet. Slowly, the disciples came forward and touched his hands and his side and bowed before him.
There was a great joy amongst the disciples as they offered him food and drink. He was alive!
“I do not believe!” Thomas declared with a note of finality
“How can you accuse all of us of lying?!” it was Nathaniel. “We saw the Lord and we even touched his hands and feet!”
“I do not believe” Thomas repeated, and after a while added “and I would not unless I touch his hands and his feet myself”
With that he sauntered out the door.
A week later, the Lord appeared to them again and straightway he called unto Thomas, “come touch my hands and feet and my sides too”
When he had touched, he bowed and worshipped the Master “My Lord and my God”
There was a hint of sadness in the Master’s eyes. He could not believe the depth of unbelief in their hearts. He had spent three years with them and had expounded the scriptures concerning his death and resurrection to them and yet they did not believe.
“Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe” he said softly.
The disciples were growing restless. The Lord had arisen but he was no longer with them at all times, just the occasional appearances. What were they supposed to do now? They had spent the last three years following the Messiah, but he was no longer with them. Yet they could not ask him when he appeared to them. He was now like a stranger, and it was still hard to wrap their heads around his resurrection.
Sure they had seen the dead being raised to life but this was the man that had done it and yet he had been brutally executed and he didn’t defend himself and then he was in the tomb for three days. It was all too much to digest all at once. Nevertheless they rejoiced at his resurrection. It meant they had hope.
One day, Peter announced to the others that he was returning to fishing. Several of the disciples who were before fishermen went along with him. All night they caught nothing and the morning met them frustrated and tired. As they journeyed to the shore, they saw the Master waiting for them.
After they had dined, Jesus turned to Peter, “Do you love me?”
His heart beat faster. Scenes from the betrayal flashed through his eyes and he felt sad that his loyalty was being called to question. He deserved it, he thought dejected. Why shouldn’t it be called to question?
“Do you love me more than these?’’ Jesus asked again.
“Yes, I do Master”
“Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these?” Jesus asked again
Peter was distraught. The Lord really had no trust in him, and had to ask three times to confirm whether he was saying the truth. The Lord knows all things, he reasoned, couldn’t he see that he really loved him and that he was sorry for betraying him?
“Lord, you know all things” and my heart is all bare and sincere, he added in his heart “You know that I love you”
Jesus sighed. “Feed my sheep”
And for the second time in his life, Peter left all to follow Christ, to feed his sheep and tend his lambs.
It was now forty days since the resurrection and Jesus had appeared to his disciples severally and they now believed without a shadow of doubt that he was indeed risen.
It was time to go. He gathered his disciples to the Mount of Olives, in Bethany, the village next to Jerusalem, a day’s journey from the city. While there, he fellowshipped with them and blessed them.
“Go ye into all the world and make disciples of men, teach them to observe everything that I have told you, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am with you always even unto the end of the world.
You will receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Until you receive the Power however, stay in Jerusalem”
When he had finished with the charge, he began to ascend up into heaven and the disciples followed him with their gaze till he disappeared out of sight.
And then there was silence. They kept looking upwards, with sorrowful hearts, heavy and yearning for their Master, and tears on a few eyes. The Master was gone. They felt empty and lonely. The greatest man that ever lived is no more. The Son has returned to the Father, leaving them bereft.
Two angels appeared in shining apparel and addressed them
“Men of Galilee, why are you gazing up at the skies? This same Jesus that you see taken up into heaven will return in the same way that you see him go up into heaven”
With these words, the disciples returned to Jerusalem and stayed in the upper room, rejoicing and engaging in prayers and breaking of bread.
Till the feast of Pentecost…….