Jesus has had a busy day as Luke tells it. First there’s the rising thing—whatever that was like—then a seven mile hike-cum-bible-study to Emmaus, a brief pause to break bread, and back to Jerusalem and this strange encounter with its awkward mood and fish supper, before another trek, this time out to Bethany to part from his friends in an act of blessing.
The only private moment Luke gives Jesus is his rising – all the rest of the day is spent on foot, on the move. In Acts, Luke spins out the single day into a full forty and gives Jesus time to do and say many things. But here in the Gospel it’s all go. Jesus has just the one day to say it all, do it all, and that pressure makes his choices count. Out of all he could have done – confounding Caiaphas, perturbing Pilate, conferring the secrets of the universe, or whatever – Jesus chooses two simple acts: he goes for a walk and he eats a meal, and both with friends.
Luke makes it sound like he asked for something to eat just to prove he was no ghost but I suspect all that walking on a stomach three-day’s empty had something to do with it. But Jesus is proving something to them. Peace he says. Yes, he doesn’t want them to be afraid, or agitated, or doubtful. Yes, he wants them to understand him and to understand the scriptures. But beyond all that he wants to make them into something, into witnesses. Witnesses of resurrection. Witnesses of peace. Witnesses of forgiveness. From that everything can follow; without it nothing.
Our presence here suggests he managed it, managed to make them witnesses. As with them so with us: he wants to make us witnesses – of resurrection, of peace, of forgiveness. From that everything might follow; without it nothing.