“You are witnesses of these things.” Luke 24:48
This is already the third Sunday after Easter, and we continue to read the post-resurrection appearance of Jesus in the scriptures. Sunday’s reading is Luke 24:36-48, and the reading just before it is the story of the Road to Emmaus. Both appearances were surprises to those who encountered the risen Christ, and both ended with great joy.
In the Road to Emmaus story, Jesus suddenly appears walking with two disciples, and they don’t recognize him. He seems to not know about the events concerning his death, and they tell him what happened and how devastated they were. As he answered, he opened their minds and taught them the scriptures and how the prophetic teachings were being fulfilled. When they broke bread together, they finally recognized him, and he vanished.
Hurrying back to Jerusalem, they start telling the rest of the disciples about their experience, and Jesus is suddenly standing there with them. They could hardly believe it, and he spent time proving to them that he was flesh and bone, including eating something. He needed to convince them that he wasn’t a ghost but a real body that had been raised from the dead.
Followers of Jesus needed to be sure of what they saw. They needed to be convinced so they would not have doubts about sharing their experience with others. They had to be convinced AND convincing. Apparently it worked! Look at the thousands of followers who believed and shared their experience of Jesus with others!
As time passed, the “eye witnesses” died off, and there seemed to be only stories to share, but if that’s really all it was, then I suspect the Christian religion would have died out long ago. Stories help people to know more about Jesus, but there still needs to be some kind of personal relationship with him. In order to be a witness to others, we need to have Christ in our hearts. With the so-called “invisible” God and equally invisible Son and Holy Spirit, people today are far more skeptical than even the disciples in our scripture passage.
So how do we share the joy of knowing and loving Christ with others? Maybe we struggle to hang onto faith ourselves, or maybe they are just too resistant to heaing the “good news” of God’s love in Christ. It’s a hard thing to witness to someone who doesn’t want to hear what we have to say.
It seems to me that our actions often speak volumes before we ever say a word. St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the gospel to all the world; use words if necessary.” There are times when we need to speak and when we will have the opportunity to share our words. Those are valuable and inspiring. But sometimes we witness through our lives in the way we treat others, in the words we choose to say, in the overall way we live our lives. People can see when we are kind, compassionate, tolerant, caring and loving.
We are witnesses as we grow in our own faith journeys, as we seek a closer relationship with God, and as we live our faith in the world. Faith is a verb, not a noun! Let us live it so all will see Christ in us!