Jesus breaks through the walls and doors that the disciples have set up to hide behind. Through the post resurrection appearances of Jesus John paints a theological picture revealing of the fear that the disciples experienced following the events of Good Friday and Easter Day, neither of which events, they seemed to have understood. From our 21st century perspective we can see that the walls and doors that the disciples hide behind are the mental walls and doors erected within their minds to protect them from emotions of grief and loss. Like all human beings, the disciples are afraid that their grief and loss if not repressed, would overwhelm them. This is why fear, not doubt is the enemy of faith, and I refer those interested to know more about what I mean by this to relationalrelaities.com/ Behind Locked Doors or the Trinity Face Book site https://www.facebook.com/azcathedral?ref=hl for the full published text of last week’s sermon.
There are four post resurrection appearances in John’s Gospel. So we can assume he thought them to be important. The first, is to Mary in the Garden with the second, and third, to the disciples in the upper room. John is painting a theological picture through the way he constructs these narratives. What does John wish us to understand through these stories? Perhaps more to the point, what is God drawing our attention to as we receive these Gospel texts gathered for worship at the Table of Our Lord?
Limited Expectation and Perception
John seems to imply that the disciples experienced Jesus continuing to come and go in their lives following his death and resurrection. It is only three weeks later and the disciples are back to life as usual. They are out fishing – picking-up the threads of their lives prior to their adventure with Jesus. So the boundaries of normal awareness with all the limitations of their conventionally conditioned imaginations have closed around their minds once again preventing them from expecting to see Jesus. It is well attested that human beings only recognize what they expect to see. They see the man standing by the fire on the shore and yet they don’t recognize him. It is not until the disciple Jesus loved –John’s code for himself, identifies him to the others. Perhaps we see here a little self congratulation going on here.
Commentators on this text all note that it resembles Luke’s Jesus calling his disciples to follow him as he observed them fishing from the shore of the Sea of Galilee. In Luke’s theological picture the call of the disciples comes at the outset of Jesus’ ministry. Yet, John places it at the very end following his resurrection. Luke’s positioning makes more logical sense, but John conveys a deeper theological truth through which God addresses us as the Christ following community sitting at the intersection of Roosevelt and Central.
Post Resurrection Discipleship
In John’s theological picture, Jesus’ call to discipleship is made by one who bears the scars of his wounds. Whatever, seemingly magical qualities, Jesus’ post resurrection body possesses, it’s a body that still bears the scars of the wounds inflicted by the Cross. Fear limits the disciples expectations and so they can’t see through the veil of illusion built up to protect them from their fears. They don’t see what is in front of them. In each post resurrection appearance, Jesus comes and breaks through the veil of illusion in order to reconnect the disciples with what they once knew, but have forgotten because of grief, and repressed because of guilt.
The second scene in John’s story concerns Simon Peter. While in the boat when the beloved disciple points out that it is Jesus, Peter recognizes his nakedness, hurriedly dresses and then jumps into the lake. Of course we are left wondering – so why get dressed first? At first I interpreted Peter’s actions as another example of how he needs to be first and the center of attention. On reflection, I have come to see Peter’s clothing and jumping into the lake not as an attempt to get to Jesus first, but as an attempt to hide his shame. For it is his shame that Jesus seems to have come to address.
What follows is Peter’s rehabilitation from the failure and betrayal when last he sat warming himself before a fire in the court of the High Priest. For me, a rather interesting question arrises here. Is Jesus saying to him: Peter, regardless of the scars of your failure and fear I still call you? Or is he saying: Peter, because of your wounds I call you?
Jesus offers Peter to an opportunity to repair the damage of betrayal. For any of us the events of shame and guilt from the past can never be undone. We, and those we have hurt will always bear the scars of memory. We cannot undo the past, but we can alter the damage flowing from the past through actions we take in the present. Reparation is the most far reaching of all the psychological mechanisms available to us. Reparation allows a different future to unfold from the one made inevitable by the flow of unresolved guilt and shame from our past,into our present and on into our future. When acts of reparation are not enacted in the present our futures end up being only ever a repetition of that which remains unresolved in our past. Here, Peter is offered the possibility of reparation.
Yet, reparation depends upon our acceptance of a responsibility to change and become different. Jesus is not content to receive Peter’s three-fold protests of love. Each time he lays upon him the charge – feed my sheep. Healing finds expression only through accepting responsibility for action and service in the here and now.
As with Peter, when we accept Jesus’ call to discipleship, we accept responsibility to act and serve in the world around us. We also relinguish being in control of the ultimate direction of our lives. Where once we buckled our own belt and walked where we wanted to walk, once we accept the call to discipleship, God buckles our belt and we walk where God needs us to go. In this lies our healing and salvation.
They know the Lord when Jesus breaks bread with them as he does in Luke’s Road to Emmaus story, or here in John when he offers them breakfast. So it is for us as we gather to make Eucharist. Here we come to know the Lord Jesus who time and again breaks through the limitations of our expectations in the intimacy of the breaking of the bread.