The resurrected Christ does surprising things, things so familiar that the disciples recognize him; things so beyond their experience that they are astonished. When Jesus unexpectedly appears in their midst, he offers greetings of peace. He knew that they were startled and terrified “and thought they were seeing a ghost” (Luke 24:37). He also regularly eats with them.
Sounding a bit like a teenager in a growth spurt, he asks, “Do you have anything here to eat?” It is the table fellowship that provides the clearest witness to his identity. They have observed those same hands, now with visible wounds, breaking bread in their presence in many settings. Recognition dawns through this simple action, and they are assured that God has performed the greatest reversal through raising Christ from the dead. This reality changes everything for them.
I have just returned from a wonderful weekend of ministry at First Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. An historic downtown church, this congregation finds ways to make the risen Christ present in their interactions and their hopes for the future. The church understands that the past does not determine the future; rather, it is the power of resurrection that gives shape to their hope for relevant and compelling identity and mission as the people of God.
As I met with varied groups of leaders in the church, I was impressed by their giftedness and faithfulness. They take church seriously. I sensed their determination to craft a future story that continues to make an impact on their beloved city. (I have yet to meet a person who lives in Austin who does not love it!)
The risen Christ is always present when we gather in his name. Eating box lunches together or gathered at the Eucharist, he is with us as faithful companion through the power of his Spirit. Indeed, the mission of the Spirit is to complete the works of Christ through the gathered community.
Peace and forgiveness are signs of the breath of the Spirit. Those who begin to proclaim the resurrection do so with the assurance of the abiding companionship of holy presence. The Spirit is the one who has accompanied Jesus through death to life, stirring him from the grip of the realm of the dead. It is the Spirit who breathes new life into structures that require new vision and energy, then and now.
In this season of Eastertide, the Risen Christ has many more things to teach us. We know through his Spirit that we are chosen and claimed by Christ, and therefore we can risk newness of life. We are able to believe because of the internal witness of the abiding Spirit. We are among those “who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 2029b).
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares women and men for seeking God, shaping church, and serving humanity.