This is our experience too!
A sermon preached at St Mary’s Iffley
by Andrew McKearney on 8 April 2018
One of the distinctive things about the resurrection appearances in John’s gospel is that they come across as intensely personal.
There’s the story of Mary Magdalene encountering the risen Christ in the garden near the tomb. The moment of recognition brings a shiver to many-a-spine when Christ simply speaks her name:
A few verses on from that story and we hear of the risen Christ appearing to Thomas. Christ stands in front of him and invites him to touch his wounds, to which Thomas responds by saying:
‘My Lord and my God!’
Peter we all remember as the disciple who passionately protested his devotion to Christ:
‘Lord, I am ready to go with you, to prison
and to death!’
But Peter had then denied knowing him three times – and when the cock crowed, the Lord had turned and looked at Peter. After the resurrection Peter is again looked in the eye and asked by the Lord three times:
‘Do you love me?’
Peter’s restoration by the risen Christ, the forgiveness he’s offered, enables Peter to acknowledge:
‘Lord, you know everything; you know
that I love you.’
Three intensely personal encounters that John gives us of the risen Christ appearing to Mary, Thomas and Peter.
Read Matthew and Mark and there’s nothing quite comparable.
Luke’s account of the Emmaus Road is the only resurrection story with a similar intensity; when the bread is broken, the eyes of Cleopas and his companion are opened and they recognise Christ’s risen presence at table with them.
Hearing these appearances of the risen Christ has such an impact on us because they echo something of our own experience.
The stories of these appearances in the gospels come to an end quite quickly. Their purpose is to gather the disciples back together again and form a community of faith – the life of the church.
For Peter to know that he’s forgiven; for Thomas to have his doubts laid to rest; for Mary to have her love restored; once this has been achieved, any further appearances are no longer required – faith has been rekindled in the hearts of Christ’s disciples!
But even though these resurrection appearances pass, their impact remains because they encapsulate key aspects of our relationship with the risen Christ.
Think of a magnifying glass concentrating the strength of the sun onto a single point with burning intensity – such are these encounters.
Yes, the sun gives us warmth and light day by day in a dispersed way, but the magnified intensity makes the strength of the sun abundantly clear to us!
So with these appearances – they each show us a deep truth in a focussed and intense way.
They tell of moments of recognition, of relationships restored and denials forgiven.
They tell of doubts laid to rest and faith rekindled by love.
This is our experience too!