It has often been remarked that there was something about the Risen Christ that made even those closest to him hesitate. He was familiar, yet strange. Mary Magdalene thought at first he was a gardener; the disciples in the gospel this morning are uncertain until Peter literally takes the plunge. Those blessed with a mind choc-full of certainty will have no difficulty explaining this to their own satisfaction, but for those of us more accustomed to complexity and contradiction — we of little faith, perhaps — will find here something worth pondering. The cosy, conventional Jesus of popular imagining has taken on something of the transcendence of Ezekiel’s vision. We are confronted by the mystery of the burning bush, the flaming seraphim, the utter holiness of God. It is as though a veil has been drawn aside and, like Moses, we are permitted to enter the dazzling darkness of God himself. These Resurrection gospels challenge us as no others do. Jesus is revealed to us as much more than a prophet, much more than a holy man. Will we adore him as God or not? We have to answer one way or the other, don’t we?
When I was cook in a large community, I used to think Easter was all about eating. After the Lenten fast, the explosion of festive meals, profession anniversaries and so on taxed the culinary imagination as well as the store cupboard. Scripturally, of course, it was spot on. A feast is precisely that: a feast.
Many of the Resurrection appearances of Jesus feature eating and drinking, but I think they introduce a new note. It is not merely a matter of rejoicing but more fundamentally of recognizing who Jesus is. Take the barbecue on the beach we recall today (John 21). Peter seems to have been disconcerted by the sight of Jesus on the seashore and jumped into the water to escape him; the other disciples were confused; but eating and drinking with Jesus changed everything. For Peter, strengthened in faith, given a mission and enabled to make good his earlier cowardice with a threefold profession of love, it was a moment of conversion. He saw the Lord and knew him as if for the first time.
I wonder whether our own meals have anything of this conversion quality about them. We are good at celebrating, we make a conscious effort to ‘rejoice in the Lord’ and share with the stranger, but do we expect to encounter the Risen Christ at them? On Twitter this morning I suggested we should each try to share a meal with someone today, even if it is only a shared cup of coffee. For those living alone or constrained by lack of funds, the sharing may have to be in intention rather than actual, but I cannot help recalling that line which assures us we may entertain angels unawares. How much more so the Son of God!