When Jesus appeared to the disciples in the Gospel of Luke, he appeared so suddenly that he scared them half to death. Instead of knocking on the door, or walking in like a normal human being, Jesus just pops in. He seemed to have forgotten about normal entrances. And the disciples were startled. Who was this? How did he appear out of thin air? Where did he come from? Was he a ghost?
We are afraid of what we cannot understand. Naturally, the disciples were afraid of the resurrected Christ. Even Peter was speechless.
Jesus is always so straightforward, even after death. He simply addressed the elephant in the room and asked his followers, “Why are you scared?”
Jesus could not understand their fear. He was simply coming to the ones he loved. What could be scary about that?
The disciples seemed mute when it came to describing their fear, so Jesus did something so commonplace that it was deeply reassuring.
He asked them, “Do you have anything to eat?”
And they gave him a piece of fish, just like they always did.
They must have spent day after day eating fish together with Jesus. After all, many of them were fishermen.
We’re talking here about comfort food. When I am hungry and tired, emotionally drained or sad, I make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The familiarity of the taste makes me feel better. I don’t know how to explain it. It just does.
The resurrected Jesus at the fish right in front of them, as he had done countless times before. In doing so, he showed them that he was still Jesus, the guy they loved, their friend and master. He was still the man who had walked with them by the sea and ate fish, cooked over a fire, day in and day out. He was not a ghost. He was flesh and blood. And he wanted to eat.
I was at a meeting where Bishop Edward Konieczny of Oklahoma told a story about his childhood. When he was a very little boy, his mother became violently ill. The bishop did not say what kind of illness took her, but he said that there were times, more than once, when his mother had to be rushed to the hospital. The women of their small Episcopal church would come to his house in the middle of the night, and they would care for him and his brother, fix them something to eat, tell them that everything was going to be OK and tuck them into bed.
When the world felt like it was caving in, these women would come and offer comfort, and food. And in doing so, they would fill the emptiness and fear with their love. It is no wonder that when he grew up, Edward devoted his life to the church. Sharing food is so simple, and yet so important. Think of how after almost every funeral, we eat so much. We find nothing more comforting than sitting down to a good meal with those we love. In breaking bread together, we find reassurance, security, comfort. Jesus shared food with the disciples at the Last Supper, and then when he appeared in the resurrected form, he ate with them again. Jesus knew his disciples felt frightened and alone after his death. He calmed them by simply asking for something to eat. And in this way, he drew them into the miracle and reality of his resurrection.
Eating is one way we all have of savoring life, for food is needed to sustain life. To eat with another person is to celebrate life itself.
Tags: Being Afraid