14 April 2013
Third Sunday of Easter
Easter 3C (RCL)
Again, this week, we have two stories of resurrection appearances in which the recognition of the risen Christ is delayed. It seems to be a theme that when we encounter the risen Christ, we don’t immediately recognize what’s happening.
Paul, on his way to Damascus to persecute those belonging to the way, has an epiphany on the road (the way — love the irony). A voice from heaven says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul responds, “Who are you, Lord?” The word for Lord (kyrie) can mean simply “sir” or it can be a title of one’s superior. It is often used of the resurrected Christ (in Paul’s corpus, for example). Luke perhaps uses it here ironically — Saul is meaning it in the sense of “sir” yet is addressing the risen Christ. Jesus replies, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Luke here equates Jesus with the followers of the Way. Persecuting Christians means persecuting Jesus. When Paul figures out the connection, he is converted.
Also, in the Gospel, the disciples do not at first recognize Jesus. This is a fascinating passage. Nathaniel appears only twice in the New Testament literature; once in the first chapter of John’s Gospel in the call stories, and once here, in the last chapter of John’s Gospel. This argues against this chapter being an afterthought to the whole of the Gospel — the Gospel writer’s inclusio wouldn’t work if this chapter hadn’t originally been part of the whole. In the first chapter, Jesus tells Nathaniel (and the readers of the Gospel — the pronoun is plural), “You will see greater things than these. You will see the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” And since this is Nathaniel’s only other appearance, this must fulfill that promise. Not apparently very dramatic.
Also, Jesus encourages Peter to feed/tend his lambs/sheep. When John the Baptist testifies to his two disciples when Jesus passes by, he says, “Behold, the lamb of God,” and they follow. Jesus here says to Peter, “Follow me.” This chapter wraps up many of the themes of the Gospel. Following Jesus involves feeding/tending Jesus’ sheep, who will recognize his voice.
In Chapter 10, Jesus describes one flock with one shepherd, because there are other sheep out there who are not yet part of the flock. Perhaps the casting of the net on the right side of the boat picks up the theme of bringing in those who are not yet of the flock.
Interestingly, this miracle happens in Galilee, where the miracles of wine and bread also happened. At the miracle of wine in Cana of Galilee, Jesus speaks (afterwards) of replacing the Temple with his body. The miracle of bread happens at Passover, so we could read this as him replacing the passover. In some Jewish traditions, the final banquet will be fish, when God destroys Leviathan and feeds him to his people. Jesus here invites us to the final banquet. In other words, membership in the Jesus community is already participation in the final banquet. It just took the disciples some time to recognize that.