Food for the journey

Third Sunday of Easter; 18 April 2021; Easter 3B (RCL); Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48.

Several of the resurrection appearances of Jesus involve food, specifically fish. In the passage just before this one in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus walks with two of the disciples (who fail to recognize him) from Jerusalem to Emmaus. When they arrive, they prevail upon him to join them for supper, and when he blesses the bread and breaks it, their eyes are opened, and they recognize him (from whence comes the allusion in the collect). His actions in blessing the bread are similar to his actions in the feeding miracles in the wilderness.

The disciples then rush back to Jerusalem, where the scene in today’s reading unfolds. To prove he is not a ghost, Jesus takes and eats a piece of broiled fish. In John’s gospel, in Jesus’ final resurrection appearance, he has breakfast waiting for his disciples on the shore — bread and fish. One begins to sense a pattern. The feedings in the wilderness (in all recorded six times in four Gospels) all involve bread and fish. And Jesus’ actions in the feeding miracles seem decidedly eucharistic — he takes the bread (and fish), blesses it, breaks it, and distributes it. Dom Dix took this as the “shape” of the early eucharists. So perhaps we have here evidence of a resurrection eucharist — bread and fish. Thank goodness it didn’t survive!

Why fish? Fish could not be sacrificed (because they couldn’t be domesticated). And because they couldn’t be domesticated, even someone with few resources could catch fish (think of Simon and Andrew throwing their small net into the Sea of Galilee). The Roman army marched on fish (a kind of preserved fish past or potted fish), so there was a good market for fish if you were poor, and could only afford a small net.

Perhaps even more significantly, in the feeding miracles, the Gospel writers (and in John’s case, John has Jesus) make direct reference to the wilderness manna. In the wilderness, the people ate manna and quail, when it pleased God to give them quail. Bread and (potted) fish would make good food for a journey. I believe all of the Gospels imagine the new Christian community as the new people of God on the wilderness way, either escaping Egypt (Paul has the escape from sin look like the escape from Egypt), or returning from Exile. In fact, in Acts, Luke tells us that the early Christian community was called “The Way.”

So, a resurrection eucharist would look like food for the journey toward God. And if Jesus ate fish after the resurrection, then clearly he was joining us on the way toward God.

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