Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Tobit 13 – A song of praise to God:
Blessed be God who lives forever,
for his reign endures throughout all ages!
By turns he punishes and pardons;
he sends men down to the depths of the underworld
and draws them up from supreme destruction;
no one can escape his hand.
Declare his praise before the nations,
you who are the sons of Israel!
For if he has scattered you among them.
there too he has shown you his greatness.
Extol him before all the living;
He is our Master
and he is our God
and he is our Father
and he is God for ever and ever. (13:1-4)
The gates of Jerusalem shall be built
of sapphire and of emerald,
and all your walls of precious stone;
the towers of Jerusalem shall be built of gold
and their battlements of pure gold.
The streets of Jerusalem shall be paved
with ruby and with stones from Ophir;
the gates of Jerusalem will resound
with songs of exultation. (13: 21)
Tobit 14 – Tobit dies in peace at the age of 112 and is buried in Nineveh. At his death, he tells Tobias to go to Media because he believes in the prophesy of Jonah. He believes that the words of the prophets will be fulfilled. Jerusalem shall, for a time, be laid waste; but the time will come when it will be rebuilt. “And all the people of the whole earth will be converted and will fear God with all sincerity” (14:6).
After the death of Tobit, Tobias goes to Media, lives with Sarah’s parents to the age of 117. He will witness the ruin of Nineveh.
Luke 24 – On Sunday, “at early dawn,” the women (unnamed) come to the tomb and find the stone rolled away. There is no body but “two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them” (24:4) who said to them “Why do you look for the living among the dead? Here is not here, but has risen” (24:5). They are reminded of the words he spoke to them about rising and they run back and tell the others. Then the women are named—Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women with them” (24:10). The disciples do not believe, but Peter runs back to the tome, finds the linen cloths and goes home amazed (24:12).
Then we hear about the two men on their way to a village called Emmaus. There are two men also mentioned in Mark but there the story about them there is not developed. They are talking about everything when “Jesus himself came near and went with them” (24:15). Their “eyes were kept from recognizing him” (24:16). He asks them what they are discussing, and they tell him everything—that Jesus “was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, . . . how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified. . .” and how they “had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (24:19-21). They also tell him about what the women had reported that morning. At this point he addresses them directly: “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! . . .Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures” (24:25-27). They still do not recognize him. They urge him to eat with them. “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scripture to us?” (24:32).
They hurry back to Jerusalem and tell everyone what happened; but by that time the Lord had appeared to Simon Peter as well, but they told them “how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread” (24:35). While they speak, Jesus himself returns to them and says, “Peace be with you” (24:36). They are terrified and doubtful, but Jesus reassures them. He lets them touch him and shows them the wounds in his hands and feet. He eats in their presence. Then he says, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about him in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (24:44-48).
He tells them to remain in the city until they have “been clothed with power from on high” (24:49). Then they go to Bethany where he “withdraws from them and was carried up into heaven” (24:51). They worship him and return to Jerusalem “with great joy.” For me these are some of the most important verses in all of scripture. They tell us that we come to know Jesus’ presence:
- by the burning in our hearts as we come to understand him and encounter him in scripture
- and in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread that is consecrated in his church.
Such a great story – the things I mostly get from it are the following: Jesus is changed in his resurrection from what he was before. His disciples simply do not recognize him when they first see him, not only here, but in John’s telling of his appearance to Mary Magdalene where she takes him for the “gardener.” So the first thing I identify with is this – that one cannot see Jesus unless one’s eyes are changed. Jesus helps the two men to “see” him by teaching them to see him in the context of the scriptures.
His person only takes on the depth it must be seen in when it is placed in the scriptural framework. He saw himself in this way; his disciples had to learn to see him this way; the church got its start teaching who he was in this way. Today you often hear homilists speaking about how scripture was the way people saw him when they had no other frame of reference within which to place him, but that this frame of reference is mostly just a curiosity today. I don’t think so – big mistake. You hear Friends everywhere talking about just coming to recognize “the light within” – not enough!!! We can “live in Christ,” and “live in the Light” only when we come to SEE HIM in the context of the biblical narrative.
The eating of the bread represents our being joined into Christ. Only as we are joined into him can we see him for who he is. I also identify so much with the comment of the two men that their hearts burned within them when Jesus explained the scripture to them. This is exactly what I feel when I see Christ in the context of the narrative and history that brought him to us in a way that could be seen, heard and proclaimed.
Jesus reappears in the midst of his disciples and even eats with them, emphasizing that his appearance is not merely a spiritual presence, but a flesh and blood reality. Again the main thing Jesus focuses on is his place in the scripture narrative. “He opened their minds to the understanding of the Scriptures.” No wonder the early church searched the scriptures for insight about him. No wonder we cannot really know him outside the framework of the scriptures.