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Toshiki Toma

Where Jesus appears today

Flutt 3. apríl 2018 · í enskri messu í Breiðholtskirkju

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. -Amen.

1.
Christ has risen and he is not in the grave! Halleluja!
Happy Easter day to us all! The resurrection of Jesus is the high peak of the Gospel story and it is the event that shows us the power of God our Father to make anything impossible possible, anything sad delightful.

Though the news of Jesus’ resurrection was tremendously delightful one, the women who had received this news by the angel didn’t become happy. They were trembled and scared instead.

Manifestation of something holy and divine makes us people trembled and afraid. It is something beyond our understanding and therefore we become uneasy, not knowing how we are supposed to react to it.

According to today’s Gospel, verses 9 to 15, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene first. She talked about her meeting resurrected Jesus to the other people, including Jesus’ disciples, who were in deep grief because of Jesus’ death, but they did not believe what Mary Magdalene told.

After that Jesus appeared to two men among those to whom Mary had made her report. These new witnesses told about their meeting Jesus to the disciples, but again they didn’t believe the news.

Finally Jesus came to the eleven disciples while they were eating together. “He rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.” (Mk.16:14)

2.
In this story, we can see a pattern how the people reacted to the news about Jesus’ resurrection. When the angel talks about it to the women, they become scared and can’t believe the news. Mary Magdalene meets Jesus, and she talks about it to the other people including the disciples. But they don’t believe the news.

Two fellows among them meet Jesus, and they talk about it to the disciples. But they don’t believe the news. The disciples meet Jesus, and finally they believe the resurrection of Jesus.

Namely the disciples didn’t believe Jesus’ resurrection until they saw Jesus and talked. They were stubborn to refuse to believe the testimony of those who had seen resurrected Jesus.

This pattern teaches us two points we should pay our attention to. The first point is the importance of “meeting Jesus”. In today’s Gospel, the Jesus’ disciples didn’t believe his resurrection until they met Jesus. Meeting Jesus in this context is to see resurrected Jesus directly. If we can see directly resurrected Jesus, it would be much easier for us to hold strongly in our belief in him.

The second point we need to pay attention is, actually the same thing as the first point but in different expression, that it not an easy thing to believe the resurrection of Jesus only by listening to the witnesses without seeing him by ourselves. And Jesus himself knows that it is not an easy thing.

Therefore he said this to Thomas, one of his disciples, in the Gospel according to John: “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(Jn. 20:29)

So we can see that there is a certain bond between “seeing Jesus” or “meeting Jesus”, and believing Jesus. We need to think a bit better about those things, “meeting Jesus” and “believing Jesus”, because different from the disciples of Jesus, we are living in the days when we cannot see resurrected Jesus directly.

I don’t say we can never see resurrected Jesus in the way the disciples experienced, but normally we cannot. At least I have never experienced that Jesus knocked on the door of my flat while I was eating dinner.

We are living in a different time from the time of the disciples. Resurrected Jesus has gone to Heaven and he will come again when the kingdom of God takes place of this world. Then what does it mean for us to meet Jesus in our days? Is it possible at all?

3.
In order to think over this question, we need to expand a little the meaning of “meeting Jesus”. For us, meeting Jesus is spiritual experience to feel his existence close to us, rather than the physical experience of seeing resurrected Jesus with our eyes.

For us, meeting Jesus means more than just witnessing resurrected Jesus. It is rather to communicate with him in our lives. It is also different from knowing about Jesus.

I say this very often, but knowing about Jesus is totally different from meeting Jesus. Knowing Jesus is just a matter of knowledge. Meeting Jesus is our living relation with Jesus. Knowledge about Jesus won’t necessarily change our lives positively, but the living relation with Jesus surely turns our lives to the better direction.

Can we meet Jesus in that way? Yes, of course. I have just said that I have never seen Jesus walking into my house in that way like the disciples experienced, but in the sense of the spiritual communication, I have seen him many times and I feel his existence always.

We all can meet Jesus in this sense if only we wish it and pray for it. We need to try to talk with Jesus in our prayers and we need to meditate what Jesus says to us now in this situation.

It is not like: “What would Jesus say to me if he is here… ?” It’s not “If”. He is here. He is speaking to us. So the question is: “What Jesus is telling to me now?” What we are supposed to do is to try to catch the message from him.

Maybe we need to make effort for it, but I guarantee that this dialogue with Jesus has actual affect on our lives. In this spiritual dialogue, we begin to receive Jesus’ message even if it should not sound sweet in our ears.

For example, suppose someone has insulted you. You feel like revenging that person. You think your revenge is justified logically and ethically. You have the right to revenge. But then Jesus appears and asks: “Is this the way that I want you to behave? Don’t you know I have died for that man, too, not only for you?”

If Jesus says always only nice things to us, then it must be a fake of him. In a living communication, such a “100% positive” cannot happen. Jesus tells us about things we have to reconsider and change, too. And because of that, our wrong behaviour, decision or way of thinking can be corrected in the direction where Jesus is leading us.

4.
This is the spiritual communication or dialogue with Jesus. And it happens inside of us, in our minds, hearts or thoughts. There is also another opportunity for us to meet Jesus in little bit different way. That is coming from outside of us ourselves. It could be called spiritual encounter, but it is actually a very simple thing.

Maybe most of you have experienced sometimes, or at least once or twice, that you feel like having seen Jesus in somebody you met. I am not talking about some people who are like saints, fine and respected people such as Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King. I am talking about experiences that we feel the dwelling of Christ in somebody’s particular action, behaviour or speech in particular situation.

One of my friends told me that once he had witnessed one asylum seeker was hugging and comforting another asylum seeker who had got the announcement of deportation. The one who was comforting was also getting a negative decision, and so he was also in a difficult situation himself. My friend told me then that he had felt the dwelling of Christ at that scene.

Such an incident could be just only one time thing regarding that individual. And that individual might be someone whom we don’t respect so much usually. It doesn’t matter. Holy Spirit can work on anybody and Jesus can work through the person. And when we feel Christ in somebody or somebody’s action, then Holy Spirit is also working on us.

5.
We can feel Christ not only in some beautiful and thankful scene, but also in sad or regretful occasion like we have done something bad or wrong.

I have a memory that has been coming up in my mind every now and then every year. It is a memory from my childhood. I think I was only 6, 7 years old. When I was playing alone outside of my house, there came a girl of the same age. She lived in my neighbourhood and we used to play together when we were even smaller, in playschool age.

And this girl appeared all of sudden after a long break and she wanted to play with me. But I don’t know why, maybe I had begun to have some conscious that I was a boy, and she was a girl, and I was perhaps shy to play with her. Anyway I behaved very cold to her, rejecting to play together saying her “Go back!” She was hanging around for 15 minutes or more, but finally left. Of course she looked sad.

This small memory comes up regularly to my mind. I don’t remember her name. I don’t remember her face, either. But I remember that she looked sad. And I always ask to me myself why I behaved in such a cold manner.

The funny point is that I have done much worse things many times in my childhood, but I don’t remember any of them particularly. And also I don’t think that this cold attitude of mine had destroyed the life of that girl. That was not that serious and big matter, honestly thinking.

So I was wondering myself why I remember only this incident so well. And much later, after I became pastor, I got an answer for my question. I am not saying that the girl was Jesus. I love a romantic story, but not that much. But still it is Jesus, who reminds me of this experience.

I understand it now that Jesus is teaching me that if I behave cold to someone without any good reason, then I am behaving cold to Jesus himself. Jesus is telling me that I should not forget the sad face of the little girl, and that I should see the sad face of him through the girl.

6.
Our lives with Jesus have not been brought to us because we saw resurrected Jesus and we believed him as the result of that. In our lives things are opposite. We believe him and we wish to meet him, and therefore we can meet Jesus.

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(Jn. 20:29) Yes, surely we are blessed, since we can meet Jesus because of our faith in him, and that in our everyday lives. Thanks to our Lord, resurrected Jesus.

The Grace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Amen.

Text:
Mark 16:1-15

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

9 When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. 10 She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. 11 When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.

12 Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.

14 Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. 15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

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