A surprise the first time – poem

And who’s to say
that Christ won’t come again 
in a body 
in that body 
the one we’ve gotten used to 
the one we have seen in paintings 
and pictures 
but not photographs 
but instead of being born again unto a virgin 
in a cowshed 
or descending out of the sky 
the Christ 
the anointed one 
comes again 
for the first time 
into your heart?

I mean 
it was a surprise the first time 
even then, 
over 2000 years ago. 
They expected a king. 
They expected someone to lead them out 
of slavery to the foreign army 
to lead them back 
to who they really were 
as people 
chosen by God. 

Instead they got this guy
born illegitimately 
born in poverty 
raised in a nowhere backward town 
who spoke of a different kind of 
freedom, a different kind of return 
to who they were. 
It wasn’t a revolution 
it wasn’t a rebellion. 
He didn’t come to be a king
but to point them back 
to the only King 
they ever needed.

He wanted to lead them out
of slavery 
not to the Romans 
but thinking anybody 
was over them 
other than God.

Why can’t it be that
surprising again?

Why can’t it be that 
the second coming 
doesn’t happen 
in the Holy Land 
but in your heart 
right where you are 
right as you are 
right now?

A watery resurrection

Marley awoke and there was water everywhere. Dark, murky water filled her mouth and lungs, but she didn’t need them anymore, because the same water filled her grave.
She’d resurrected the moment Jesus had appeared in the sky overhead. Even though there was 6 feet of earth and well over 20 feet of water between her and the air, she still knew. She knew the same way Bradford pears knew it was time to bloom, when all at once, seemingly overnight, every one of them burst into shimmering snowflakes of petals, all over the city. How did they know? Scientists still couldn’t figure it out, but scientists couldn’t measure the Spirit, and that was what was at work, both with the trees and with Marley.
She was lucky she’d been buried before “professionals” took over the laying out. When she died, her mother and her aunts had cared for her, just like they had when she was born. They took her down to the creek, a branch of the Stones River, and washed her body. It was like a baptism she’d never had.
She’d died at 11 in 1843 of diphtheria. One week she was fine, and then she got a sore throat that seemed to take over all of who she was. It weakened her heart and that was enough to send her out of this world. Little did her family know but if that disease hadn’t killed her, the strain of her having a child later would have. Better to die now, with no obligations, nobody to leave behind.
Her Granny had told her about Jesus, about his coming back, so what was happening now wasn’t a surprise. There’d been many quiet talks over the years while they quilted together or snapped beans for the evening meal out on the back porch. They had been looking forward to formally including her in the local congregation. That wouldn’t have been until the next summer when the preacher came by to do the yearly baptizing in the creek.
Sure, she went to church, when she could, when she remembered, when there wasn’t something she had to do at the house. There were always chickens to feed or weeds to pull, and these things didn’t do themselves, as Marley’s Pa was always saying when she tried to put the chores off until later. “Best do them now, Marley girl, before something else comes up what wants tendin’.” He was right, of course, but all those “have to” things took away from the “want to” things, and to her mind the creek needed swimming and the flowers needed picking and the insects needed catching just as much as the chores needed doing. The days were just filled with things that had nothing to do with chores, but there was no way of getting around to it all.
Marley always kept the Sabbath in her heart all her days. She was a simple girl, never one to pry or gossip. All children start off good, the only problem is that the clever ones were a quick study on how to be bad. It took smarts to figure out ways around the rules, and Marley was lucky in that she never had cause to worry about that being a problem. There was no school to go to, not for her, not for anybody in Old Jefferson. There weren’t enough families to pay for a building and a teacher, and there weren’t enough children to fill it. The nearest school was a three hour’s walk away and her family couldn’t spare her for that long with so many things to do around the homestead.
She knew it was time to rise from the grave, the same as if it had been a school bell calling her. The call was silent but just as insistent, just as impossible to ignore. And why would she? Who would want to play hooky from heaven? She shoved against the rotten pine boards of the coffin, sending them swimming lazily to the side along with thick clumps of mud. It took her about 20 minutes to reach the surface, which in this case was the bottom of the lake. It didn’t take long after that to swim up to the air, but it was hard work, hard for muscles that hadn’t been used in over a century.
Why was her grave underwater, she mused? Where did the lake come from? Where was her house? For that matter, where was the rest of her family? Surely they’d be rising with her, but she saw none of them nearby. Perhaps they were buried elsewhere? She didn’t dare consider that they might still be in the ground, like iris bulbs that had gone mushy, with no spirit left in them to bloom from the dark earth in which they were planted.
The Corps of Engineers had flooded the town of Old Jefferson late in 1966 to make a hydroelectric dam, big enough to bring clean, reliable power to them and half a dozen other little towns to boot. The only trouble was that the towns had to relocate to higher ground to benefit from that progress. Power doesn’t do you any good if your farm is at the bottom of a lake.
Moving the people and their livestock was hard enough, but then someone remembered the graves. There were hundreds of family cemeteries in the valley, often tucked away at the ends of farms, at the highest point, so that the well water wouldn’t be affected. Here the dead were laid to rest at the tops of hills so they be closer to heaven. But with the water coming, all the dead had to be relocated the same as the people. It wasn’t an easy task – living relatives had to be located, permission forms had to be signed and notarized. Many of the dead were moved to the Mount Juliet cemetery, but some stayed right where they were laid to rest however long ago that was.
Sometimes the family had moved on or died out, meaning they couldn’t be asked for permission. Sometimes the remaining relatives decided it was more respectful to leave their loved ones alone after seeing some of the other graves exhumed. Plain pine boxes and fancy mahogany ones all rot the same after a few years under the pressure of 4 tons of dirt from a standard size grave. It was a hard sight to see, all those coffins being dug up and falling apart. It wasn’t respectful, to their mind. Better leave them where they were.
In Marley’s case, it was a little of both. The family had moved away not long after she had died, too distraught to live in the same place where their child had died. It didn’t make sense for her to go so young. Mama blamed herself for not taking better care of her, while Pa lamented that he’d not had enough money saved up to take her to the doctor. They’d left rather than have to answer all those ugly questions hanging around like dead fruit. It didn’t solve the problems, of course, just pushed them off until later. Unanswered questions always have a way of not staying quiet.
The family had left the tending of their graveyard to the neighbors, who promised to keep the small plot mowed and free of trespassers. They assured her kin that they’d treat them like their own, and sent them off with sandwiches and a jug of fresh apple cider on moving day. In return they got the house and the farm signed over to them. Her family was ready to start again from scratch. They figured it was the only way to make up to Marley for letting her die.
When the time came to move that plot, the neighbors had said no, in part upset at the hullaballoo created by the other exhumations, and in part hopeful that the Corps would give up on their plans. They thought that if enough people left the dead where they were, the government would have to relent and let the living stay. They didn’t count on the fact that the government doesn’t have feelings about people, whether alive or dead.
It sure was a sight to see the dead come up out of the grey-green water that late August day. It was a Wednesday when it happened in Davidson County. The Rising had started a day earlier in Israel, and had traveled like a wave over the world, spending just as long in each area as the number of dead required. Some areas took longer than others. Some were full of the faithful. Some took barely a moment, in spite of the many thousands of graves there.
The Messiah appeared in the sky, exactly as promised, trailing clouds of glory. Signs and portents had pierced the skies for weeks beforehand, but only a few people heeded them. Likewise, dreams and visions occupied the nights and days of many people, but most wrote them off to stress and took another Xanax or drank some Nyquil. They complained about their insomnia on their Facebook pages, not taking notice of how many others were having the same experience.
It was a lot like when the first raindrops started to fall when the Flood happened. Nobody but Noah and his family thought it was going to keep on raining. It was a lot like when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed – all those people died, and only Lot and his daughters were mindful enough to leave. Noah, Lot, Joseph – they all heard the voice of God and took it seriously and lives were saved. Only those who took the messages seriously were saved.
This time, many preachers told their flocks to ignore the messages, because they hadn’t heard the voice themselves. Surely God would speak to them, they thought. Why would God waste God’s time on the sheep and forget the shepherd, they mused. The problem was that they forgot that Jesus was the Shepherd, and they were the same as their church members. They’d forgotten that they weren’t in charge of anything at all. When they’d decided to take up the role of minister and do all the talking, they’d given up the most important part of following God – listening. Only those who’d remained humble pastors were called to the great awakening. They were the ones who remembered the One who was the true leader of the Church.
Marley was listening, that was for sure. She rose up, high in the sky, and was greeted personally by Jesus. She asked him how this could be since she wasn’t baptized, and he said that she’d been baptized with the only baptism that counted, the one of the Spirit. He told her that a water baptism is something people do, for show. It wasn’t real. It was a hope, a promise. It pointed towards the real thing, but it wasn’t it. It didn’t mean anything at all when it came to being saved. That was something between the person’s soul and the Spirit, the presence of God in the world.
Like called to like, with the Spirit calling and the soul responding. Water wasn’t necessary, because the Spirit could use any element it wanted. An element from the Earth was helpful, because it was a sign to the body. The soul knew when it was recognized by the Spirit, when it was welcomed home. The body needed a little more convincing, however, so some sort of ceremony was needed to remind it. That was all baptism was, he said, a reminding, a remembering, a joining back together with the side that had been forgotten during childhood. He told her that we are created in heaven, in the Spirit, and as babies are still attached to that world. Marley, having never truly left it, didn’t have any work at all to do to be part of that world again as a soul in a body.
Many others had a lot more work to do, because being a soul in a body was distracting. It was so needy, the body, so demanding. It made them forget their commitments by replacing them with cravings. It provided daily (sometimes hourly) reminders that they couldn’t possibly survive in this world without constant and persistent re-turning towards the Light that is God.
So Marley rose, far up into the sky, flying among the great crowd of people who truly followed God. They were people who were humble and pure, those who could hear the Master calling his faithful home. They had waited for a long time, asleep in the earth. Today was their true birth-day.

Be Alert! (readings from the Gospels on mindfulness)

“As regards to exactly when the Day of Judgment will happen, no one knows, not angels, not the Son. Only the Father knows.”

MT 24:36, MK 13:32

“That time will be just like it was in the time of Noah and the flood. Right until the flood happened, people went on like they always had, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, right up until the day Noah boarded the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all, sweeping away all their possessions. They didn’t know what was going to happen to them until it happened.”

MT 24:37-39a, LK 17: 26-27

“Just like it was in Lot’s time, people went on with their normal lives, doing all the usual things they always did. But right after Lot left Sodom, the whole town was destroyed by a rain of fire and sulfur from heaven. It will be just as sudden and surprising as that was to them when the Son of Man is revealed.”

LK 17:28-30

“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing in the holy place, which was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader take note of this) then everyone in Judea must flee to the mountains. When you see that Jerusalem is surrounded by armies, know that it is time for its destruction. When that happens, a man standing on his roof must not come down to get anything out of his house. Also a man out in the fields should not return home to get his clothing. Those inside Jerusalem must escape, and those in the country must not enter the city because the days of vengeance have come to fulfill all the prophecies.”

MT 24:15-18, MK 13:14-16, LK 17:31, LK 21:20-22

“Remember what happened to Lot’s wife!”

LK 17:32

“It will be very hard for women who are pregnant or nursing when this happens. Pray that you won’t have to escape in winter or on the Sabbath. For this will be a time of great trouble and stress, unlike anything that has happened since the creation of this world until now, and will never happen again! No one would survive that time if God didn’t limit those days, but he did limit them for the sake of those he chose. They will be cut down by swords and taken captive into all the nations, and the nations will trample Jerusalem until the end of that era.”

MT 24:19-22, MK 13:17-20, LK 21:24

“The coming of the Son of Man will be like this – two men will be in the field. One will disappear, and the other will remain. Two women will be grinding grain at the mill. One will disappear, and one will remain. Two people will be together in a bed. One will disappear, and the other will remain. Therefore, be on guard, because you don’t know when your Lord is coming.”

MT 24:39b-42, LK 17:34-36

His disciples asked “Where, Lord?”
Jesus answered “The vultures will gather around the corpses.”

LK 17:37, MT 24:28

“Be ready to work and make sure your lamps are lit. You must be like servants waiting for their master to come back from the wedding banquet so they can immediately open the door for him when he knocks. The servants who are alert when he arrives will be blessed. Mark my words – he will prepare himself, have them sit at the table, and come serve them himself. If he arrives in the middle of the night or near dawn and finds them waiting for him, they will be blessed.”

LK 12:35-38

“Know this – if the homeowner had known exactly when the thief was going to break into his house, he would have stayed at home and stayed awake so he could prevent his house from being robbed. You need to be ready in the same way, because the Son of Man will appear when you least expect it to happen.”

MT 24:43-44, LK 12:39-40

“Watch! Be alert and pray! You have no idea when it will happen. It is like a man who went on a journey and left his house in the hands of his servants. He left tasks for each of them and ordered the doorkeeper to keep watch. Be alert then, because you don’t know when the master will return – it could be any time of the day or night. If you aren’t alert, he could suddenly arrive and find you asleep. I say to you and to everyone: Be alert!”

MK 13:33-37

“The kingdom of heaven is like ten bridesmaids who went out to meet the groom with their lamps. Only half of them were wise and took oil with them. The groom took a while in coming and all the bridesmaids fell asleep. They were suddenly awoken by a shout from someone announcing that the groom was coming. All the bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The ones who hadn’t prepared asked the others for oil because their lamps were going out. The ones who had prepared said ‘No, because there won’t be enough for all of us if we give you any.’ They told them to go buy more oil for themselves. While they were gone, the groom showed up and only the bridesmaids who had prepared were able to go with him to the wedding feast. The door was locked after them. When the rest of the bridesmaids arrived, they asked to be let in. The groom refused to open the door, saying ‘I don’t know you!’ Therefore, always be ready, because you don’t know the hour or the day.”

MT 25:1-13

(All words are my own paraphrases of the Gospel. Due to copyright restrictions, I’ve had to reword everything. I had originally posted this separately as part of the Condensed Gospel project. While attempting to sort the stories in order and make sure I had everything from the Gospels included in the right places, I felt that I’d over-condensed a part of this section. While one of my goals is to have no repetition in the Condensed Gospel, another one is to have everything included in a very readable way. Sometimes both goals cannot be achieved in the same section, because there will be too many threads unwoven and rewoven together. This second version is the compromise.)

The need for watchfulness

“Be on your guard so that the day I come again will not surprise you. Be careful that your wits are not dulled from partying or worrying about the problems of this life. That day will come to all who live on this earth. Be alert at all times, praying that you may be given the strength to get through all that is to happen so that you may stand in my presence.”

Jesus went to the Temple complex to teach during the day, and the crowds would come early in the morning to listen to him. In the evening he would go to the Mount of Olives to rest.

LK 21:34-38

The Second Coming has already happened, and is happening.

There are many times after Jesus arose from the dead that he showed himself to his disciples. They rarely recognized him at first. These are people who knew him well and were expecting him to come again, and they didn’t know it was him.

Let’s look at the various examples as we come across them in the Gospels. I’m using the Holman Christian Standard Bible for this translation, but you can use any that you want. I’m deeply indebted to the Bible Gateway website for digitizing the Bible in many translations. It makes this so much easier.

Piecing together stories from the Gospels is a bit like looking at different reports from eyewitnesses to an accident. Some leave some things out, some emphasize other parts. To get the whole picture we have to look at what everybody has to say.

The story starts in Matthew 28:1-7, when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb to take care of Jesus’ body. They didn’t have time to properly prepare his body after he died because the Sabbath was coming. They arrive, and they see an angel at the tomb. He tells them that Jesus isn’t there, that he has risen.

Then we see this, in Matthew 28:8-10.
“8 So, departing quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, they ran to tell His disciples the news.9 Just then Jesus met them and said, “Good morning!” They came up, took hold of His feet, and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see Me there.”

He appears to them when they leave the tomb, and they worship him. In this version of the story, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are able to recognize Jesus immediately. I like that he calls his disciples his brothers here. This is a term of equals, and not of master and student. I also find it interesting that he doesn’t tell the women to bring the men there, but for them to go on ahead and he will meet them.

The two Marys do as they are told and the men go ahead.

Matthew 28:16-20
16 The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

There are a few things of note here. Notice that some of the disciples worshiped, but some doubted. They know Jesus. They spent all their time with him. Here he is, just like he said, back from the dead, and these people are full of doubt. What would cause them to doubt? Did he look different? Some versions of the Gospels indicate this. I find it also really important that Jesus says in verse 20 that “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Notice he said “I am with you”. Not “I will be with you”, but “I am with you”. That is present tense. He’s here. There is no future.

Now let’s look at the book of Mark, in chapter 16, at the same point. The women have gone to the tomb as before. In this version they are listed as Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. They too hear from an angel that Jesus isn’t there and they leave,” running from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them” (in verse 8).

Then we hear in verses 9-11,
9 Early on the first day of the week, after He had risen, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons. 10 She went and reported to those who had been with Him, as they were mourning and weeping. 11 Yet, when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it.

Mary Magdalene sees him first. She tells the disciples and they don’t believe her. I’d like to think that they don’t believe her in part because she was seen as less-than-credible because she used to have seven demons in her. Even though she is healthy and whole now because Jesus healed her, that taint of “possession” and of “crazy” is on her. Nobody listens to crazy people.

Then in versus 12-13 we read
12 Then after this, He appeared in a different form to two of them walking on their way into the country. 13 And they went and reported it to the rest, who did not believe them either.

Notice now he’s appeared to two of the disciples, not just to Mary Magdalene. This is a separate encounter. Notice also that it is “in a different form.” He just doesn’t look like himself. He keeps changing how he looks. They are made to understand that this is Jesus, and then they too are not believed. These are the “sane” ones, the not-formerly-possessed ones, and the others don’t get it. Perhaps the others think the madness is catching.

Then he appears for a third time, to all of them. This is in verse 14.
14 Later, He appeared to the Eleven themselves as they were reclining at the table. He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who saw Him after He had been resurrected.

He’s a little ticked off that they didn’t believe the other followers who saw him.

In verses 17-20 we read this-
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; 18 they will pick up snakes, if they should drink anything deadly, it will never harm them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will get well.” 19 Then after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the accompanying signs.

Now, while I’m not into the idea of snake-handling and poison-drinking (I’ve written about this part in another post), I included all of this because of the few words in verse 20 “…the Lord working with them…”

Jesus was there, with them, healing the sick, casting out demons. They weren’t alone. He’s back.

Now we move on to the Gospel according to Luke. Let us see what this eyewitness has to say about what is going on.

Luke 24:1-8
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. 5 So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground.“Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. 6 “He is not here, but He has been resurrected! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” 8 And they remembered His words.

The same things happen. The passage is a bit vague here on who “they” were who were at the tomb, but from the context we know it isn’t the male disciples. Once again, they don’t find Jesus. In this case there are two angels there.

I love what they say in verse 5.
“Why are you looking for the living among the dead?”

That is what we are doing when we continue to wait for Jesus to come again. We are looking in the wrong place.

The women had to be reminded in verse 7 of the words of Jesus.
“The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day.”

The words of Jesus were what aided their faith. This is important. We know Jesus through words. He is the Word made flesh, after all.

Let’s keep going on. Now we are at Luke 24:9-12
9 Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. 10 Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. 11 But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went home, amazed at what had happened.

This story has more women who are involved, telling the story. It isn’t just “crazy” Mary – it is a lot of women. They still aren’t believed. Their words seem like “nonsense.” In this version however, Peter at least goes to the tomb to look. While he doesn’t see Jesus, he does think something pretty amazing has happened. Also, in this version, we don’t hear about Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene, as he did in Matthew and Mark’s versions of the story. But in this version, we get a really great version of the walk to Emmaus.

Luke 24:13-35 (I’ve broken it up to comment on it)
13 Now that same day two of them were on their way to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 Together they were discussing everything that had taken place.15 And while they were discussing and arguing, Jesus Himself came near and began to walk along with them. 16 But they were prevented from recognizing Him. 17 Then He asked them, “What is this dispute that you’re having with each other as you are walking?” And they stopped walking and looked discouraged.

—–Jesus just drifts into their conversation, and they don’t recognize him. You know those people who just swoop in on your conversation and you think they are rude? They might be more important than you realize.

18 The one named Cleopas answered Him, “Are You the only visitor in Jerusalem who doesn’t know the things that happened there in these days?” 19 “What things?” He asked them.

—–Of course Jesus knows what has happened. He is playing along, to see what they say.

So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, who was a Prophet powerful in action and speech before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that He was the One who was about to redeem Israel. Besides all this, it’s the third day since these things happened.22 Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, 23 and when they didn’t find His body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they didn’t see Him.”

—-They still don’t believe in who Jesus is. They don’t believe the stories that the women told because they didn’t see it for themselves. They also don’t understand that radical transformation of anything, especially people, doesn’t happen overnight. But it does have to start somewhere.

25 He said to them, “How unwise and slow you are to believe in your hearts all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted for them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.

—-They have to be wondering at this point who this guy is, who knows all this Scripture and can speak about it so effortlessly. They still don’t get it. He is just a guy walking along with them, and they don’t see who he really is.

28 They came near the village where they were going, and He gave the impression that He was going farther.

—-To me, this is the most amazing part. “He gave the impression that He was going farther.” He was going to keep on walking. He was going to leave them where they were. These are his disciples. These are his chosen people. And they haven’t recognized him. So he is going to keep on walking.

This is huge. This part alone is worthy of its own post, but I’ll try to contain it here.

Every single time we don’t recognize Jesus he walks on until he finds someone who does recognize him. So we have to seek him everywhere. Remember how we are to “seek, and you will find”? We have to seek. Mother Teresa said that she saw Jesus in every single person she served – babies abandoned by their poor parents, people suffering from AIDs, old people turned out by their families because they were sick. She saw Jesus in every person. She saw him there because she was looking for him.

This is the secret. This is the answer. We have to look for him, everywhere, in everyone. He’s hiding in plain sight. When we look for him, he reveals himself to us.

These disciples aren’t there yet –but what saves them is that they offered hospitality. This is an excellent start.

29 But they urged Him: “Stay with us, because it’s almost evening, and now the day is almost over.” So He went in to stay with them.

—-Hospitality is the key. They day is getting late and they are looking out for him. They want him to be safe and warm. This is a stranger and they are showing him kindness. This is the way in.

30 It was as He reclined at the table with them that He took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him, but He disappeared from their sight.

—-They finally got who he was when they ate the bread that he served to them. I find it interesting that the formula is always the same – he blessed it and then he broke it. Always give thanks first. This is true communion here – not the ritual. This is a sharing of a real meal, and a true recognition of the Divine in our midst. And then he disappeared. Poof. Gone.

32 So they said to each other, “Weren’t our hearts ablaze within us while He was talking with us on the road and explaining the Scriptures to us?” 33 That very hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem. They found the Eleven and those with them gathered together, 34 who said, “The Lord has certainly been raised, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they began to describe what had happened on the road and how He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

—They were amazed. Even though it was late, they got up and left straightaway for Jerusalem to tell the others. He was with them for a long time on the road and they didn’t recognize him at all. If they hadn’t offered him hospitality, they would never have seen him for who he was.

While it is almost anticlimactic, I’m going to go on with the Gospel according to John to finish this out. The story starts in chapter 20.

John 20:1-10
On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark. She saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.
—Here, Mary is by herself.

2 So she ran to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him!”

—understandably, she is very worried. She thinks someone has desecrated the tomb and stolen Jesus’ body.

3 At that, Peter and the other disciple went out, heading for the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and got to the tomb first. 5 Stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying there, yet he did not go in. 6 Then, following him, Simon Peter came also. He entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. 7 The wrapping that had been on His head was not lying with the linen cloths but was folded up in a separate place by itself. 8 The other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, then entered the tomb, saw, and believed. 9 For they still did not understand the Scripture that He must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went home again.

—-In Luke, only Peter went. Here, Peter and another disciple went to see what is going on. The other disciple believes without even seeing Jesus. He trusts that what has happened is what was prophesied. Peter is still doubtful.

John 20:11-18
11 But Mary stood outside facing the tomb, crying. As she was crying, she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet, where Jesus’ body had been lying. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

—The two disciples are inside the tomb and Mary is standing outside. Because she is outside she gets to see Jesus. She isn’t looking for the living among the dead. She is out in the world of life and light.

“Because they’ve taken away my Lord,” she told them, “and I don’t know where they’ve put Him.”14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not know it was Jesus.

—once again, Jesus is standing there and a person who knows him well doesn’t recognize him. If they can’t recognize him – people who spent a lot of time with him, how much harder it is for us to recognize him. Thus, how much more important it is for us to be welcoming to everyone as if they are Jesus.

15 “Woman,” Jesus said to her, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Supposing He was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you’ve removed Him, tell me where you’ve put Him, and I will take Him away.”
16 Jesus said, “Mary.”
Turning around, she said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!”—which means “Teacher.”

—-He said her name, and that was enough. In an instant she saw him, truly saw him. He took compassion on her, in her grief. She was distraught that her Teacher was missing. She wanted to show him the respect and honor of performing the Jewish burial rituals for him. He wanted to show her that she didn’t have to and she was worrying for nothing. He was right there.

17 “Don’t cling to Me,” Jesus told her, “for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and tell them that I am ascending to My Father and your Father—to My God and your God.” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what He had said to her.

—-The disciples who were right there, staring at the burial cloths, didn’t even see him. They don’t believe her. Perhaps they are a bit jealous – why would Jesus show himself to this woman first, and not them? Aren’t they his closest confidants? Aren’t they more important? If they had been standing outside they would have seen him. The longer we all continue to look in the wrong place, the longer we aren’t going to see him either.

Going on further, with John 20:19-23
19 In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews. Then Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them,“Peace to you!”

—-The doors are locked, and Jesus just appears amidst them. This had to be terrifying. They are in a locked room and there he is suddenly. They still don’t recognize him.

20 Having said this, He showed them His hands and His side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

—After showing them his wounds they then see him. Notice that it is only after they see the wounds that they rejoice. They didn’t rejoice when he appeared.

21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 After saying this, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

—This is known as “The Great Commission.” Jesus calls his followers to go out into the world. He gives them the Holy Spirit as a guide. In some versions of the Great Commission, (Mark 16:19-20) he mentions that they are to heal, drive out demons, and speak in new languages. They also will be safe from all harm and poisons. In this one, they are just told to forgive sins. But no matter what, they are told to go out and do these things.

They aren’t told to go build big buildings and set up a vestry. They aren’t told to collect money for tithes or buy vestments. They are told to go out and work, in fact doing Jesus’ work. He has blessed them and in his death and resurrection he has multiplied himself, just like in the story of the loaves and the fishes. He was blessed, and broken, and now lives in us and in everyone who accepts him into their hearts and lives.

The very last bit of this part is in John 20:24-29
24 But one of the Twelve, Thomas (called “Twin”), was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples kept telling him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!”

—once again, here is a disciple that has to see it to believe it. This is something he has expected and been waiting for. His own friends and fellow disciples have seen Jesus and he still doesn’t believe. He should be able to trust them, right? But he still can’t. He wants proof.

26 After eight days His disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them. He said, “Peace to you!”

—Eight days later. Not instantly. Jesus is taking his own sweet time. Jesus appears when he wants to. Once again he does the magic trick of appearing in the middle of a locked room.

27 Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and observe My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Don’t be an unbeliever, but a believer. 28 Thomas responded to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said, “Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Those who believe without seeing are blessed.”

—Jesus knew about Thomas’ doubts. He wasn’t standing there when Thomas said he had to see Jesus’ wounds to believe that he was really back from the dead, but he knew about it anyway. He was kind to show up to assure Thomas. Notice that Thomas didn’t have to even touch the wounds – he saw Jesus and knew. But the most important part is that Jesus says that “Those who believe without seeing are blessed.”

Believe. Seek Jesus out, everywhere. He’s hiding in plain sight. The more you seek him, the more he will reveal himself to you.

I’ve adopted Mother Teresa’s philosophy at work and it has been transformative. I try my best to see Jesus in every single person I serve, and when I do that (I don’t always remember to) they open up and are very real and kind. Every person. I tell you, seek Jesus and you will find him, everywhere.

His own disciples didn’t recognize him. He appeared out of the blue, sometimes in locked rooms, and just sometimes as a fellow traveler on the road. If it was hard for them to spot him, how hard must it be for us to do the same? So we are to treat everyone as if they are Jesus.

And – we are to serve everyone with the aid of Jesus. He’s here, with us, inside each one of us who call upon him.

There is no “second coming”. It is here, already, all around us. We just have to open our eyes and look.

But wait, there’s more. In the book of John, chapter 21, versus 1-14 we read this:
After this, Jesus revealed Himself again to His disciples by the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed Himself in this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called “Twin”), Nathanael from Cana of Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 “I’m going fishing,” Simon Peter said to them. “We’re coming with you,” they told him. They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

—-Fishing is their normal activity. This is how Jesus found several of them to start off with. They weren’t scholars. They were average, everyday workers. Remember Jesus chose them, not the ministers and leaders of the day. Jesus chose common folk then, and he does the same today.

4 When daybreak came, Jesus stood on the shore. However, the disciples did not know it was Jesus.

—once again, they don’t recognize him. They’ve just seen him twice, and they still aren’t seeing him this time. We have to constantly be looking for him. He appears in different guises.

5 “Men,” Jesus called to them, “you don’t have any fish, do you?” “No,” they answered. 6 “Cast the net on the right side of the boat,” He told them, “and you’ll find some.” So they did, and they were unable to haul it in because of the large number of fish. 7 Therefore the disciple, the one Jesus loved, said to Peter, “It is the Lord!”

—-A disciple figures it out not by how the man looked or what he said, but by the amazing results. They caught a huge amount of fish. This is very interesting.

When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tied his outer garment around him (for he was stripped) and plunged into the sea. 8 But since they were not far from land (about 100 yards away), the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish. 9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread.

—-I like that Jesus already has a fire going for them. Raw fish isn’t very hospitable, and the warmth of the fire is comforting. I also like that there is fish and bread there – just like in the story of the loaves and the fishes.

10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus told them. 11 So Simon Peter got up and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish—153 of them. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.

—–I find it significant that the net was not torn by all those fish. This tells me that whatever we do, if we do it on Jesus’ command, will succeed. When we try to do things our way is when it fails. But if we do it Jesus’ way it will always be bigger and more amazing than we could ever expect, and all will be well.
12 “Come and have breakfast,” Jesus told them. None of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?” because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread, and gave it to them. He did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after He was raised from the dead.

—-They knew. They were still a bit terrified. He keeps appearing, and in different guises. This is a whole new side of Jesus. They didn’t have any warning that he was going to appear anywhere and everywhere and look different every time.

Then, lastly, in John 21:15-17, Jesus talks just to Peter, who he had said earlier was the rock upon which his church was going to be built.
15 When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Feed My lambs,” He told him.

—-Feed them. I take “feed” to mean food, of course, but also to nourish in other ways – to educate, to heal, to support. Shepherds take care of their sheep in many ways.

16 A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Shepherd My sheep,” He told him.

—Peter has to be wondering why Jesus keeps asking the same question.

17 He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.”

—-Peter is really hurt. Of course he loves Jesus. But that isn’t the point. Jesus wants to make sure he hears what he needs to do to prove it.

“Feed My sheep,” Jesus said.

So, from all this, I get that Jesus appears in many forms. So treat everyone as if they are Jesus. I believe that if everybody does this, then we will truly see healing and love in this world. If we treat every single person we meet – whether friend or stranger – as if they are Jesus, then the world will know peace.

I tell you that if we don’t do this, Jesus will walk on by, just like he was going to do to the disciples on the walk to Emmaus.

Poem – Temple

The Temple has been rebuilt.
It isn’t in the ruins.
It isn’t blocks of stone.

It is here.
Where you are.
You, yes you
are the centerpoint
the axis
the hinge.

We all are.
There is no second coming
happening from the skies.
The second coming is private.
It won’t be televised.
Just like the first one wasn’t.

Just like the first one it
will be
quiet, and unexpected
and sudden
and joyous and scary
at the same time.

Just like the first one
it will be in a backwater town
on the edge
on the verge.

It happens every time
someone wakes up
to the Light
and invites it in
to stay.

The second coming is now
and it’s all around

Slowly the lights are coming on
all over.

God cannot be contained
in a building
made by human hands
which can be
broken into.

The only safe place for God
is everywhere.

Don’t follow any person
who says they’ve got it
and you don’t.
Because if they say that,
they don’t have it
at all.