The Easter season in the year of Mark is entirely “Mark-free” it would seem. We read from John and we read this week’s pericope from Luke. The story recalled here tells the events that happen in the upper room after the disciples that had met the Lord on the road to Emmaus have returned and made their report. As they do so, we learn that the Lord has already appeared to Simon. The same Simon Peter had been to the tomb early the previous day — days end at sunset — and has seen it empty.
On the road to Emmaus we found out that Jesus can and does pull alongside those who ponder his life and death. The disciples were speaking of the things that had happened in Jerusalem in Holy Week. But in drawing alongside he is not recognized. The wording suggests that the disciples’ eyes were held captive from recognizing him. Yet, they perceive that something is happening as Jesus lays out the scriptures to them that clarify what has happened on Good Friday. They are mesmerized by the way the “stranger” is talking and cause him to stay with them at evening and as a result, at table in the actions of the Eucharist, they meet him by the simple moment that their eyes were opened. He is present. He is unseen. His movement toward them is not movement at all. When he comes he is experienced as already being present but now revealed suddenly by opening of hearts and minds and eyes.
As the disciples report their experiences and speak of the awe of the realization that Jesus is alive, this revelation happens again: He stands among them and brings his peace upon them. He teaches and opened minds. He speaks of the forgiveness of sin that they are to preach just as he does in John 21.
He eats in their presence. Perhaps a nod in the direction that resurrected life in physical. The same goes with his assurances that he is real. The old life has left its memories on the new life but that new life has transformed those memories. Wounds inflicted in hate, anger, neglect, betrayal, and denial have left a mark but now seem to be symbols of familiarity and pardon. At the same time, the new life, the resurrected life, is somehow also transcendent. He can be present but absent at the same time and vise versa.
One might not want to dwell too long on the instruction not to leave town but to wait. Too many Christians are “waiting” for the moment or their own sense of knowing and feeling seem right before they act. In the case of the disciples they already “know.” He has opened their minds and as Peter’s Pentecost sermon shows they have learned. This is done. The power of the Spirit is now being awaited.
After this, the presence is no longer evident. That is to say, he ascends and they saw him no more. They do not need to it would seem. The Spirit gets to drive the car for the rest of the trip all the way until today. Yes, the latter half of the pericope is the Ascension text. For now, there seems to be a common theme though that perhaps the Spirit will continue: Where Christ’s people meet, there he is as well. Once he was so in the resurrected body. Now it is in the Spirit, but where he is spoken of, where his story is pondered, where bread is broken in his name, there he stands among them.