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The two disciples told the eleven and their companions what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me 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. You are witnesses of these things.
You are witnesses of these things.
I wonder how many of you have ever been called to jury service? If you have you will probably recall the sense of awe and responsibility that came upon you as you listened attentively to the arguments that swung to and fro as the case in which you participated unravelled before you. The barristers, the defendant and the witnesses all tried to persuade you of the veracity of their side of the story. Then came the moment when the judge asked you to ‘retire’ with your fellow jurors and come to a decision. That is when the problems probably began.
In most court cases the professional lawyers and the supporting witnesses, for both sides of the argument, are very convincing. You probably felt your sense of certainty swing from side to side as each person addressed you. But, there still came that moment where you had to commit yourself to saying either ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’.
Of course, those witnesses all took an oath to tell the truth, but did they really keep their promise? As Pilate asked Jesus before sentencing the man he knew to be innocent to death: What is truth? Of course, that question is based in human wisdom, and certainly not the divine wisdom of God. With God there is no wriggle-room, no leeway which allows for political double-talk and obfuscation. For Christians there is just one truth, the truth that Jesus, the Son of God, conquered death to bring salvation to humanity.
Today’s reading ends with Jesus opening the minds of his disciples to the truth about the mission and ministry in which they have shared for the past three years. Then, to make sure that the disciples really understood, Jesus spelled it out: You are witnesses to these things. In that blatant statement of fact Jesus is commissioning his disciples, and us, to go out and tell the great truth … the Good News of Jesus, the Christ.
Many will argue against us, but we are called to stand firm in our faith. We are called to proclaim the Good News in all that we say and do. Today, as we are called into the witness box of life, we should be praying for the strength to stand firm in the testimony we have to offer … the testimony that Jesus died and rose again in fulfilment of all the ancient prophecies, and to bring us into the closest of relationships with his, and our, loving Father.