5-year old Johnny was in the kitchen as his mother made supper. She asked him to go into the pantry and get her a can of tomato soup, but he didn’t want to go in alone. “It’s dark in there and I’m scared.” She asked again, and he persisted. Finally she said, “It’s OK–Jesus will be in there with you.” Johnny walked hesitantly to the door and slowly opened it. He peeked inside, saw it was dark, and started to leave when all at once an idea came, and he said: “Jesus, if you’re in there, would you hand me that can of tomato soup?” It really would be helpful if Jesus would show up like that.
This week and over the course of the next several weeks we are going to be reading about Jesus’ appearances following the resurrection. This week, he appears to Mary Magdalene in the garden near the tomb, she says, “I have seen the Lord.” Next week there’s going to be the episode of Jesus appearing in the upper room and Thomas’ doubting. Later, he is going to appear to his disciples next to the Sea of Galilee and have breakfast with them, and then there will be the two disciples who encounter him on the Road to Emmaus. Forty days from today he is going to appear again just before the ascension.
I don’t know about you, but every now and then, I think it would be nice if he would make an appearance these days. It wouldn’t have to be much, maybe just passing the tomato soup from a dark closet or waving from a mountain. Surely someone would record it on their cellphone and upload the event to YouTube.
Judas, in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar, made a good point, “Now why’d you choose such a backward time and such a strange land? If you’d come today you could have reached a whole nation. Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication.” Today, Jesus’ face appears on a piece of toast and everyone goes nuts, but can you imagine what would happen if someone posted a picture on Instagram of him walking across Grand Lake of the Cherokees? Back when I had a real job I worked for a marketing firm, and I can tell you, something like that will sell.
I think on his appearances to the disciples and others and I wonder, Where’s my garden or upper room experience where I can see him? Why won’t he have breakfast with me? Just once would do. A few weeks ago we read of the Greeks who came to Philip with one small request: “Sir, we would see Jesus.” And I think to myself, “Yes sir, we would.”
A man was walking home late one night when he saw another searching under a street light on hands and knees for something on the ground.
“Sir, what are you looking for?” he asked.
“The key to my house,” answered the other.
“I’ll help you look,” the man said.
Soon, both men were down on their knees under the street light, looking for the key.
After a number of minutes, the man asked, “Where exactly did you drop it?”
Waving off in the direction of a dark alley he said, “Over there, in the alley.”
The first man jumped up. “Then why are you looking for it here?”
“Because there is more light over here.”
We want to see Jesus, to have that encounter with him, but did you ever stop to consider that maybe – just maybe – we aren’t looking for him in the right place.
Look to the person on your left and if there is no one on your left, then look to the person on your right. Think about the person you saw walking down the street on your way here or the person you saw sitting in the car next to you. In all those people you’ve seen Jesus.
You look back to the person on your left and say, “Fr. John, that ain’t Jesus! That’s just Bob and Bob ain’t Jesus.” And on the night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed, “I ask … that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us… I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one.” That may just be Bob or Myrtle or a complete stranger or an enemy, but Jesus is in them – whether you or they like it or not.
You know St. Patrick’s words:
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
And Mary Magdalene said, “I have seen the Lord.” And so have you.
A child in Sunday school was drawing a picture. When asked what she was drawing, she replied, “God.” The teacher said, “Nobody can draw a picture of God. Nobody knows what God looks like.” The child replied, “Well, they will in a minute!”
You want to see Jesus? Open your eyes. He is all around you.
The young girl who checked you out at the grocery store. The one that’s scraping by as a single Mom. Working two jobs and trying desperately to raise her litter girl. When you looked at her, you saw Jesus.
The bank executive you saw driving the fancy car, whose life is all together, who seems to be living the perfect life, and hasn’t thought of Jesus since he was in grade school. When you looked at him, you saw Jesus.
And when you turned to your left and there sat Bob. Well, you saw Jesus then too.
When you go to seminary they’re supposed to teach how to preach. All these books you have to read on good preaching. A few nights ago, I shared George Burns advice on good preaching: a good beginning, a good ending, and the two parts being as close together as possible. But all the books say you should have a few good points and an action item. Well, I’m breaking the rules this morning, so on your way home you’ll all probably say to one another, “Well there’s an hour and half I’ll never get back.” But instead of leaving you with an action item, I’m going to leave you with a few questions.
What if it’s true? What if that young single mom is Jesus? What if that rich banker is Jesus? What if Bob is Jesus? How would the way you engage with them change? Would you look at them differently? Would you love them in the same way that Jesus loved you?
Mary Magdalene said, “I have seen the Lord.” I have seen the Risen Lord.
So have you.