Monday, April 20, 2015

He Ate Fish

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, [2] 43 and he took it and ate before them.
 44 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 and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:36-49 (ESV)

“They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he took it and ate before them.”  Jesus appears among his disciples and eats fish. He does this to confirm that he is not a ghost, not a disembodied soul, a spirit or some figment of their imagination. He has risen from the dead. To this day, people try dismiss the resurrection as some sort of mass hysteria along the lines of alien sightings, or ghost stories told around campfires. And yet as they are recorded in scripture they have none of the characteristics of such stories so easily dismissed. The corporeal reality of the resurrection is concrete. Jesus eats fish. His existence is not one of a disembodied soul inhabiting heaven, but rather he like Abraham and Isaac, like Moses and Elijah who he meets on the mount of transfiguration lives, eats, drinks and celebrates life. In eating fish he gives us a vision of our future, the life of heaven that awaits for us, even as he gives us a foretaste of the feast to come in the Lord’s Supper.
Heaven as it is described in popular culture, which often disregards the resurrection of the flesh, but adheres to an immortality of the soul, becomes somewhat a scary place. Most people are joking when they say they don’t want to go to heaven because they won’t have any friends there. It’s a bravado that neither cares to take seriously what scripture has to say about life after death, the existence of heaven and hell and what is entailed therein. No beer in heaven they say. Well they have it wrong. There is no beer in hell, but heaven as it is described in scripture is a table serving the best of meats and the finest of wines. And I will just say here in passing, I do not agree with this modern dichotomy I find espoused today by well-meaning pastors and theologians wanting to emphasize the resurrection of the flesh and so insist heaven is not the goal of the Christian life, but rather the resurrection of the flesh and the new creation. I suppose if one wants we can compartmentalize heaven and the new creation and speak of the throne room of God and the new earth as different spheres, but I don’t see the point. Heaven and the resurrection of the flesh are one reality, even as Christ inhabits the throne room of God in the flesh, the same flesh and bone he received at conception in Mary’s womb, the same flesh that was crucified on the cross, that he showed the disciple’s this day in the upper room, the same body he now gives to us for the forgiveness of sins in with and under the bread and wine, the same body with which he eats fish.
It seems a simple thing. Perhaps not even a very appetizing thing, eating fish. It’s not normally the first thing I order at a restaurant, fish. Though some of the best meals in my life have been meals of fish. To this day I remember visiting Sweden with my grandfather Bror, then in his late 80s, me in my early twenties. My uncle Per Olaf wanting to treat us to a dinner worthy of the great city of Gothenburg took us to a fancy restaurant in the harbor amidst the docks where you could see all the huge ships coming in and out of the North Sea. I looked at the menu and couldn’t reconcile the prices to my conscience, as I quickly converted Kronor to dollars in my head. They seemed absurd. Never in my life would I have ever thought I’d spend my own money much less another person’s on a meal. He was treating me, but my pious upbringing was rearing an ugly head and plaguing me with the thought that to order off this menu was to steal from a very hospitable host. So I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu. For a couple hundred dollars I ordered cod, and ate wearing blue jeans, a meal worthy of a tuxedo. Funny, the worst meals I’ve had were eaten while wearing a tux, and mess dress blues. But this cod came out on a plate, and the fillets were rolled somewhat like a cinnamon roll around each other, and had been cooked in a cream sauce with just a hint of dill and every bite melted in the mouth with the consistency of the best flan you have ever had. I could not believe what I was eating, and began to wonder what those more expensive dishes must be like, so I finished my grandfather’s tuna steak, and was not at all disappointed. Somehow I doubt the fish, salted to preserve in on the three day inland trek from the coast to the markets in Jerusalem and broiled a day and a half later, tasted anything of the like for Jesus as the fish in the Gothenburg restaurant. But it was fish, it was solid concrete food for the body, savory on the tongue, and food for the soul.
See some things in life are meant to be. These simple things we take pleasure in here and now. Those things that sometimes make us a little attached to this world, perhaps even more so than we should be, because we think that they cease with death, these things are shadows of what they should be, even as we are shadows of who we will be. Meals with friends, a Friday pint with coworkers, family dinners that go just write without the drama of thanksgiving.  These things that fill our life with meaning and purpose even in the face of death here on earth. No, these things don’t cease, but rather reach a perfection in the resurrection. Eating, drinking, dancing and working, and living, no not existing, living in the full glory of the grace of God, the joy of life to its fullest, because the man who ate fish in the upper room is a man, a real man of flesh and blood, our man who gives us life and says take and eat, take drink this cup is my blood of the New Testament given for you for the forgiveness of sins.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen!

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