Do you remember the old Hammer Horror films? There were the various curses of the mummy’s tomb, wherein bodies which had been disturbed by explorers rise, limbs moving stiffly to take vengeance on the living world. Worse still the Zombies – the undead rising from their cold graves, their forms quickened but their being still dead. The thing about them is the coldness, the hatred, borne by the dead toward the living.
How very different from the generosity of the Lord of Hosts who comes from the dead that we might have life and have it in all its abundance. The readings for the Sundays in Easter speak of God’s overflowing generosity and love for his people. God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world but that through him the world might have health and salvation.
At the heart of our faith there is a cross and there is a grave. There is the death of a man and it is bound up with our own death. But there is nothing of coldness and malice, of hatred of the living. Through that death we learn of the goodwill of heaven for earth.
Jesus said to the disciples ‘Come and eat’; and he took bread and gave it to them. The resurrection appearances are signs of generosity – meal times, eating and drinking. There is no creepiness here, no odour of the undead. Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord’.
Carravaggio makes a profound theological point in his portrayal of the scene at the Supper at Emmaus. It is the moment when the disciples recognise him. The Lord is here! Of that there is no doubt; but the Jesus that they had known had gone to the grave bleeding, dirty, aged. The Jesus they recognise is a youth blooming with life!
Jesus now comes with all the riches of his divine life, the life which reveals the generosity of God the Father. And when he gives a party; boy. does he give a party! Now, by the lakeside he invites them to breakfast on a hundred and fifty three fish! Jesus presents to us the God who wants to comfort all that mourn, to give us the oil of gladness and garments of splendour.
So we are not offered endless existence or the mechanical resuscitation of a physical body but eternal life which starts here in the communion we have with the son of God. We don’t know what awaits us when we lay down this life but the Risen Jesus assures us that it will be a participation in the generosity of God. In faith we embrace the living Jesus, known to us in Scripture and the breaking of bread. He is our first instalment in the life that the Father has prepared for us.
John Gribben is Novice-Guardian of the Community of the Resurrection and lecturer in the college.