Matthew tells us (28:10) TM the women were scared out of their wits when they met the risen Jesus and heard him say, “Go tell my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, and that I’ll meet them there”. From the other gospel writers we read he was true to his word – meeting them also in other places.
Meeting operates at different levels. We meet people in the street, or at the sports stadium, or party. This meeting is usually casual, unexpected and fleeting. We meet certain people by appointment for a specific purpose. We meet with a friend for a chat over coffee. We meet with a group for the purpose of study, sharing insights and experiences. On every occasion we meet a person and see a body and a face. How then do we meet with Jesus who we cannot see or touch? He knew it could happen for he told Thomas “Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing” (Jn.20:29) TM. That forecast must include you and me, but how does it become a reality?
Piet Grieg writes: A literal reading of the Emmaus story (Lk.24:13-34) makes an actual personal encounter with the Living Lord Jesus thrillingly possible, tangible and available to us all. I am not sure what he means by ‘tangible’. Jesus ‘drew near’ to them as an ordinary traveler, unknown, unrecognized, and entered into friendly, fruitful conversation. He engaged with them showing a keen interest in what occupied their thinking and a genuine concern for their dilemma and dismay. I wonder how often, through others, he draws near to us keenly interested in what we are thinking, our mood, or activity. He never forces himself on us. He respects our privacy and independence. He recognizes our personal emotions, psychological sensitivities and the difficulties that engage us. He meets with us where we are, as we are. He may appear in a visitor, or a friend whose concern is simply to be with us to empathize, to listen, or to enlighten and encourage us by sharing the load we carry. Jesus works incognito through people as his ambassadors, as Paul says (2 Cor.5:20.)
As they journeyed Jesus began to explain the scriptures to them, ‘Then he started at the beginning, with the book of Moses, and went through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to himself’ (Lk.24:27) TM. Passages they had previously not understood suddenly made sense and came alive. Jesus is God’s word to us and the Bible is his letter to start a conversation. When our purpose is to familiarize, not to criticize, or theologize he will meet with us in our Bible reading. ‘It is Christ himself, not the Bible, who is the true Word of God’, C. S. Lewis. We can see the Bible as containing his email to us, even love-letter. We may never have a sense of his personal appearance, but the script in various translations can become a powerful meeting place. ‘Lectio divina’ is the term the church gives to this method of spending time with Jesus. John Wesley said, ‘At any price give me the book of God’. In its pages he met Jesus and his heart was strangely warmed. When we read with our heart as well as our head a live meeting with him becomes a very real possibility and a relationship with Jesus is the ultimate. Paul’s obsession was ‘to know Christ’ (Phil.3:10)
‘The clincher came for Cleopas and his friend when Jesus ‘broke the bread and gave it to them’. Then ‘their eyes were opened’ and they understood what had happened. The Eucharist, or Holy Communion as we call it, is a sacred place where we meet with Jesus. When we go forward in faith to receive the elements we look beyond the minister, or server; it is Jesus we are meeting through them and the elements we receive. We are guests at his table. It is his body we eat. It is his blood we drink. He is meeting with us in the ‘bread and wine’ each a product of the earth. Each containing the elements of which the universe itself is made and on which life depends. Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddist priest, comments, ‘The whole cosmos has come together in order to bring to you this piece of bread’. This sacrament is a very special, a unique place where we meet with the risen Lord. It is a dramatic microcosm telling us that here Christ is the macrocosm identified with all creation. He is in all the natural world around us, ceaselessly giving himself to us through the universe and human beings. ‘This sacramentality, rooted in the Incarnation, extends our vision out to the world so that everything can be a sacrament, meaning every person, creature, plant, and object can be an opportunity to encounter something of the Divine Presence in the world’ (Christine Valters Painter).
This world is our Galilee, our meeting place. Jesus himself told his followers what they had done by way of service to others, they had done to him. What else could this mean but that he is present in the other person? We can meet with him in group fellowship, at his table, in corporate worship. We can meet him in the glories of nature, in the silence of prayer and in the reading of the Bible and even in the ‘eye of a storm’ (Ps.46). An appointment is not required, but an alertness and willingness is. Just keep your eyes, ears and heart open. “I will meet with you” is a promise he keeps.