"They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, 'It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.' Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread" (Luke 24.33-35).
For most of my preaching ministry, I've overlooked and missed its impact. The punch of a crucial element of the gospel story has not been emphasized in my ministry as it should.
What is it?
The appearances of Jesus.
For Paul, the gospel is comprised of the death, burial, resurrection, and appearances of Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 15.3-8). In fact, within that text, Paul gives more attention to the appearances of Jesus as a component of the gospel story than the death, burial, and resurrection (though he goes on within that chapter to make the case for resurrection).
As individual disciples bump into the resurrected Jesus, understanding begins to flourish as they share their experiences with each other. Thomas here. Simon there. The women at the tomb here. The Emmaus Road disciples there. As each of these individuals are drawn back to Jerusalem, their willingness to share together what they've seen and heard as individuals births an understanding within the whole that would cement their faith in Jesus.
The empty tomb alone wasn't enough. In fact, the first news of the empty tomb was often met with some skepticism. But when individuals began to regather and share what they'd personally witnessed and experienced, then understanding mushroomed.
In The Hospitality of God: A Reading of Luke's Gospel, Brendan Byrne notes, "the community comes to full knowledge and faith when individuals and groups bring together and share their previously separate stories...individual experience becomes community experience, creating a new sense of identity. The process of understanding occurs, then, not only within individuals but within communities as well" (185, 190).
For the longest time, I thought faith was all about what God does in me. More and more, I'm coming to see it's all about what God is doing among us.
Yesterday, the question was, "Do you have a song?" Today, the question is, "Do you have a story?" If so, your story is worth telling, for the sake of the entire community of faith. Dare to share -- your experience just might be another's eternal life preserver.