The Resurrection encounters with Jesus are a total surprise to those who experience them. This is not only true of the Biblical witnesses, but also of Christians who, down the ages, have known the presence of Jesus, sometimes in dramatic ways, in their lives.
However there is a difference. After the Ascension, Jesus is no longer experienced in a physical way, but through faith, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. He can still be known as a real presence from time to time in our lives. These moments often reflect the experiences of those first disciples.
For example Mary Magdalene is not expecting to see the living Jesus when she mistakes Him for the gardener near the tomb. However all this changes when Jesus calls her by name. (John 20:10-18). Today many Christians start some of their personal prayer time by saying their own name twice. (cf. Samuel 3:10 and Acts 9:4). Usually we are left listening to the “sounds of silence”, but the practice makes us attentive. However, there will be occasional moments when an idea or a short sentence will come into our minds “out of the blue”. Because these are so unexpected they are all the more meaningful.
St Luke records that Jesus “opened the scriptures” to people after his resurrection. He did this for Cleopas and a companion, who was probably his wife Mary (John19:25), on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24 27) and then later to a larger gathering of disciples (Luke 24:45ff). In our lives the Lord can only “open the scriptures” to us if we take the trouble to read them carefully. Using some form of Bible reading notes, or lectionary will introduce us to passages which we might not have read, sometimes with surprising and memorable results.
The morning after we brought our “rescue-cat” home from the RSPCA the lectionary reading for the day contained these words-
“A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal” (Proverbs 12:10). This could have been a coincidence, but I have never forgotten it!
After the Resurrection St John records how a group of disciples went fishing. The night’s work is unsuccessful until a man from the shore instructed them exactly where to fish, which leads to a huge catch. This miracle convinced John that the man on the beach was Jesus. Similar events occasionally happen today. On Christmas Day 1972 a group of Christians realised that the food they had taken to impoverished people working on a rubbish dump in El Paso was totally inadequate. However, they decided to give what they had. There was an amazing multiplication of food and they were able to feed everyone and there with plenty left over! You can see an account, and what follows out of it, on a video (Google “The Glory of God – Juarez”)
The two disciples at Emmaus knew that the person with them was Jesus when their “guest” displayed the familiar action of breaking bread “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. (Luke 24:30-31).
When we come to Communion are we ready for an unexpected sense of the real presence of Jesus? This will not happen every time you go to communion but it could be happening to someone else in the congregation. We may never be told what happens in other people’s lives at times like this, but we can pray that someone’s eyes in the congregation will be opened.
The Resurrection of Jesus is eternal. This is why we should always expect the unexpected in our Christian lives.