The Presence

Praying til Pentecost Day 20

"He showed then both His hand and His side." John 20:2

"They gave Him a piece of broiled fish..." Luke 24:42-43

The Risen Christ revealed to the eleven disciples that He was not a spirit, and so much more than a belief, concept or an idea. He was a physical Presence with a real body that people could touch and feel. He was alive, breathing and able to enter into a fellowship with people He loved, and who needed to be in touch with Him. This was a foreshadowing of the kind of impact that the Risen Christ intended for His Body, the church, to have on people who needed a touch from God. The Risen Christ gave the disheartened disciples new hope. The Church of the Risen Lord remains the last great hope of the world.

When I was a small boy I was not a fan of fried chicken or fish of any kind. This was a severe theological dilemma for me. My pastor-father would often remind me that I could never become a preacher unless I could learn to eat fried chicken. He said it was the only meal I would ever see on Sunday when I went over to eat at someones home. Seriously, I remember where I was sitting when I first heard this. Never underestimate the capacity of a child to grasp theological truth! From the vantage point of my chair at the kitchen table of the church parsonage on 1426 South Fitzhugh in Dallas, Texas I could see a great spiritual battle shaping up. The other front I was fighting on was the regularly scheduled fish fries that the men of the church would hold. They didn't like it when I showed up with a hot dog in my hand. The "brotherhood" would often remark that I was in need of some kind of revival in my taste buds before I would be ready to be a preacher.

From the earliest birth pangs of the church, food and fellowship have played a vital role. The eleven disciples were sharing an evening meal of broiled fish. They had already heard two resurrection reports from very reliable witnesses. They had rejected both. Someone had said it was time to eat, and a meal had been prepared. They may have lost their hope, but they had not lost their appetite. In the middle of their meal, Jesus showed up.

After The Risen Lord reproached them for their unbelief, He took a piece of broiled fish and ate it. He was showing them how real He was, and dispelling any further disbelief in His physical Presence. He was in the room, and He was in reach.

Often, I have had people say to me, "Preacher, I'm sorry, but I won't be there with you on Sunday, but I will be with you in spirit." I can't say that their spirit was ever a source of real encouragement to me. I learned to respond to their "excused absence" with, "Thanks for leaving your spirit behind, but cash would be better."

Jesus did not show up in spirit. He showed up in Person. The eleven could see His body. They could touch His body. They could share their meal with Him, and He was able to partake of it. The Risen Christ gives us a glimpse in this encounter of what His Body, the church would be able to do.

The Body of Christ was never meant to be a list of dogmatic principles, a refrigerator of ice cold concepts, or a dust covered tome of stale philosophy. It was going to be established by the The Promise of the Father to provide a physical representation of the Presence of the Risen Lord in the world. It was going to be an exhibit of the capacity of Jesus to be in touch with people and to have fellowship with them. The Apostle John expressed the reality of this representation with the words, "As He is, so are we in this world." (I John 4:17) Thanks John, for keeping it real, and keeping it short and sweet.

When Jesus finished His rebuke of the disciples for their unbelief, He offered them a renewed fellowship with Him. This Sunday, all over the world, the faithful will gather together to hear the Word of God. It is meant to purge the body of believers from the cancer of unbelief and renew their personal touch with their Savior. In most cases food will be involved. It may be communion, coffee and donuts, breakfast, a brunch, dinner on the grounds or an evening banquet, but the people of faith will share a bite or two with one another. For the most part, these meals are intended to break down the barriers between people and draw them closer into fellowship with the local body.

It is interesting to me that one of the earliest encounters of the Risen Lord with His followers included the rebuke of unbelief, a fresh touch from His hand, and a little bit of comfort food. Sounds like an order of worship to me.

Quote of the Day: "The church has enough crowd pleasers already. What we need is a bumper crop of mature believers who are content to pray to an audience of one." Tony Evans