Luke 24:35-48 | 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B
Dining in Heaven
I bet the macaroni and cheese in heaven is divine, the kind with white cheddar, smoked Gouda, and Parmesan, and I’m sure the sauce has been steeped with a fresh bay leaf. The risen Lord ate fish (v.43), so clearly we will have the pleasure of eating in the afterlife. That makes me happy—gourmet mac and cheese forever! I wonder if fish is Jesus’s favorite meal?
Jesus ate to show the disciples He was not a ghost—He had truly risen from the dead and was the same person they knew before while simultaneously being different. But He also ate to ground faith in the reality of our worldly life. While mountaintop experiences are an important part of our faith—they often happen just when we need a boost—they are the dessert of our faith life, not the bread and butter. If the only mountaintop experience we have is beyond the grave, we can absolutely still live a fruitful and faith-filled life. But if mountaintop experiences were to comprise the whole of our faith life, I don’t think we would find it very satisfying.
In a way, in eating fish with His disciples, Jesus balanced the otherworldly experience of the Transfiguration. It wasn’t that the Transfiguration wasn’t important, but the Transfiguration, the physical revelation of Jesus’s divinity, was just a part of who He was. Jesus wanted the disciples to understand that their own “Transfiguration moments”—those moments of sublime connection when the world falls away—are also just a piece of their life in Christ.
Later in the meal, Jesus tells the disciples they are to “preach in His name to all nations” (v.47). That’s the hard, grueling, worldly work—the part that when they lay down at night exhausted might not feel very holy. The part when they might even be entertaining a few distinctly non-holy thoughts. In those moments, they might wonder where that sublime connection went. In eating fish with the disciples, Jesus was saying, “I am there with you in it all.”
When I interviewed for a church job, my supervisor-to-be required us to have a spiritual director. She reasoned, “Yes, we think about God all the time. But we’re human and we work with humans. A spiritual director reminds you to look for God in all that.” It was good advice. My spiritual director has been instrumental in helping me find the Transfiguration moments in the middle of eating metaphorical fish, which isn’t always cooked as well as I’d like. (I’m not a fan of sushi.)
Life is mostly the worldly stuff of eating baked fish but the changed state which initially prevented the disciples from recognizing the risen Jesus, that, I think, is a product of heaven. We get to have both, but nobody, not even Jesus, gets away without eating the fish. Nobody gets gourmet mac and cheese all the time.