By John Rieping | All rights reserved | Published 13 April 2013 in The Madera Tribune
After visiting the empty tomb, Simon "Kepha" (Aramaic for "rock" or Peter) Bar-Jonah and fellow disciple Johanan (John) returned to the upper room. Mirriam (Mary) of Magdala did not immediately follow, but when she did so she claimed to have seen Yeshua (Jesus) alive.
Hearing such news, Kepha went again to the burial place. He came back to the upper room similarly overwhelmed with joy and reported that he too had seen the rabbi among the living (Cf. Luke 24:34).
At this, the other 11 disciples made visits of their own to the garden of the tomb but saw nothing of their teacher. This especially upset Tomas (Thomas), who retreated from the others to sort matters out for himself. He would find lodgings of his own that night.
In the evening, Cleophas (Cleopas) and his companion unexpectedly returned and claimed to have met Yeshua walking along the road, though they did not recognize him.
The rabbi had joined them as they journeyed slowly toward the village of Emmaus. He set their hearts aflame with his explanation of how the suffering and death of the messiah fulfilled the promises of scripture. Late in the afternoon, they stopped to eat, and when the rabbi blessed and broke the bread they finally knew his identity. At this, he vanished. So they rushed to Jerusalem to tell the others.
Competing voices filled the room with stories, questions and opinions on all that had been shared. Yet a familiar voice cut softly through the clamor with a traditional Jewish greeting: "Shalom aleikhem" ("peace be with you," cf. Luke 24:36; John 20:19; Bereishit/Genesis 43:23).
All were startled to hear the voice of the man who only days before had been crucified. Though grown men, many became pale and trembled with fear. The door had been locked after all, and tales of ghosts were not unknown.
Displaying the nail wounds in his hands and feet, Yeshua said, "Why are you troubled? And why do such thoughts arise in your hearts? See by my hands and my feet that it is I myself; touch me, and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see me to have." (Cf. Luke 24:38-39)
Dazed smiles spread across the room like uncertain flames. So the rabbi asked, "Have you anything to eat?" One of the disciples offered him a bit of baked fish, leftovers from their recent meal, which he ate with appreciation as they stared. Fish was a pricey treat this far inland.
Truly he had risen from the dead, they realized.
"Peace be with you," he said again. "As my Father has sent me, I also send you." (John 20:21) He breathed on each of the 10 men present, a symbolic gesture that played upon the words that followed: "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained." (John 20:22-23)
The Hebrew word used for "spirit" ("ruach") can also mean "breath" or "wind." That same "ruach" swept over the waters on the first day of creation (Bereishit/Genesis 1:2), according to scripture, and it came upon King David (1 Sefer Shmuel/Samuel 16:13) and others. Now, Yeshua claimed, it came upon those who would eventually be called "apostolos" (Greek for one sent out "from the fleet").
The rabbi scolded them for their skepticism about his resurrection and helped them to understand the scriptures that had been fulfilled.
"Thus it is written," Yeshua continued, "and thus it was the responsibility of the messiah to suffer, and to rise again from the dead on the third day, and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, should be preached in his name, unto all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." (Cf. Luke 24:46-48)
So he spoke, as he consoled and prepared them for their mission, and it would not be their last hours together. He would appear repeatedly to them and others within the next 40 days.
During a later visit, Yeshua asked Kepha three times if he loved him, which distressed Kepha. Yet Kepha affirmed his love again and again, a love he had thrice denied on Good Friday. Each time, the rabbi told him to care for and feed his flock. (John 21:15-19)
This Kepha did, until -- after a time ministering to the Christians of Rome -- he too died by crucifixion.
May we Christians today be filled with such love. Peace be with you.