Hush that fuss, everybody move to the back of the bus
~Outkast-Rosa Parks (video)
Outkast was sued by Rosa Parks in 1999 simply because she and her estate did not understand their song bearing her name in its context. The song was the duo’s way of paying homage to the Civil Rights legend. Additionally, Outkast was able to get another generation excited about the accomplishments of the brave and legendary Rosa Parks. Otherwise, she may have been forgotten.
People and pericopes have to always be understood in their context.
“While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.”(Luke 24:36-43 NRSV)[i]
Why were the disciples struggling to recognize Jesus after his resurrection?
The placement of the outlined text, the social setting, and the Hellenistic influence that both Luke and his target audience, Theophilus, were likely under, stress the flabbergasted response of the disciples as a surprise and a problem.[ii] Luke’s literary style and approach further underscore the main problem I wish to work through it the pericope: why were the followers of Jesus Christ having difficulty recognizing Jesus after his resurrection? The former reasons most certainly suggest that they should have.
Luke places chapter 24:36-43, directly after two previous encounters by members of “The Way,” with their reappearing Lord.[iii] The gospel writer hints that the disciples should have been prepared for yet another rendezvous with Jesus by this time.[iv] Mark’s gospel (16:14, NIV)[v], a source for Luke, says that Jesus came by and rebuked them for not believing the stories about his resurrection, after they had been confirmed by several witnesses.[vi] Rather than take such a direct approach, the writer of Luke chose to offer circumstantial evidence to subtly suggest that everyone present should have been capable of recognizing Jesus.
Moreover, the social setting that Luke places this pericope in suggests that the disciples were in a posture of worship; therefore they had created an atmosphere for Jesus to show up.[vii] Matthias Klinghart conveys that community meals of the Greco-Roman world were religious ceremonies.[viii] He states that prayers were offered up during the course of meals and symposium.[ix] Thus, the writer of Luke’s gospel placed the parishioners of Jesus “dead smack in a church service.” If followers of Jesus could not discern his presence during worship of him, then when would have been a better time?
Lastly, Luke’s author seemed to purposely place members of “The Way,” in social settings in three consecutive passages. Perhaps the Hellenistic literary notion of being a laborious historian played a tremendous role in the writer’s decision to do so.[x] Luke’s author seems to identify specific days, places, and events to not only properly inform the intended audience, but to also suggest that Jesus should have been recognizable by his group. The writer of Luke was likely influenced by Herodotus and Thucydides, historians from Greece’s classical age.[xi] Based upon their tradition, the gospel writer meticulously provided detail after detail, which suggested that Jesus was indeed up from the grave and that members of his inner circle should have been able to accept that fact.
The placement of the text, the social setting, and the Greek influence on the writer of Luke suggests that the disciples should have been able to know Jesus when they saw him after his resurrection.[xii] This brief literary analysis further stresses that their inability to recognize their Lord was a problem. Furthermore, this short look at the written form of the outlined pericope helps to highlight a modern issue as well. So many Christians in 2009 are struggling to see the movement of Jesus in their lives. After all the reports given by others, many followers of Jesus still do not believe that he is able to manifest himself in their lives. What a pity!
[i] Luke 24:36-43, NRSV
[ii][ii] David Aune, The New Testament in its Literary Environment (Cambridge, United Kingdom: James Clarke & Company, 1988), 189.
[iii] Luke 24:36-43, NRSV.
[iv] Michael J. Gorman, Elements of Biblical Exegesis (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1998), 76.
[v][v] Mark 16:14, NIV
[vi] Aune, 189
[vii] Matthias Klinghart, “A Typology of the Community Meal” (Draft Version presented at Meals in the Greco-Roman World Consultation AAR/SBL Annual Meeting, Atlanta, GA, November 2003), 3, under “Meals in the Greco-Roman World,” http://www.philipharland.com/meals/GrecoRomanMealsSeminar.htm (accessed March 31, 2009).
[x] Aune, 189
[xi] The New Yorker, Arms and the Man, http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2008/04/28/080428crbo_books_mendelsohn (accessed May 12, 2009)
[xii] Gorman, 76
Aune, David. The New Testament in its Literary Environment. Cambridge, United Kingdom:
James Clarke & Company, 1988.
Gorman,Michael J. Elements of Biblical Exegesis. Peabody, Massachusetts:
Hendrickson Publishers, 1998.
Klinghart, Matthias. “A Typology of the Community Meal.” Draft Version presented at
Meals in the Greco-Roman World Consultation AAR/SBL Annual Meeting,
Atlanta, GA, 2003.
(accessed March 31, 2009).
The New Yorker. Arms and the Man.
http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2008/04/28/080428crbo_books_mendelsohn (accessed May 12, 2009).