We all know the story of Easter morning. A group of women. Two angels. One amazed apostle.
The women discover the empty tomb, and report to the apostles that two angels have told them that Jesus has risen. But the women are not believed — at least not initially. Peter runs to the tomb, looks in and then goes home, amazed at what has happened.
So that’s Easter morning, followed by Easter afternoon.
Two disciples — one named Cleopas — make the seven-mile trip from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and along the way they encounter a mysterious stranger, who interprets the Scriptures for them. When he joins them for dinner, he breaks bread with them, and their eyes are opened and they recognize him — it’s Jesus!
Then poof — he vanishes from their sight.
Which brings us to Easter evening.
The two disciples race back to Jerusalem, and find the 11 and their companions in a dining room. Jesus appears, and scares them half to death — they think they’re seeing a ghost. But he says, “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And then to prove that he’s no poltergeist, he asks them for some food. They give him a piece of broiled fish, and he eats it in their presence.
Then sitting around the table, Jesus tells them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” He opens their minds to understand the Scriptures, and says to them that what was written has come true — the Messiah has suffered and risen from the dead, and now “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
The apostles are probably wondering who’s supposed to do this work of proclaiming repentance and forgiveness, so Jesus leans across the table and makes it clear. “You are witnesses of these things,” he says, probably pointing with his fork. “And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
Notice what has happened here, on Easter evening. The mission of the apostles begins not with a visit to a tomb that’s empty, but to a table full of food — broiled fish — and conversation.