Easter Week, Year Two[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 93, 98 (morning) // 66 (evening)
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
We’ve lost so many early stories about encounters with the resurrected Christ. Detailed and memorable resurrection narratives survive mainly in the gospels of Luke and John, but those are just a small sampling of what rumors and experiences of the risen Christ must have been in circulation. Today’s reading from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians gives us some clues to the stories that haven’t come down to us.
Paul tells us that Jesus “appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve,” as the gospels corroborate. But then Paul writes that Jesus “appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive . . . Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” Sadly for us, we don’t ever hear full accounts of the appearance to the five hundred and separately to James. Yet, in the days of Paul, it sounds like hundreds of still-living people could say a few words about their experience of the risen Christ.
When it comes to his own meeting with the risen Christ, Paul doesn’t seem to categorize it any differently than the experiences of Cephas (Peter) or the twelve. He just adds his own story to the list: “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” Paul, unlike the twelve, didn’t know Jesus during his earthly lifetime. And yet, he considers himself a late-in-time apostle, who encountered the risen Christ just like the apostles before him.
The well-crafted narratives of encounters with the risen Christ found in some of the gospels could easily lead us to believe that resurrection appearances are exclusive to the followers who knew Christ before his crucifixion. But for Paul, resurrection experiences were reported widely, and they were just as available to latecomers as to those who had been with Christ from the beginning.
We’ve lost many resurrection stories from earliest Christianity. Some survive only in fragments and whispers. Paul’s reminders of these lost resurrection appearances can open us to an experience of our own, whether in a deeply personal encounter or alongside multitudes. The real loss would be to miss out on our own encounter with the risen Christ and the life that he offers to us, in whatever form that experience takes.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with education, young adult ministry, and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.