A lot is often made of Jesus’ “seven last words” – that is the seven last things he said from the cross spread through the four Gospels.
But of course, these were not the seven last words – just the ones before death.
And the seven words we’ll be looking at aren’t really his first. I imagine his real seven first words were pretty typical – things like Imma and Abba—Hebrew for Mommy and Daddy.
But the Gospels tell us so little about these moments after the resurrection, these conversations he had after the great surprise of Easter morning, it is interesting to imagine why THESE things are said, and why the Gospel writers pass them on to us. There is so much that is left out of Jesus’ story, that we have to assume that what we ARE told is more than just reporting.
We can guess that there was more to it than this. Two of the four gospels mention Jesus eating with the disciples, so if they actually shared a meal, you have to assume there was more conversation that this.
Or, maybe not. One thing is certain: Jesus after the resurrection is not “settling back in” to life on earth. He is on the move – going to Galilee, going to his Father in heaven, setting the disciples up to be on their own again. Whatever life after the resurrection is going to be, it’s not really life as usual, even if it does involve some food and some fishing.
This week at Bonfire we focused on Matthew 28, where Jesus first words are simply, “Greetings!”
The women have already seen an empty tomb and heard from an angel. They are starting what some have called the breathless period of the New Testament. You could say that really , the whole message of the early church from this point on is. . . . (huff, huff, pant. . .” He is Risen!”)
The women are in the middle of this when Jesus shows up, and simply says “Greetings!”
I mean really, don’t you think you might have said something more than “Hi!”
But then again, what else would he say?
There’s a great moment in the movie Jerry Maguire where, after their marriage is on the rocks, Tom Cruise suddenly has this running back to his loved one moment. By that time Renee Zellweger is already consoling herself with her girlfriends.
“Men are the enemy.” She says. And they all laugh
“Don’t get me wrong, I still love them, but they are theenemy.”
And right then Jerry walks back in, says “Hello, I’m here to see my wife.” . .and then he launches into some long explanation and she just says, “You had me at hello.”
Because, really, in a moment like that the important thing is that he’s there.
“Greetings.” The word Jesus uses is a little more packed than that: in Greek it is Xairete, which is something like Aloha, or Shalom. It’s one of those words that can mean hello and good-bye and peace all at the same time – and its root is “Joy”
Joy has already made its appearance in this story, joy mixed with fear, because that is of course what they are feeling at this news. And there were plenty of people who might have expected Jesus to come back with some revenge in mind. ..
And just to remind them that he is not here to kick ass, Jesus says, “ Go and tell my brothers”
Because after all, that’s what they are. They are the brothers who denied him. The cowards who ran away. They are the brothers who didn’t remember anything he said about resurrection and were not expecting anything to happen on Sunday morning..
But they are his brothers, and he is alive.
And so are we. Over and over again running scared, Jesus greets us and says, “Hello.” Peace. Joy. It’s me. Go tell my brothers and sisters. Because that is what we are.