The 1984 movie Ghostbuster was a box office sensation and at that point it was the highest grossing comedy film of all time. The phrase etched into so many fans’ memories comes from the theme song…. “I ain’t afraid of no ghost”.
The lesson from the Gospel of Mark this week is an account of the appearance by Jesus after His resurrection. He appears among the disciples saying, “Peace be with you. They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost”. There were no previous resurrection experiences from which to draw, so it is understandable they might think this was a ghost. They didn’t know what to do because this was unknown to them, and there were no Ghostbusters to call in Jesus’s time.
Jesus’s appearance among them was so shocking that they essentially stopped thinking. They could not process what they were seeing because they were too caught up in their fear. The only logical explanation was a ghost. When we undergo a shock or a traumatic incident, our brain stores a sort of snapshot or snippet of the event. When we recall the event, it brings up that image, with no context but all the fear it invokes and we go into survival mode (fight/flight). For the disciples, all they could recall is the image of Jesus dead on the cross. They could not recall all of Jesus’s teachings which told them what was going to happen. Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James and some other women told the disciples about their encounter with the risen Christ, but “the words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them”. Then on the walk to Emmaus, two disciples were walking when Jesus came and walked alongside of them. Since the day was nearly over, they urged him to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he broke bread and gave it to them and their eyes were opened and they recognized him as he vanished from their sight. They immediately returned to Jerusalem to share the Good News with the other disciples.
We are witness to many terrible things during our life. There is no way to keep all the bad stuff out. And, during these traumatic events, our faith goes out the window. We can only live in the moment, forgetting all that we know or have been told. The disciples were no different. The women told them Jesus was alive. The two apostles also told them it was true and yet when Jesus appears before them, they still could not believe it.
The only way for them to begin to understand that Jesus was not a ghost was to normalize the situation. Jesus said, “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have”. They were still disbelieving so he asked them for something to eat and he ate it in their presence. Then he reminded them of everything written in the law of Moses the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled and he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. One of those things was the fulfilment of the coming of the kingdom. During the last supper, one of the statements Jesus made was that he would not eat again until the kingdom had come. When he ate in their presence, he was saying to them, the kingdom is here. The future is now. Luke points out that we are witness of these things. Pain, loss, death; these things are part of our lives, but not the whole part. We are promised eternal life – there is more to come. He is not here. He is Risen. He is risen, indeed. Amen.