Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection to assure them, first of all, that he was alive. They knew he was dead. How could anyone live through what happened to him ? They needed to know he was alive.
“God raised him on the third day,” Peter says at Pentecost, “and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” (Acts 10, 37) In simple, concrete ways, eating and drinking with them, Jesus showed he was alive. He had to overcome their tendency in the face of death to disbelieve.
Matthew’s gospel, read today, speaks of stories after Jesus’ death that his body was stolen from the tomb. An expression of disbelief. Peter in his Pentecost discourse points to David’s tomb in Jerusalem where the great king was buried. His body was there. The tomb of Jesus was empty. (Acts 2,29) Where is he?
Besides assuring them he was alive, the Risen Jesus assured his disciples the prophets spoke of his resurrection. In Luke’s story of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus Jesus tells them that Moses and the prophets spoke of him. He must have given similar indications to his other disciples too. In their preaching his disciples never omit the witness of the scriptures to the resurrection of Jesus.
The Risen Jesus also had to challenge the stubborn dreams and ambitions in his disciples, according the the Acts of the Apostles: “When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1, 6-8)
Holding their short-sighted political ambitions and hopes for personal gain, his disciples ask Jesus if he will bring about an earthly kingdom. His kingdom is not of this world, he tells them, but they are go to “the ends of the earth” as his witnesses and bearers of his promise.
What graces can we, his disciples now, look for from the Risen Christ? Faith in Jesus Christ, risen from the dead. Faith in the scriptures that speak of him. Faith in the Bread he shares with us. Faith in the Holy Spirit whom he sends as our Guide. Faith to go where he leads us, with those who believe in him, towards a future beyond what we see, where his promises of risen life are revealed.