April 26, 2024

April 14, 2024, The Third Sunday of Easter

April 14, 2024, The Third Sunday of Easter

Gospel: Luke 24:36b-48

In this account of an appearance after his resurrection, Jesus opens the minds of the disciples to understand him as Messiah. Jesus convinces them that he has been raised and sends them on a mission to proclaim the message of repentance and forgiveness.


The Holy Gospel according to Luke the 24th Chapter

Glory to you, O Lord.

36bJesus himself stood among [the disciples] and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.
44Then he said to 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.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.”


“1While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.”

I love this earthy and tactile resurrection story.  The Risen Christ is real, as real as it gets for these disciples.  This story comes immediately following the Road to Emmaus story – two disciples experience the risen Christ in the breaking of the bread and immediately run to tell the others.  While they are talking about this occurrence, he comes to them, and stands among them.  Doesn’t appear in the distance, doesn’t shine down from heaven upon them or call to them out of some bright light but stands in their midst.  On earth.  In the thick of it.

Their reaction is justified, though we might like to think if Jesus was standing visibly in the flesh, in our midst, we’d be a little more worshipful and serene, as opposed to startled and terrified.  But instead of condemning them for their fear and their doubt, he comforts them.  He knows that sometimes we need to touch things in order for them to be real to us.  Hands, feet, flesh, and bones – not a ghost or a figment of your imagination, it’s really me.

And the best line of the story.  1While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.   The disciples are showing us what it means to be in the presence of the risen Christ.  Joy.  And yet disbelief.  Doubt and yet still wondering.  Could this really be him?  But how?  How exactly did all of this just happen?  It feels real.  He feels real – but still….

And he goes a step further, he shares their meal, he eats their fish.  He becomes truly present in the midst of their humanity, their need to eat and be fed.  And over a meal of broiled fish – a basic staple and ordinary thing – he shares with them again his words that they are to remember and repeat. 

And here’s what I think is particularly gorgeous about Luke’s description of this scene: even though the disciples don’t believe — or at least experience faith as this mixture of joy and doubt and wonder — they are still called to be witnesses. And if that’s true for them, well, then, we’re certainly not exempt. Part of being “resurrection people,” that is, is being witnesses.

That’s where we start to fear and doubt.  Well sure, Pastor I believe – but I couldn’t witness.  I can’t stand in front of people and talk about God.  That’s your job.  I don’t know how to talk about it, I don’t know enough about it – I couldn’t answer any questions and I don’t think I could actually prove what I believe or convince someone of it.

But that’s not really what witnessing means, and actually I think we do witness all the time.

We bear witness to things that are important to us all the time. 

We bear witness to the great movies or television programs we’ve seen and want others to enjoy. We bear witness to the accomplishments (or failures) of our sports teams. We bear witness to the important events in our family or work lives. We bear witness — that is, tell someone about — the things that matter to us all the time.  We bear witness to joy – when we have experienced great joy, it’s only natural for most to want to tell someone about it!

It’s not really all that different when it comes to the faith. Witnessing does not mean shoving our faith down someone’s throat or threatening them with eternal hellfire if they don’t believe like we do. It’s simply telling others where we felt joy – we sensed God at work — at home or the office, at church or school, through a stranger or a friend, a doctor or teacher or neighbor, even through ourselves.

 Bearing witness is nothing more than saying where you think God is at work in your life and the world. We bear witness all the time; we’re just not used to thinking about doing it in terms of our faith.

These moments may be fleeting.  Jesus doesn’t stay with his disciples in this real tangible form forever – but they are changed.  Their perspectives are changed.  They may still doubt and disbelieve and wonder.  But think about those times when you have experienced God in your midst.  Think about the time that God was most real to you.  Where you felt Christ with you – saying Peace be with you, or Do not fear, or opening your mind, or sending you out to do something and witness to the power of forgiveness, grace, humility, mercy, or love.  The moment may have been fleeting – but you were changed, and possibly you changed the world.

We are not yet what we will be.  We do not know Christ – and we are not in Christ – as we will be in the future.  We know him in glimpses and moments.  In a touch and in a meal.   This is our story – handed down to us, through Moses, the prophets, and the psalms –  “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.  Amen.

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