3rd Sunday of Easter
April 22, 2012
Luke 24: 36-48
It was the Psalms that did it for me. When my life was falling apart and I couldn’t imagine how God could be at work in it, the voice of the Psalmist spoke for me: “When enemies rose against me, you heard me and came to my rescue.” “You lifted me up.” “ You put my feet on solid ground.” “I will praise you for your mighty hand.” “I trusted and you came to save me.”
In this morning’s reading from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus opens the Scriptures to show his confused disciples how everything that happened to him was a fulfillment of what had been written – not just in the teachings of Moses, “Torah,” but in the prophets and the psalms as well. The Messiah they expected to overthrow their oppressors and bring in the new age, had not failed them by dying so shamefully, but that his Messiah-ship was something bigger and more new than they could possibly imagine.
This is Jesus’ second Bible study in Luke’s Gospel. In the reading before this, he walks with two disciples who are heart-broken that the Messiah in which they had invested all their hopes had died. Even though they had heard that he was alive, they didn’t trust the story – it is ridiculous. And so they are heading home to Emmaus in sorrow when Jesus joins them on the road. He opens their Scripture to them in the same way that he does to the people in the room we meet this morning, pulling out the stories they had missed, telling them again about God’s amazing ability to bring life from disaster, about how God’s most faithful suffer, and that God has overcome death forever to bring life forever to God’s people. It was when they invited Jesus to dine with them that they recognized him. He took the bread and blessed it and broke it, and they knew him. They ran the seven or so miles back to Jerusalem to tell their friends what had happened to them, but when they got there, Jesus had been there, too.
In many ways, this story is very like the story of Thomas we heard last week. Jesus wants them to know that he is real flesh and blood, just the way they knew him. Thomas wanted to know that the risen Jesus was the same as the crucified Jesus, and Jesus obliged him. Here, too, Jesus shows off his wounds, and encourages them to touch him to be sure he is warm and human. The writer goes out of his way to tell us that Jesus ate some fish – no ghost could do that! Jesus is not just a resuscitated corpse, he is a new creation, released from time and space, but still flesh just like us. His resurrection is the start of something totally new in history. And these people who are present in that room will be the beginning of spreading the news. It is Jesus’ active presence in the experience of those who hear the story about his life and death and resurrection that spreads the Gospel and takes it from a few hundred people in remote parts of Palestine to communities throughout the Mediterranean World, all the way to Rome itself. You can hear the change in the disciples lives as we read from the book of Acts alongside the Gospel stories during the Easter season.
Jesus is not just remembered as a good teacher and moral example. He is not just celebrated as a special envoy of hope from God. He is present as the stories about him are told. He is present in the changed lives of those who hear the words of the “Good News” and trust it. Those who experience the risen Jesus in story and life are witnesses to the power of God to change hearts and minds through a love so powerful it conquers death. In his resurrection, he is able to be present with all who seek him, all who pray, all struggle to love as he has loved them. Jesus is the first fruit of all who trust that God’s love and forgiveness makes them God’s own and sends them out to change the world. As we have observed before, Jesus goes ahead of us through all the joys and sorrows we experience, telling us that God knows and hears every sigh and question we have. So even if our life is falling apart around us, we can be certain that what seems like death to us is nothing to fear. God raised Jesus, and sealed our destiny to be with God forever. No disaster, no failure, no evil can ever keep us from the love of God witnessed to us in the death of Jesus and his resurrection.
The Gospel stories and all the writings of the New Testament tell us of the understanding of Jesus’ people looking back at the life they witnessed and interpreting it through their own experience of Jesus presence with them in the present. And those writings become live for us, as well, because in them we meet Jesus ourselves. As we read, we have our own experience of Jesus’ presence reaching right out from the page and finding us, opening our hearts and minds to hear of God’s enormous, never-ending love. In the same way that the experience of Jesus, risen from the grave upended the lives of his followers, sending them out to tell their story and live to serve others, it changes us, too. Love so powerful that it can bring someone to new life from the grave, can change even our own hard and hopeless hearts to become loving. It can send us out to tell our story, to be Jesus for each other, to heal and to feed and to clothe those who need it, to live our own resurrection life. May the assurance of Jesus’ presence in your life and your actions be the message of Easter for you this season. Amen.
Now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.