April 15, 2018
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This morning we hear another Post-Resurrection story about Jesus appearing to his astonished believers as they are trying to figure out what they are going to do with the rest of their lives. This one is from Luke’s Gospel.
Last week we heard the story of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearance in John’s Gospel, right? We heard that touching Jesus’ wounds himself was the key to Thomas’ trust that the Jesus standing before him was the same Jesus that had been on the cross. On Easter we heard the story according to Mark, in which the terrified women just ran away, telling no one what they had heard from that young man in the tomb.
Luke’s Gospel has a lot ‘post-resurrection’ stories. In the first, women find the tomb empty and two men in dazzling white tell them that Jesus has risen, and remind them that he had predicted that he would rise again. You can find that at the beginning of Chapter 24. The women remember what Jesus said before he died, and they faithfully go to tell the disciples, who don’t believe a word of it. It is also in Luke’s Gospel that we find my favorite post-resurrection story, the disciples walking to Emmaus. They are grieving Jesus’ death and the death of their hopes that he was the Messiah. Jesus joins them on the road, and ‘opens the Scriptures’ to them. Imagine Bible study with Jesus – going all the way back to the creation story and explaining how God’s love shows up throughout the history of their people. It was not until they reach home and invite Jesus to dinner that they realize that it’s him, and they run all the seven miles back to Jerusalem to tell their story to the disciples assembled there.
Meanwhile, Jesus has appeared again in Jerusalem to a bunch of his disciples who are locked in hiding. Appearing in the middle of a padlocked room, he greets them with “Shalom,” the greeting of peace. If you were going to film this encounter, it might be the comic relief of the post-resurrection stories. They think he’s a ghost. Jesus spend an inordinate amount of time convincing them that he’s real. “Why are you so scared?” he says. Like everyone should be prepared for their dead leader to just appear among them when they saw him die three days ago, and the doors are securely locked. “Look at my fingers and toes,” he says, “feel the bones in them? Ghosts don’t have bones, do they?” Can’t you just see the first of them tentatively reaching out to touch his hand and squeeze it? And maybe someone else pushing on his foot? They want to believe it’s him. They really do. They are checking to see if he’s rolling his eyes, as they poke and prod and check each other’s reactions. They are still deciding whether or not to get excited when he asks if they have anything to eat. They give him a piece of fish from lunch, and he eats it! Ghosts don’t eat, do they? Not like that.
So now he can get down to business. Jesus calls this meeting to order. “Remember that I told you this was going to happen? Remember how I told you about the Scripture all leading up to God’s new creation in the coming of God’s Messiah? Remember how I showed you how the stories of the ancestors were about people created to bear God’s good news to the world? Remember how the prophets came to call the people back to God’s plans for compassion and justice to be the rule of the world?” Then Luke says that he opened their minds to understand how those ancient writings were being fulfilled in Jesus ministry, and his death, and now in his resurrection. “You are the witnesses of the fulfillment of all these prophesies and stories that are in your tradition,” he tells them.
If you look back at the story according to Luke, people have been reminded of the Scriptural story through this whole day. The dazzling men in the tomb remind the women of what Jesus said would be the fulfillment of Scripture in his death and resurrection. Those sad disciples on their way home to Emmaus get a careful lesson in the Scriptural witness fulfilled in Jesus’ work before he vanished. And now he is doing the same with his disciples in that locked room. “This is who I am, and what I have come do,” he says. “Now it is your work to tell the world of the love and forgiveness of God that is available to all who repent, and turn toward God. You are the witnesses to this important event. Go and proclaim it.”
This is Jesus’ final mission: to open the Scriptures to those who can then proclaim it to the rest of the world. To send them out as witnesses to how that changes your life. That is not only those disciples in that locked room. They are only the first of the witnesses to Christ’s presence in the world as the good news of God’s love and care for all people. Our own experience of Christ’s presence in our lives is the good news to which we are witnesses. When we read and study Scripture, when we share our stories of our lives of faith, when we care for people who need our help, we are part of that long line of witness that Jesus has commissioned to carry the good news of the Gospel. We are witnesses of what God has done for us. And we are part of the continuing the work of bringing God’s love to the world through our love and gratitude. We are the heirs of those first witnesses. We too, are part of Jesus’ final mission. Go in peace to share the good news. Amen.