Posted on Apr 15, 2018 by Pastor Dave Whetter
For the third week in a row, we have read a portion of the Resurrection story. On Easter we heard Mark’s version, last week we heard part of John’s version, and now today we are reading part of Luke’s version of the Resurrection. In Mark’s story, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went to the tomb. In John’s version, the writer only mentions Mary Magdalene going to the tomb, and here in Luke’s version we are told that Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women…” went to the tomb. In addition, Luke’s version says that when the women get to the tomb, “two men in dazzling white clothes” ask them “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, he is risen.” Then the men in white clothes remind the women that Jesus had told them that he would rise again and that’s when the women remember, and so, they run and tell the others, but the others considered it just an “idle tale.” In other words they did not believe the women; Peter at least did go to the tomb to check it out, but, just like John had said, he went home after that.
With this part of the story told, Luke goes on to say that later that same day two of the disciples, Cleopas and another one, were traveling to the village of Emmaus. While walking they were discussing what had happened and while they were talking “Jesus himself came near and went with them” (24:15), but they didn’t recognize Jesus until the end of the day when they had stopped for dinner, and suddenly, as he was sharing the meal with them, they recognized him, and as soon as they did, he vanished and then they quickly got up, returned to Jerusalem, and told the other disciples what had happened. And while they were talking with the others, as our story tells us today, Jesus “stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ ” (24:36). Just like we heard last week, when Jesus shows up, he always shows up and offers peace and he needs to because, as all the Gospel writers note, when Jesus does finally appear to them, the disciples still do not understand. We might expect them to immediately break out in praise and worship, but the opposite is true. When Jesus shows up they are “startled and terrified.” I don’t think it would be any different today, either. Think about it; if Jesus suddenly appeared here today, how many of us would most likely fall to our knees in fear. Afraid because we know we have sinned. Afraid because we know we have lived lives unworthy of salvation and, yet, standing here would be the One we proclaim our savior. We would be scared, too, and we, too, would most likely think it was a “ghost.”
But as we heard last week, Jesus doesn’t want us to be afraid, and so today we learn how Jesus offered proof that it was really him. We usually fear those we don’t know and so the best way to overcome our fears is to get to know those we fear. And so, when Jesus shows up, he offers a means to help them get to know him as the Risen Lord. He shows them his hands and feet, not to see his wounds but to see that his feet were the same feet that walked with them and they were the same hands that healed others in their presence. He also showed them his hands and feet because in those days it was a way of ensuring one wasn’t a ghost, because ghosts didn’t have extremities with bones. But that wasn’t all, he also ate with them because ghosts don’t eat; only the living eat. And lastly, to overcome their fears, he used language that he had used while he was alive. In verse 39 he said, “Look at my hands and my feet; see it is I myself.” In the Greek the words “I myself” are ego emi, or they can also be translated as “I am.” Jesus used these same words when he said “I am the good shepherd, I am the bread of life, I am the door, I am the resurrection…”. In Luke, Jesus really wants the disciples to know this is no joke. He is really alive and he is really back and he really wants them to believe and stay in relationship with him!
So the question today is, so what? Jesus is back and he has proven his real presence to the disciples. Now what? To answer this, Jesus said, ““Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (24:46-48).
Jesus declares us witnesses, and by definition a witness is one who has important information that will lead to the truth being known, and a witness ought to want to make sure everyone knows the truth. So what truth are we witnesses to? The truth that this world needs to hear is this: our God loves us so much that he has returned from the dead for us, and in doing so, the risen Lord offers all of us the forgiveness we so desperately need, and all we need to do for that forgiveness is repent. That is, all we need to do is follow in the way Jesus lived and now calls us to live. To live like Jesus lived is to love as he loved. To live like Jesus lived is to offer peace to those who are afraid. To live like Jesus lived is to generously share the gifts God has given us even when that means we must sacrifice something in our own lives. This is what it means to be a witness.
Brothers and sisters, the job of the church, that’s you and me, is to proclaim to the world that God has promised when we “repent” we are forgiven. The job of the church is to be a witness to a different way of living. Our job is not to condemn. Our job is not to bring judgment, but like Peter and John in our story from Acts today, our job is to witness to the healing promise and presence of Christ in this world, and we do that by using our hands and feet to be a healing presence in this broken world.
In a world that has come to see the Church as the holder of the key to forgiveness, or as the judge of one’s life, our witness is to change that view. Our witness is to show that world that the Church exists to offer peace and healing to those in need. Our job is to be the witnesses that tell the world the truth, Jesus is alive and he offers forgiveness to all who desire. We are to be witnesses that offer the peace of Christ in a broken world. You are witnesses to these things. Go, be a witness! Amen.