Acts 3:12-19, I John 3:1-7, Luke 24:36b-48
“Jesus stood among the disciples and said to them, ‘[Shalom], Peace be with you…”
And in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.” Luke 24:36b, 41
Likely everyone wondered what it was that had taken place in Jerusalem over those days… so certainly the band of men and women who had followed the prophet Jesus from Galilee wondered – and were afraid. What meaning could be made of their beloved Master’s execution on the eve of the Passover Sabbath? And now, what to make of the mysterious reports of what some had experienced early on the first day of the week?
The final chapter of Luke’s gospel openly and unapologetically speaks of the startling and terrifying – and ultimately life-transforming – experience of the gathered disciples. “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see!” (v. 38-39a) The One whom they saw die on Friday stands among them again.
This is not the spirit or ghost they at first had feared – both in seeing and in being known by their companions that they were seeing. No, it is One who proclaims himself to “have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.” It is the One who asks with a touch of humor, “Have you anything here to eat?”
As preacher Barbara J. Essex writes, “Jesus showed up, providing words of comfort, assurance and chastisement. ‘Peace be with you’ was followed by ‘Why are you freaking out?’” As he had done so many times in Luke, Jesus asked what was for dinner! It was the same Jesus, yet different – once dead but now alive; caring, yet still fussing. Jesus acted as if nothing had happened – he seemed normal, natural, just what they had come to expect.
Now, perhaps you, like me, have as life progressed been offered or challenged, even in the Church, by explanations of the “facts” concerning Jesus’ resurrection that contradict the gospel stories. We’ve been told that while the disciples were sincere in their witness, they were actually victims of hallucination. Or we’ve been told that the stories handed on by believers can’t possibly be accurate and straight-forward accounts because they aren’t in agreement about details. Or perhaps we’ve heard the view that regards the Resurrection as a “purely spiritual truth.” The disciples experienced God-sent visions, even as Jesus’ body decayed in the tomb – visions to assure them of the victory of life over death, but as a disembodied form of spiritual survival.
But the matter-of-factness in Luke’s stories of the disciples experiencing the Lord to be alive contradicts such attempts at spiritualizing. Luke speaks of the experience of an embodied, recognizable Jesus with the disciples after the discovery of the empty tomb by the faithful women on the first day of the week. Yet the early traditions also note the Risen Jesus as being embodied and simultaneously appearing to them in a form which transcends earthly, material limitations. He comes and goes, and manifests his humanity seemingly at will. The Risen Jesus participates in ordinary daily activities, but does not exhibit ordinary human needs. A transformation beyond dualisms of material and spiritual, of time and eternity, has taken place – and is shown to have been God’s intention and desire for humanity from the very beginning.
Friends, it is undeniable that we live in a world bound by violence, fear, sickness, sin, self-centeredness and death. This has been true down through the ages. It is the same world into which Jesus was born, the same world in which he called together a disparate band to learn to love as God loves, unconditionally. The first disciples were drawn by Jesus’ example and the love of God to fearlessly witness to what God had promised to their ancestors.
Their faith, and their willingness to stake their vulnerable lives solely on the power of God is what has brought us here today. We seek to be nourished by Christ in Word and Sacrament for our own participation in the work of God – nothing less than the drawing of all peoples into reconciled community through participation in the mysterious, self-emptying love of God’s suffering and vindicated servant, Jesus.
As our own ancestors in faith have done down through the centuries, we are called to live resurrection now for the sake of all who are oppressed by sin and death. We are called to joyfully give of our entire selves, day by day, even to death, that we may be ready to serve and be transformed in the same resurrection glory with which Christ still suffers and triumphs.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!
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