Luke 24: 36b- 48
Our discussion about the text this week has centered on our perception of the risen Jesus. Because he can come and go at will, through locked doors, and show up suddenly on the road, for example, we tend to think he is more spirit than human flesh and blood.
Today’s text challenges us. Jesus appears in the guest room and invites the disciples to touch him. See, he says, it’s really me! When they still aren’t sure, he says, Do you have something to eat? And he then ate the fish they offered him.
Like the disciples 2,000 years ago, we assume that ghosts and spirits are not solid bodies and cannot eat food. So, Jesus’ risen body was just as human as he had been in his earthly life. He might come and sit among us, sing our hymns, pray our prayers, listen to the sermon, share the peace with us, put some money into the offering plate, drink coffee and eat brownies. We wouldn’t notice he was any different from the rest of us.
Yet, even the disciples, who spent three years or so with Jesus, weren’t sure it was him, even when they saw him. They began by being terrified at the sight of him – they had never before experienced the resurrection. Yes, Jesus had promised them he would be raised from the dead, but it seems like they mostly ignored that part of the promise and focused more on his statements that he would suffer and die. So, now, here he was in their midst, and they just weren’t sure about what they were seeing.
Even after he shows them his wounds, they still have mixed feelings, both joy and disbelief. If we had been there, we would have felt the same. Even knowing as we do that Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to the disciples off and on for 40 days, we would be shocked and unbelieving at the sight of Jesus, too. The 40 days of the resurrected Jesus appearing on earth was in the past. He no longer just pops into a room. We don’t really expect Jesus to be here. Though he is, he’s always here, really here, through the Holy Spirit.
… As a teacher and preacher, I notice that Jesus uses this time with the disciples to remind them of everything he has taught them. He shows them how his suffering and death are the fulfillment of the scriptures, including the Torah, the Prophets and the Psalms. Jesus connects the dots for the disciples and helps them understand what happened and why. It’s all God’s Plan.
Jesus finishes his teaching with a command of sorts. “You are witnesses of these things.” Of course, they are eyewitnesses of everything they shared with him. And they are to be witnesses, telling others about him.
2,000 years later, Jesus still needs witnesses. We who believe in him, even on those days when we are filled with both joy and unbelieving, are to witness to him. Our lives tell others that we believe in Jesus. Or at least, they should.
We are witnesses when we treat others with kindness;
We are witnesses when we notice even the carry-out person at Publix, and the bus persons in restaurants, and the trash collector, and the golf cart mechanic, and the pool maintenance crew – in other words the almost unnoticeable people;
We are witnesses when we craft items for shut-ins and children we will never see;
We are witnesses when we invite someone to join us for Bible study, a meal, a program, or even worship at Hope;
We are witness when we hug each other and offer to pray for their upcoming surgery, or their dying relative, or their troubled family.
Here’s a story.
Tom and Bill were good friends. Both retired, they met at the gym, running each day on the treadmill. Tom watched the latest sports reports as he ran. Bill never turned on the built-in TV; instead he focused on silence, staring at nothing as he ran. One day Tom asked Bill of he was praying as he ran. Bill said, yes, he found it a great way to connect with God each day. Tom began to try praying for a while before he turned on the sports. Tom had seen Jesus in Bill and his commitment to prayer.
Bill’s wife was diagnosed with cancer. After a while, Bill was taking care of his wife at home and taking her for treatments. He was trying to keep up with the laundry and the shopping and the cooking as well as the yard work and the car maintenance. Tom noticed that Bill seemed tired, and asked about it. Bill said he was frustrated because he couldn’t do it all. The yard needed mowing, the cars needed oil changes, and the bushes were so overgrown that he could barely get in the front door.
Tom insisted on helping, but Bill kept insisting that he could get to it. Finally, Bill agreed that Tom could mow the lawn and trim some of the bushes. Finally, Bill realized that Tom was trying to be Jesus for him.
In a few minutes, we will participate in the brief order for healing, as we do once a month. As you come forward for anointing, feel Jesus real presence in the cross of oil on your forehead. Believe that healing comes through prayer. Trust that your surgery or procedure or rehab will be successful, will provide answers, will bring about healing in your life and in the lives of the loved ones for whom you pray. Healing may be physical, or it may be spiritual, bringing you closer to God – healing the heart without healing the body.
This week, be Jesus for someone, or several someones. This week, notice when someone is Jesus for you. It’s through these recognitions that Jesus becomes as real to us each day as he was when he appeared to the disciples after the resurrection.
Please pray with me. Invisible yet very visible God, help us really see you. And help us make you visible to those who need to see you and know you really do exist. Amen