36As they [the disciples] were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!”. 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marvelling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”. 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them. 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled”. 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:36-49 ESV)
When we had the children at home or nearby and we went on holidays – particularly travels to cities and towns when we didn’t use a car – I have likened our family to a 5,6,7 headed monster on occasions – not maliciously – but more in recognition that we are fairly independent and, at times, strong minded individuals. This was most evident to me when we were trying to get to a place in a new city complete with a map from the travel guide book, local free tourist maps, the directions from a local person, or maybe a bought map. The map gives you places and options – which we to go to this art gallery or that restaurant. Some maps have more information than others but the maps don’t speak so we would often follow one of us designated ‘Map Person’ and off we’d go. We follow a person, a voice, even if our eyes and senses tell us to go another way or even if some of us simply don’t agree. Today the maps do speak via smart phones! But the same thing applies – if over time the directions work you will trust the voice more but if the directions seem to make the journey longer or more difficult then you’re more than likely either not listen at all or strike out on your own.
The popular view of the resurrection is that the disciples were lucky, fortunate, blessed, and had it easy because all they needed to do was see Jesus alive and they were ‘set’ – ready to follow him. The myth is that seeing is believing. Read any resurrection account and you will not find the disciples looking up expectantly when Jesus turns up, going up to him and giving him a high-five and saying ‘Welcome back!’. Luke records that on the evening of that first Sunday when Jesus turns up, the disciples are startled, frightened – they’re not sure what they’re seeing, they don’t know what to believe. So Jesus talks to them and gives them some physical evidence – hands and feet to see and touch – and he eats fish and the point is that it doesn’t fall through him like it would a ghost – all the while talking with them – ‘Now that I have your attention, this is what my presence, my return means …’.
And the significant thing is that he keeps talking with them, to them, about himself – not egotistically – but opening the Scriptures – the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms – the Old Testament – and he preached and proclaimed himself – that it was God’s plan that the Christ should suffer and rise on the third day and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name. He did the same thing earlier that day on the afternoon walk to Emmaus. He preached himself. Do you hear what is happening? More and more words are going to be said about Jesus and he will use those words to preach himself, to come to people, to confront people, to comfort people.
While we are not in an upper room or behind closed doors, the same thing is happening today. Jesus comes among people and gives his peace and speaks to his people. He offers physical contact as well – water that forgives and washes clean and bread and wine to forgive and heal. He is right here – because a person is where their body and blood is! – and the mark of living with him remains
repentance – a struggle – tough times happen in various forms throughout our lives – but there is also the undeniable truth or foundation of his love and grace and that gives us hope and joy.
Churches are not morality clubs or guilds of goodies or even sinners anonymous – some sort of self help group in the name of a higher power – but people called by Jesus to meet him. Congregations are groups of people who meet and follow Jesus – here and now – and he comes to us and says in many ways, ‘Now that I have your attention, this is what my presence, my return means …’.
This raises the whole matter of Christian witnessing, sharing, evangelizing. Too much of what Christians talk about appears to me to be about themselves. Quite frankly, testimonies of what God has done in a person’s life quickly leave me cold if that is all the message is. I am happy that God has worked in a person’s life in the way he allegedly has – but such a message is of little help to me. What I, and everyone else needs to hear, is what Jesus has done for us.
When God’s Word is proclaimed whether via a sermon, bible study, over a cup of coffee, or while going for a walk it is important to realise that Jesus is present preaching himself. What is important is how he regards us and feels about us. God’s Word can never get past the reality that Jesus suffered for us; that it was God’s will that Jesus should face the punishment we should have faced for our guilt and sin. There is too much talk about success, power, and easy-street Christianity that makes a mockery of the cross. You can’t go past Jesus’ cross!
And what happens when people hear Jesus? Well it has its effects! We can get all sorts of responses. The one we desire is similar to what we see happening in Jerusalem or on the road to Emmaus – that hearts are burning with excitement – that people want Jesus to stay – that hearers are filled with amazement and great joy.
Unfortunately many people when they hear about Jesus still like to keep him at a distance – someone they’ve understood, classified, and put up on the fridge with the plumber, fire brigade, and doctor’s phone numbers. Yet Jesus doesn’t allow himself to remain in the pigeon hole people put him.
He has a habit of turning up – his words are heard – baptism might be remembered – the meal he offers calls to the hungry. And people still today discover the truth that in Jesus, God has acted to give us life – the best life to live in this world each day.
Christ is risen! (He is risen indeed!)
- Luke 24:36 - 49