The Pas Easter 3
15 April 2018
Psalm 4 pg 707
1 John 3:1-7
disabled and divine:
give us faith to perceive you
pierced and embodied,
standing hear among us
feeding us forgiveness, beautifully broken;
through Christ, the suffering servant. Amen.
“36 … Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.” (Lk 24:36b-37)
As we can see, today’s gospel shows us a very, very human reaction to the resurrection, to the presence of the resurrected Christ in our midst. What we’re seeing amongst the disciples, is Jesus offering them what they need most, the proof of his life, the proof that he is alive.
And I’ve watched ghost tales with the rest of society. It is very unusual for a ghost to appear and the first words are “Peace be with you.”
And, Jesus reaction is to encourage God’s peace in our lives, in our hearts, in our actions. By our human standards, this is quite unusual.
Usually, when we encounter ghosts, in today’s entertainment venues, they’re out for revenge, or to right wrongs. Often the spectre’s in history, literature, and movies, the ghosts are seeking justice against the ones that resulted in their deaths, or to offer scary but profound messages of wisdom.
In Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Hamlet’s father roams the battlements until he gets Hamlet’s attention to seek justice for his wrongful death.
At the same time, First Nations Culture tells us that our beloved dead return to us in dreams to give advice and guidance to those of us still on our journey.
But, we know that Jesus isn’t dead. Rather he’s raised from the dead, he’s returned to us, to continue to show us that death is not the end of our existence. To show us that God cares so much that Jesus died for our sake, so that sin doesn’t mean the end of our relationship with God, and this is what we see in today’s gospel.
But although we see it, do we really, truly acknowledge that Jesus is alive?
Today, in our midst, we find the resurrected Jesus.
On the evening of the first day of the week, we find Jesus standing among us, standing among the disciples, inside of a locked room, saying “Peace be with you.”
So, are we able to process this?
How do we get our minds wrapped around the fact that although we think we’re seeing the ghost of Jesus standing before us, today, in a locked room, rather we are seeing the resurrected Christ?
And when we look at this, Jesus knows that his presence, his appearance is a shock in the locked room on the night of the first day of the week, is unexpected. It’s taking us back a step. This is why he starts with the words “Peace be with you.”
But still, like the disciples we are scrambling to get away, we’re reaching for crucifixes, for items of faith to give us comfort, to ward off evil, or even to put some kind of a barrier between us and this ‘ghost,’ this image of the Christ standing before us.
It has been a long and emotional day, for the disciples, the apostles, for the followers of Christ.
It started with the women coming back, just after sunrise on Easter Sunday, to say that he was risen, that he was not there.
The women, reminded by the messenger at the tomb then reminded each one of us that Jesus had to suffer and die and be raised on the 3rd day. As one translation puts it, when the women told this to the others “but this story of theirs seemed pure nonsense, and they did not believe them.” (Lk 24:11b)
From there, we have the account from ‘the Road to Emmaus,’ where two of Jesus’ followers apparently walked with Jesus, as he opened the scriptures to their understanding, as he opened their hearts to his message of love for all of humanity. (Lk 24: 13-35)
But even they didn’t get the hint that Jesus had risen from the dead, that Jesus was travelling with us, with them, until he blessed and broke the bread, over the evening meal, when they stopped for the night.
Now they’ve rushed back to Jerusalem, through the night, along a road that took them all day to cover while walking.
So they arrive dusty, winded, not able to easily catch their breath, a stitch in their sides. Yet they’re filled with wonder, with amazement, with the joy that Jesus has risen from the grave, as the women had said on Easter morning, now almost 24 hours ago.
The disciples may have said that the news the women brought was ‘stuff and nonsense’, and now, not only are they hearing the fragmented account from those who have just run back from Emmaus, as though pursued by ghosts, but we’re encountering Jesus, standing in the living room, saying “Peace be with you.”
And I know I’ve written on this before, but what, in fact do we do with this story?
How are we able to accept it? How are we able to internalize the fears and the doubts that have plagued not only our hearts, in the darkest moments of our lives, but those of Jesus’ closest followers since Good Friday?
How do we, with the benefit of 2000 years of hindsight at our beck and call, even begin to understand the terror that they’re facing, as Jesus pops in for a chat and a snack?
How do we, with all of these generations of hindsight between our lives and Jesus resurrection come to grips with how great an event this actually is for us, for the disciples, for all who believe, throughout history and into the future?
But this is why he’s here.
Jesus knows the fears, the doubts, the barriers that we establish in our minds, in our hearts, and in our lives that keep God firmly in the tomb, that keeps God as an ethereal spectre who shows up only when needed?
The truth, though, is so much greater, so much more than we had hoped, more than we could ever imagine.
Rather, it’s life changing!
Jesus is risen from the dead.
Jesus is not a ghost, but rather a whole human being, filled with love for all those whom God has given to him, including you, and me.
We saw and can understand the angst that Jesus experienced before the crucifixion. But are we ready to grasp that Jesus angst isn’t just for the pain that he would endure, but for our lives, our hearts, for our journey of faith?
How will we grasp what he has spent three years trying to teach us, yet each time we come back to “when will you give Israel back to the Israelites?” (Acts 1:6)
Are we ready, now, to grasp the depth of that love, the depths of the service that demonstrates God’s love to all of humanity?
At the same time, we can rationalize the acts of the crucifixion and his death on the cross? After all, this is where hindsight gives us an advantage.
We know that Jesus died on the cross to break the bonds of sin and death, to open to each one of us who believes, the way to heaven, to everlasting life in the light of God.
Yet, the locked room, we are still not able to grasp the ramifications, the depth of God’s love that enabled Jesus to be the sacrifice that breaks down that barrier between God and those of us who love God.
We’re still unable to see how this changes our lives, other than the fact that we’ve been sitting in these century old pews for most of our adult lives.
One fact that we often ignore, as we stare, transfixed at the death of Jesus on the cross is that “Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. And the veil of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” (Mk 15:37)
It is in, and through Jesus’ death on the cross, that God is able to break that last barrier between those who love God and those whom God loves. God does this for love of each one of us, for you and for me.
And if we consider this, that the veil was torn from the top to the bottom, only God is able to do that, because only God is great enough to have reached the top of that veil.
Still, today, we are surprised to find Jesus appearing in the locked room, as the disciples are attempting to come to grips with the news that the women were right! Coming to grips with the fact that Jesus isn’t a ghost, that he has risen from the dead!
At the same time, we’re coming to grips with how this affects every aspect of our lives, how it changes how we see and interact with the world around us, every day.
But this is the point, he is risen. He is alive! Corporeal, as we know it. The crucifixion is behind him, and here we meet the risen messiah.
He’s come back to us, to our lives, to our experiences, to our locked rooms, because he knows that we still don’t fully get what he’s trying to tell us, not just today, but every day.
And he begins with ““Peace be with you.”
… 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
(Lk 24:36c, 38-39)
He encourages our curiosity to outweigh our fears. He encourages our hearts to be aware of the love of God that surpasses the grave that shines past the sins that have the ability to obscure how we see and interact with the world around us.
But until we overcome our fears, until we realize that what we face isn’t a ghost, but rather the Son of Man resurrected, wounds and all, then Jesus is still a ghost, the women’s news still a fanciful tale, and those who rushed back from Emmaus are still delusional.
Jesus actions in the world have the ability to change our lives, to change our perceptions, to encourage us to live into Jesus teachings to all around us, challenging the systems of the world designed to keep us in fear, and under the thumb of oppression.
At the same time, Jesus love, God’s love has the ability to change our lives.
But until we are ready to accept the risen Saviour, until we are able to look at the world through Jesus eyes, eyes that no longer look at the world with fear and anxiety, it is then that we will be able to move forward, to open our hearts and minds and embrace the risen Saviour.
It is at this point that we are able to move forward in the world as the children of God. We’re able every day, to spread the love of God to all whom we meet, encounter, and love in God’s name, because Jesus is risen from the dead.