Thursday, May 05, 2011

April 27, 2011 - Wednesday after Easter - St. Luke 24:36-49

The fact of the matter is, the disciples just weren't sure what had happened. They didn't believe it. They didn't get it. When Jesus appeared to them, they thought they were looking at a ghost. So what better way to prove that He is still a man even though He was dead and is now alive, than having something to eat. The disciples are amazed, confused, bewildered, frightened and there's Jesus: “You got anything to eat?” Then they realized that this was the same Jesus in the flesh, with flesh and bone, who was alive even though he had been dead. Then He opens their hearts so that they would understand as He explained to them how everything that went down was according to the Scriptures. Then it all came together and they understood that Jesus' death and resurrection were all foretold in the Old Testament. They Jesus sent them into the world as His witnesses to preach and teach that He suffered and died and rose for sinners and that repentance and the forgiveness of sins are given in His name. In other words, salvation comes from the One who died and who was alive on the third day—Jesus!

Now we need to understand something. There are teachings in the Bible that are important, but if you didn't know them, you can still be saved. For example, in the book of Genesis, we learn that Nimrod was a mighty hunter. Now, you can be saved without knowing anything about Nimrod. But there are teachings which are central to the faith and without knowing them, we cannot have eternal life. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is one of these. If someone denies that Jesus rose bodily from the dead, they are no Christian. Christ was and is truly alive on Easter and ever since. In fact, the resurrection stands at the heart of the Christian faith. If Jesus didn't really rise from the dead, we're all just fools in a silly religion. But Jesus DID rise from the dead and that means that sin and death have been taken care of for you. It means death cannot hold you down. You will rise too. Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross but it is by His resurrection that He demonstrates that death and the power of sin are truly overthrown. Without the resurrection, we have nothing. With the resurrection, we have salvation and everlasting life.

Now it's all well that the disciples can see Jesus enjoying his broiled fish and can see his nail holes to believe that He is really and truly alive. But what about us? We haven't seen Him like they did? That's why Jesus tells them, “You're my witnesses to the ends of the earth.” The apostles don't just tell others what they've seen and heard, they tell future generations by writing it down. By reading it in the Scriptures, it's as if we're hearing it from them ourselves. Think about it. How many of you knew your great-great-great-grandmothers? But you believe in THEM don't you? Isn't it funny how people in the world can talk about Henry VIII or Julius Caesar or Genghis Khan or any other person in history as if they really lived, but when it comes to Jesus they want to argue that it's all made up or just stories! No! We have EYE-WITNESSES. And because they saw and wrote it down, the Spirit uses that Word to teach us that Jesus died for us and rose again too. By that Word, that preaching of repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus' name, the Spirit creates faith and trust in us which clings to Christ even though we haven't seen Him with our eyes as the disciples did. Such faith and trust is a gift which believes that Jesus has taken away all our sins and gives us everlasting life. After all, if he rose from the dead, our bodies will rise from the dead too, for that's what our Baptism promises to us because of that same forgiveness of sins!

Jesus doesn't just die on the cross and rise again and let a few people know it! He shows Himself to His apostles so that they will show Him to us by the Word. Jesus doesn't leave us guess but shows us plainly and clearly by His Word that He is alive. By water and the word and also in His Supper, the risen Christ comes to us and lets us see Him with the eyes of faith. While it may not be with our eyes, we have the eyes of the witnesses who have written it down for us so that there can be no doubt. And having that word, we have what it says: repentance and the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus who died and rose; who ate fish and fulfilled the Scriptures; who is even today alive and will come again. That's why when we say the Easter greeting we add that great big INDEED! Christ is risen! He is risen INDEED! Alleluia! In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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