Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter April 19, 2015 Preacher: The Rev. Bret B. Hays
I can’t say I’ve ever tried shooting fish in a barrel, so I can’t vouch for how easy it truly is. But like most preachers, I have scored some easy points by pointing out that Jesus’s disciples failed to understand things Jesus said or did whose meaning seems obvious to us. It’s certainly true that we benefit from two thousand years of familiarity with the Gospel stories. We benefit too from the dedicated labors of the greatest minds in history, trying to make sense of these events and from them work out a systematic, consistent theology. But let us also remember that for the eyewitnesses of Jesus’s public ministry, much of what he said and did was bizarre and incomprehensible, and bizarre and incomprehensible things do not automatically make sense just because they have been around for a long time.
So is it hard to believe that God had a hand in the transition from the inscrutable to the familiar? Luke certainly thought so. In today’s dramatic scene, Jesus must act in order for the disciples to understand. At first they thought he was a ghost; he acted, speaking to his old friends with compassion, and sharing table fellowship with them, as he had dome many times before. Even the menu was familiar. Jesus turned this gathering from one of acute fear to one of great joy. This reunion stands as a welcome counterbalance to the gravity of the Last Supper, which, in light of this story, now seems like something of a misnomer. Jesus demonstrated beyond any doubt that it was he, that he had risen, and that his triumph over death was complete — that all that he had, his spirit, mind, essence, and body, had returned from the grave, newly alive, never to die again.
Then he did something even greater, and perhaps, more strange and mysterious. He opened their minds to understand the scriptures. He had to wait until after his resurrection because his triumph over death is the fulfillment of the scriptures and the proof of God’s sovereignty. In his resurrected body, Jesus shows us something about God that had never been revealed before: the extent of God’s love of life, the nature of that life, and the destiny of every living thing. The cosmic questions raised in Scripture have their answers revealed in this man, in his body and blood, his spirit and his words. God did not create every living thing in order for them to die. God did not create this majestic, elegant universe to serve as a cemetery. Life is the point of creation, not death. Death mocks God, and God has a track record of humbling those who do that. So God shows us in Jesus that life and love are stronger than death and destruction, and that God will raise up life again to glorify God, rendering a complete and final victory for God and for the life God has created.
In the person of Christ, all scripture, and indeed all that is, finds new meaning, new profundity, and new hope, for Christ shows that all creation is worthy of redemption, so beloved as to merit eternal life. And this new meaning comes with a new mission for Christ’s followers: to take part in God’s plan of reconciliation. Jesus said that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in God’s name to all nations. What began in Jerusalem is intended for all the world. Jesus calls upon all of us to carry the good news of Easter into all the world, and to change the way we live our lives by sharing forgiveness with those who have done us wrong, just as God has forgiven us our sins through Christ.
There is no grounds for delay, no place to hide from the pure bright light of the resurrection. We can’t claim ignorance or misunderstanding. We are witnesses, and Christ has opened our minds to understand what we have seen. We are bearers of the light, with the joyful task of sharing the light of the world with the world, proclaiming the good news of resurrection in every good word of hope and encouragement, and in every good work of repentance and forgiveness.