Sermon, Easter 4B, Sunday April 15, 2018. St Petri.
Luke 24: 36-4836 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 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.’40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.44 He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.48 You are witnesses of these things.http://stpetri.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/20180415_message.mp3
Ghosts don’t seem to do much for you other than scare the heck out of you. The only movie I ever enjoyed about ghosts was that funny 80’s movie, “Ghostbusters”. There was the other move; “Ghost”, with the late Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. That was all a bit much for me, not because of being scary but because of schmaltz!
As for ghost horror movies and stories? I never saw the point of having your mind thrown into fear and confusion. There is enough of that going on anyway! We don’t need movie to ramp up the fear and the disbelief in what is real and true. We humans seem to find it easy to get lost in what is unreal and untrue.
This small band of sisters and brothers in post-Crucifixion Jerusalem saw plenty that was real and true – and it was scary. The real thing always is so much more.
I often wonder whether these people were dealing with deep post traumatic stress syndrome. The violence, brutality and injustice of what others did to their mentor, their friend, and in Mary’s case, her son, must have been traumatic to the core.
Like friends and family sticking close together at the funeral, these grieving people are simply being together in that city apartment this Sunday night.
I want to go easy on them. They are only human.
Grief’s curtains had begun to be drawn – just a bit. Joanna and Mary M had already seen that tomb and the gardener, and angels…. But as Luke says;
“…they (the 11) did not believe the women, because their words seemed like nonsense” (Luke 24:11).
But Peter goes. He sees. He comes away wondering… Wondering is the beginning of believing.
Then two associates turn up after sundown with some news – news that would be easy to fob off as mere ‘fake news’.
“He is alive. We saw him. He made our hearts burn. He took what we know and opened up our horizon on everything we knew and extended it”.
But it is still only the beginning of the return. They are only human. It takes a while…
And then those words; those words they have heard and spoken themselves at a thousand family BBQ’s come…. “Peace be with you”. “Shalom la ka”.
But different here in this space. This is not mere “G’day mate, Howzit goin’”. This peace greeting is spoken by the Peace himself – in this room. Peace is doing peace, giving peace. Strange though; Peace causes them just the opposite!
“Startled and frightened”, like a rabbit in the headlights, they are. This scary because it is not a movie. It is real, and it is happening. The real thing is always more than the theory thing.
This has happened before. Remember the night out on the stormy sea……? It was him then. Could this be him now – in all the trauma and the guilt and the fear?
Before we comment…… Why wouldn’t you think you are seeing a ghost? The last time they saw him he was unrecognisably beaten to a pulp by ferocious and powerful system of control, mangled beyond human and dead, dead, dead. You can’t change death. We are only human.
This “Ghost” needs to do some convincing. He does.
“Look. Touch. See, it is me”.
But even a man rising from the dead would not convince them, Jesus had said to his hometown crowd a few years back (Luke 16:31). Even that greatest of miracles is not enough by itself. Words need to be spoken with the miracles, otherwise they are just party tricks that can lead you nowhere light….
“Look. Touch. See”, plus one: now He asks something from them. Just like he did on that grassy slope up by their hometown lake when that huge crowd needed feeding: “Do you have anything to eat?”. “Yes”. He eats this roasted fish in their presence.
Jaws drop. Maybe pennies begin to drop. Surely THAT meal in THAT room on THAT night comes flooding into their bodies too. “This is my body, this is my blood – for what? For a new covenant – a new relationship of forgiveness between us; a new way to be together – a new way to be human, no longer trying to be ‘like god’ but God becoming human as we are now, and always….
So the rabbits in the headlight move from being startled and frightened to rising joy and amazement. But Luke tells us that it is still not quite unrestrained, unhitched, fearless joy that comes with fearless belief. This is not the Doubter Thomas’ free-form unbridled faith of “My Lord and my God” …… yet.
What is going to make you forget yourself and your world of tasks and troubles and temptations now, and see, touch, taste and receive him like invites you to? Luke makes it clear: Words. Human words from this human God make it real and now.
The Defib pads are applied…
“He opened their minds so they could understand what? “The Scriptures”.
Words: Holy words. Moses, Prophets and Psalms – the whole lot – now like a surging Kimberly water course converging through a narrow gap into the wild, free sea, all of time has flooding to this moment in this man who is much more than the expected ‘bag of bones’ as we say. His bones still have flesh and more importantly, words.
Friends, by these words can I say;
Jesus is no mere temporary human who like a sci-fi character in a movie, puts on a human disguise temporality to speak with us to achieve his goals. He is the new Adam, the new man, the new human, before all this and after this. He is bodily resurrected. He is still human and remains so.
So, the writer the Hebrews can say that we have a Great High Priest who is us – human, tempted, familiar with all of me; my fears, my darkness, my endless temptation to love God’s gifts above God himself. If that is true, then I can speak my fears and ask my questions why with Doubter Thomas’ freedom.
Jesus is no shape-shifter, no mere ghost without form or clear words. This human God rose from the pit in-tact, still human, flesh and bone.
So, our human flesh and bone matters to God. All matter matters. This environment, these seas, these ecosystems, this Valley, these human babies, children young people, middle agers and strong 85’ers matter! You matter and your matter matters. So, handle with care, he says – yours and theirs.
Renee Descarte, the 17th century Swedish rationalist philosopher was dead wrong. He famously concluded, “I think, therefore I am”. As if it is only our mind that truly makes us human. Not true.
Many others, ancient and now would say that it is only our spirit that makes us human – it lasts forever and therefore the body is not worth too much trouble because it has no place in God’s space. Wrong!
Jesus says, that like him in this city room, YOU make YOU human and HE makes you NEW HUMAN. All of you – body, mind, spirit.
“All of you is transformed by all of me – physical, emotional, psychological, biological, sexual, intellectual”, says Peace.
Your baptism into this Crucified and Resurrected Prince of Peace frees you from fearful fashion, peaceless people pleasing and the grinding work being ‘good’. You don’t need to be good. You don’t need to be bad. You just need to be made new – new human – and you have been.
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are (1 John 3:1)
So, what does he call us to do with this moment?
“Witnesses” he names us again this morning. Witnesses who are his flesh and bones in a scary world with all of its unreal words spoken in real grief, real suffering, real pain, real arrogance, real violence, real injustice.
“Look. Touch. See”. “Listen and Eat”, he beckons, and we “sprechen”!
Wondering is the beginning of believing.
Let yourself wonder today.
Help them wonder.
Help them Look. Help them touch. Help them see. Help them listen and eat.
He knows you are only human. But so is he.
He is no ghost. He is the real thing. So are we.
Peace be with you.
Read the text aloud slowly taking not of who says what and picturing the scene. Ask yourself, 1) What would you ask a bible expert if he was in your room, and 2) what made my imagination fire up as I listened?
Luke 24: 36-4836 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 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.’40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, ‘Do you have anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.44 He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.48 You are witnesses of these things.
It is probably best to read the passage before this since the Easter Dawn account to see how the appearances of Jesus work. They are similar and yet all different. See if you can compare the appearance of Jesus to the first people at the tomb, then the two people on the road to Emmaus and now to the disciples in the room u=in the city.
What are the differences? How are they similar?
When you hear those words, “peace be with you”, what comes to your mind? How do you experience Jesus’ peace in an ordinary day/week? What means does he use to give you his peace?
It is a staggering thing to believe that Jesus remained human AFTER he was resurrected. It flies in the face of much Christian thought in various communities. So many assume that Jesus is now “up in heaven’ and ‘spirit only”. If that is the case, then what is this whole account of his appearing really about? Why does he eat? Why does he show them his flesh wounds? Surely it is to show them that it is still really him – the man Jesus and yet also of course, God’s Son – divine. This is illogical and cannot be measured by empirical evidence. You can only receive this by faith in his words.
If Jesus is still human after his resurrection, then I suggested that this means a great deal.
He was human before all of this and remained after all of this. Therefore, being human is not a bad/evil thing! Being human is a gift. Indeed, humans are the very pinnacle of God’s creative love. We are indeed ‘made in his image’.
It means that what is matter and what is spirit BOTH matter. Death is not simply flying away to escape the body but being mad new body, spirit and mind. We say every Sunday “I believe….in the resurrection of the body”. See 1 Corinthians 15 for Paul’s extended treatment of what this means for us now.
Jesus being human still means that he really ‘gets’ us still. See Hebrews 4: 14 onward for a clearer picture of this. This means that we can definitely pour out our hearts to him in our need and hear from him in our need knowing that he understands the sin and the struggle and the weakness, but remains the One who prays for us, gives us his hard-won forgiveness and sweet peace.
It also means that God in indeed a person, not a concept or a theory. God is a human and divine reality that acts and speaks and does in our day. He has not left us to get on with the task of living life alone. He is involved and aware.
How do you find these things? Comforting? Challenging? Other……?
He names us ‘witnesses’. We are people who give testimony to his peace breathed into us at baptism and every day since. How have you given testimony to a friend or stranger lately and what are your reflections/learnings on that? Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15-16 to go right ahead and always be ready to speak a word of explanation for the peace and hope we have in Jesus’ resurrection over our death – bit do so with gentleness and respect for the other. How might you go about this more at your work, in your family, when out socially?
Jesus, come and stand among us
We will speak what you tell us
We will go where you go.
You are risen, risen;
You were dead but now you live.
We were lost but you have found us
For the life you give.
(From “Jesus, come and stand among us” Words: © Robin Mann)