Dining with Jesus

 This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, April 14, at St. Timothy Lutheran Church. The text was Luke 24:36b-48.This has been an exciting week with the Great American eclipse, hasn't it?  We didn’t have quite the view some areas did, but it was nonetheless amazing. What has stuck with me is the concept of totality. During those few minutes, there was a distinct change in the air. Besides the darkness, the atmosphere grew tranquil, as Ray, the dogs, and I sat on the parsonage steps. 

Author, Annie Dillard wrote a poem called "Total Eclipse" that shows this.

It was an abrupt black body out of nowhere; it was a flat disk; it was almost over the sun. That is when there were screams. At once this disk of sky slid over the sun like a lid. The sky snapped over the sun like a lens cover. The hatch in the brain slammed. Abruptly it was dark night, on the land and in the sky.

People are still talking about Monday’s experience. It’s all over the news and yet, two Sundays ago we celebrated another “light” event, so much bigger, that affected not only the sky then, but each of us throughout eternity. I’m talking about Jesus’ resurrection. The resurrection wasn’t a one and done. 

I was struck by the way today’s gospel begins, “36bJesus himself stood among [the disciples].” He sent no one in his place. Jesus himself, personally brought peace to the disciples’ troubled hearts, “opened their minds to understand the scriptures,” convinced his followers he was really raised, really himself. Now they were ready, and Jesus sends them on a mission.

This is the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples and yet, they are still afraid and doubtful. How can God possibly use these people to spread His word throughout the world? The good news is that God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Jesus did not reprove his doubtful disciples, but empowered them to witness to all God had done. 

Jesus commissioned his disciples. That’s exciting, but wasn’t enough. They still needed more preparation. You would think the three years they had spent with Jesus would have been more than enough to make them ready. 

Before Jesus sends his followers into all the world, he proves that he is risen from the dead, he opens the disciples’ minds to understand scripture and THEN, sends his disciples.

Jesus proves he is risen. He also made it clear that he was not a ghost (v. 39). God really resurrected Jesus from the dead, and Jesus also wanted to show his disciples that it was really him, the Lord they had known and followed for three years. Jesus was really real and he would prove it. 

Jesus’ first proof was his hands and feet, still bearing the marks of his crucifixion. “If the Jesus who died belongs [only] to the historical past but the one the disciples [see] now and follow is the eternal Christ¦[then we have a] spirituality without suffering for others, without a cross, without any engagement of issues of life in this world, all the while expressing devotion to a living, spiritual Christ.” Jesus’ body witnesses against discipleship that cannot endure scars on behalf of others (Craddock).

This first proof did not produce faith, but continued unbelief and amazement. There’s a funny reason and source of this unbelief and amazement. It was “their joy” (v. 41). The Revised English Bible states, “for it seemed too good to be true.” 

Now, Jesus asks for food! In the previous appearance story in Emmaus, Jesus’ act of eating with those disciples opened up their eyes to see the truth about him. He ate broiled fish. Aren’t we glad that Holy Communion consists of bread and wine instead of fish and wine?

Jesus’ risen presence somehow differed from his appearance when he lived and walked among his disciples. Jesus was not initially recognized as himself in any of his post-resurrection appearances. 

Jesus opens his disciples’ minds to understand the scriptures. Nothing new is taught. There is a continuity between the words of the risen Christ and the pre-crucifixion Jesus. Jesus told the disciples, “These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you” (v. 44). The word alone is not enough to open the minds and hearts of the disciples. One’s mind must be opened by Jesus to properly understand the scriptures. 

Jesus showed that the Hebrew Scriptures taught that the messiah was to suffer and to be raised from the dead on the third day. Repentance leading to the forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in Jesus’ name. 

Jesus sends his disciples. Verse 46 states, “Thus it is written,” meaning this has been God’s plan all along. 

We may wonder if that gift is one that people of today are even interested in; and yet, don’t we often hear of how much people are struggling with guilt? Freedom from guilt comes from repentance and forgiveness. 

Jesus does not leave these disciples or us on our own, but gives us each a promise. Luke’s writing (including Acts) continually emphasizes the Holy Spirit empowering the church for its mission in the world. This Spirit moved the church into areas in which it would not have normally engaged, particularly regarding Gentile believers. 

Jesus said his followers were “witnesses of these things” (v. 48), his life, death and resurrection, as well as Jesus’ teaching and the witness of the scriptures. Resurrection and scripture go together, and resurrection and mission go together. 

Being a witness is not a command telling us what to do as much as a statement about who we are. We may be good or bad witnesses, but we are witnesses nevertheless. We, too, are to witness to God’s ongoing plan revealed in scripture, namely the suffering of the Messiah, Jesus’ resurrection, and the proclamation of repentance that leads to forgiveness. 

We can only witness to that which we have experienced. In order to see the hearts of others transformed, our own witness must come from changed hearts. We are made God’s own in baptism, but we cannot stop there. We need to study God’s word, remain in fellowship and engage in the means of grace, the sacraments. Our witness is for all nations, beginning in our own Jerusalem, right where we are now. If God could work through the poor and slaves as well as the wealthy, can’t God work through us too?

As God captures our hearts, we cannot help but respond to God’s mission for us to be witnesses of God’s love and salvation. We demonstrate this by our actions (the 5 & 2 Ministry, as well as so many other things). “Bathed in the waters of baptism, you are placed in God's path of totality, a path he won for each and every one of us” (Kelsi Klembara, 1517.org). 

Amen!

Resources 


Charles B. Cousar, Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV-Year B


Fred Craddock, Luke, Interpretation.

 

John Fairless and Delmer Chilton, The Lectionary Lab Commentary


Brian Stoffregen, crossmarks.com


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