Sermon for 3rd Easter April 15 2018

The Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year B
April 15, 2018
The Rev. Evelyn Wheeler, Rector

Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48

Why were they there together?  Here’s what happened, according to Luke, in the hours leading up to today’s scripture passage.

Jesus had died on the cross.  Joseph of Arimathea had taken his body and placed it in a tomb.  Some of the women saw where he was laid.

After the Passover, after the Sabbath, they came, early in the morning to wash Jesus’ body – and found the tomb open and Jesus’ body gone. Instead they were greeted by “two men in shining clothes” who said he was gone – risen, as he said.  The women went back to tell the others, but the others didn’t believe them.  Simon Peter went to the tomb, and saw it was empty, but did not see any heavenly visitors, so he just went home, puzzled.

Two disciples were walking back to their home in Emmaus, mourning the death of their friend; when a third man joined them, and asked them why they were sad.  When they told him, this man said that the Scriptures had foretold all that had happened.  When they all arrive in Emmaus, the disciples invited him into their home for the night, and at the evening meal, he took the bread, blessed the bread, and broke the bread, and they realized who he was. And he disappeared.

They immediately hurried back to Jerusalem to tell the others, but this time the others said Jesus had appeared to Simon.

And while they were all trying to figure out what was going on, suddenly, Jesus was there among them.  Peace be with you.

They didn’t know what to think.  I wouldn’t have either, I’m quite sure.  He invited them to look and see and touch – not just “It is I,” but “It is my body.”  It was real.

It was unheard of.  As final evidence of his embodied reality, he asked them for something to eat, and ate it in their presence.

Joyful, they were still confused.  So he opened their minds and told them – as he had told the two on the road to Emmaus – that Scripture had foretold all that must happen and more besides – “that the repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

And, finally he said, “You are all witnesses of these things.”

Luke has a couple purposes here:

First, to make sure that we know that Jesus was raised in his body, the human body that they knew, the human body that human beings hung on a cross, the human body that died on the cross, the human body that was buried … was the human body that appeared among them and stood before them, and shared food, or at least a bite of fish, with them.

Jesus, fully human, was in life and after the resurrection, no mere appearance or seeming; even though he was also the Son of God.

Amazed still, confused still, but joyful now, they wondered, still.  Until he explained the Scripture texts and showed them all this was the plan of salvation for those whom God calls.

They were transformed.

We know this because of how they became the witnesses he declared them to be, as Luke tells us in the Book of Acts.

No longer afraid.
No longer silent.
No longer confused.

Transformed they were, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, with the final teachings of Jesus found in their Scriptures.

Luke’s first purpose is to tell us of Jesus resurrected.

His second purpose is to tell us of disciples transformed.

People have been transformed in faith in all the centuries since – transformed, un-feared, en-couraged, and moved to live their lives in new ways:  loving God, loving neighbor, and loving themselves; accepting the challenge of Jesus’ call to be a witness.

The power of God to transform our hearts and minds is not diminished even yet.

Jesus came to us as one of us so we would know that even now, in our bodies, in this life, in this creation, we are loved, and we love.

The ultimate point of Luke’s story is: we are all called to follow what is good, what is kind, that is gentle, all that is faithful and patient and joyful and peaceful and patient, to allow the Spirit’s gifts fill us and overflow into the world around us, not just spiritually, but physically, in our bodies, in this space, in our places in this life.


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