Third Sunday Of Easter
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence. 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
“Get Your Life Back”
Sermon on Luke 24:36-49
Donovan A. Drake
The risen Lord has surprised the women who came to the tomb. The risen Lord has surprised the two on the road to Emmaus. And now…
Luke 24: 36-49
36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence. 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
It is easy to believe in Good Friday. I think Christians and atheists have no problem believing Jesus died; after all, “Bad things happen to good people.” Believe it? We know it.
Many, if not all of us, know that when someone you love dies, life falls apart. Pieces everywhere. And then, usually, after a while, you make small moves to get your life back.
I know people who, over years, have cared for an aging parent. The focus of their life, the pattern of their life, is all about mom or all about dad. Leaving the house isn’t without concern. Leaving him with a caregiver isn’t without concern. The calendar is filled with trips to the doctor, going to the pharmacy, remembering to pay the taxes, keeping up and cleaning up. So much love. So much care. So much, that it can be too much. Then it happens. Death. All that time put in for care and worry, and now it’s gone. Your muscles and nervous system have been conditioned to the stress of it all, and now it’s gone. All the care and love has occupied a space in your brain, and now it’s gone. Weeping is what appears.
And after that great grief, you begin to try to figure out how to get your life back.
Sometimes, the days after death are filled with guilt. Sometimes they’re filled with bitterness. I have had the experience of asking a daughter or a son, “What can you tell me about your mom?” All that bubbled up was all the pain. “The last few years have been really hard. Mom wasn’t like mom. She got mean. She said things. I said things.”
“Can you tell me about your mom, before she got really bad?”
“It’s hard to remember.” And then they remember. Sometimes you have to bury the bad days in order to get your life back.
We find in these scriptures after Easter, stories of the followers of Jesus trying to get their lives back. I suspect they had to figure out what life. What was life? Only three years earlier they had jobs. They were making a living and then, out of nowhere, a call.
And the things that were impossible to believe, well, you better believe it.
The lepers are cleansed, the lame walk, the blind see, the storm stilled, the multitudes of the hungry are fed, the low are lifted up, the unforgivable is forgiven, the lost are found, the prodigal gets a party! Such is the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven. And then… Cross! Tomb! Death!
It does not take any faith at all to believe that good people die. It doesn’t take any faith to know tragedy! Quick as a gunshot. Quick as a gunshot. Quick as a gunshot. Quick as a gunshot. Quick as a gunshot. Quick as a gunshot. Quick as a gunshot. Quick as a gunshot.
I heard someone speak recently to the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, who’ve known tragedy after one of the mass killings. He was talking to people about what he knew of deep grief. He said, “When I was confronted by my sudden losses…I realized how someone could consciously commit suicide. Not because they were deranged, not because they were nuts. But, because they had been to the top of the mountain, and they just knew in their heart they’d never get there again. It was never going to be that way, ever again.”
But, he said, “There will come a day, when the thought of your son or daughter, husband or wife, will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen. My prayer is that the day will come sooner rather than later… but I’m telling you, it will come.”
I don’t think he was saying “time heals all wounds.” It seems to me the wounds are still there, and are just part of getting your life back. It takes time. That’s what makes what we believe so hard to believe. Jesus dies, and then three days later, gets his life back. No one on earth has the experience of getting the love of their life back from the dead. Jesus comes back!
He’s not a ghost! The gospel writer seems intent on making sure we know this isn’t an apparition.
See! He’s not a ghost, he has wounds. Look! He’s not a ghost. He’s hungry. Listen up! He’s not a ghost. It’s his voice. The pattern of his words are the same. He tells the stories we’ve heard before. He’s keeping true to his word.
Now that’s the kicker. After the cross, Jesus stays true to his word. Jesus didn’t come back and say, “You know, after the nails, after taking a spear in the side, after the thorny crown, after vinegar on a stick, after the taunts and the humiliation, I’ve rethought everything I said during my time with you, and let me tell you, I got it wrong. I was so wrong. I’m mad as hell. Come on! It’s eye-for-an-eye time!”
No. True to his word.
Bloody and wounded, his voice was the same, his words were the same. “Peace be with you.” He got his old life back! He opened up the scriptures. He got his old life back. I suspect he brought up the greatest commandments. That you love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.” I suspect he couldn’t help to tell the story of the young man who ran away from his daddy to discover the good life, only to realize he spent his life on nothing.
Then he realized that life had to do with dad, and he came back home to get his life back. “I thought you were dead, but you are alive again.”
He got his life back. It’s the same life. Same words, same mercy, same hope, same joy, same Jesus, but the cross changed everything. Body and blood broken for you. Death. And the whisper of God in a dark tomb, “Arise, my child.” The power of the resurrection gave Jesus the authority to get our lives back.
And we are witnesses to these things.
Someone asked me this week whether I believed in the physical resurrection of the body of Jesus. I said, “Yes.” Doesn’t that make you feel better? He said, “I don’t want to believe in magic.” I said, “I don’t want to believe in magic either, but I do want to believe in the mystery of it all.” I said, “I can’t begin to explain the bodily resurrection any more than I can begin to explain the creation of gravity. I know gravity has it’s pull. I know there is the law of gravity. But how? That’s still a theory. One day they may know, but now they’re on the trail of a mystery.
This is what I know. Without faith in the mystery of the resurrection, there is just “old life.” Old life keeps God small. Old life believes that returning evil-for-evil somehow soothes the soul.
Old life believes might makes right. Old life believes some people are better than others. Whites are supreme over blacks. Asians can be called out and attacked. You can kill a Jew because you can kill a Jew. Old life makes laws out of fear. Old life believes “they” have it out for you. So, don’t think of letting them play ball. Keep them out of the schools. Out of the neighborhood. Out of your country. Out. Keep them out. You got to keep your life. Your old life.
But you can’t! I had a parishioner tell me, “I spent thousands of dollars on a security system, and then I got a divorce, and my wife took everything.” Now he’s trying to get his life back.
I like the mystery. I like the way the voice of Jesus understands all our pain, all the wounds, all the things we messed up, and says, “Arise! My child.” And in that great mystery, I believe because I know. I know the blind see, the lame walk, the food bank gets full, the lies die in the light, the prodigal gets a party… and everyone and everything gets their life back.
Copyright©Donovan A. Drake 2021