Resurrection Appearances

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Luke 24:36b-48
3rd Sunday of Easter
SMAS 10.30 Morning Worship
(22.4.12)

Let me set the scene a little before we have our Bible reading. This takes place at the end of the day when it has been discovered that Jesus’ tomb is empty. He has by now appeared risen from the dead to some of the disciples. They have rushed off to Jerusalem to tell the rest of the disciples this amazing news.

This, then, is where our Bible Reading begin. Luke 24:36b-48

Some people wonder why the disciples are startled and frightened. I think it’s reasonably understandeable. When someone close to us dies we usually are in a state of confusion. Jesus calms and reassures them. Asking the reasoning for their being troubled and their questionings He brings their doubts out into the open and shows them His body is real. He even eats with them - they become joyful in their disbelief!

He goes onto tell them that all that had happened was all foreshadowed in the Old Testament. Prior to His death He had taught them about this but they had not understood. He goes on to open up their minds and show them that the Bible points to a Messiah who would suffer and die. He goes further than just telling them how Old Testament prophecy is fulfilled by explaining that the preaching of repentance and the forgiveness of sins is there too and that it is in HIS name. He actually connects it with His work on the cross.

What can we learn from this passage today? I wonder how many of you think you’ve heard it all before - its all part of the Christian story, you know it and that’s that? Let me explain how it can help us encounter Christ in this passage as the REAL and living person He was to them and still is to us. Lets face it most people are unaware that they can personally get to know Jesus – and I’m not just talking about people outside of church either.

The various resurrection appearances have much in common. They begin with an encounter which is met by a failure to recognise Jesus. Jesus then has to reassure them and reveal Himself for those who don’t easily recognise Him. Mary had thought He was the gardener, the two disciples He’d met on the Emmaus Road had thought He was a stranger and now the disciples in our reading think He’s a ghost.

Now there’s a thing – a ghost. I wonder when you last met a ghost? Perhaps you never have? Perhaps you don’t believe in them? I often come up against them. Sadly many times because the human residents of the house have dabbled with mediums or clairvoyants. This was very prevalent in my last parish because the medium that Princess Diana used to consult lived in the village. Also we had a pub which held clairvoyant sessions. Why do people dabble in these things? Well it’s usally wanting to know some peace in the here and now.

Something might be wrong in their life and they want to know what’s going to happen – or what’s happened to a departed loved one.

Mediums really can make contact with the afterlife – the Bible even tells us this is so. But the Bible is very forthright in its condemnation of our seeking out people who have passed on. Mostly because we should put our trust in the living God and not a dead person. Also because the devil loves to masquerade as an ‘angel of light’ and assume the identity of someone who has died.

But the disciples had the ONE and ONLY first hand witness of the afterlife. But Jesus is not a ghost, He reassures them by letting them touch His physical body, see His wounds (not scars!) and also He ate with them. Jesus is the ONLY person to have physically risen from the dead, three days after He died. This means we can trust Him – and it means that we can have a hope in the resurrection of our bodies to eternal life.

Another thing Jesus does to reassure them is He gives them peace. Now this is not a worldly type of peace which we get by an absence of fighting, agruing or noise. This is shalom. A peace that can weather the storms of life because we have a certain hope that God is in control, and our eternal destiny is in His hands. A peace that has conquered death and comes from the knowledge that there’s more to life than what we can see, hear and touch.

Those first disciples were confused, fearful, uncertain. The resurrection of Jesus and the power of His Spirit transformed them into preachers who boldly spoke of a certain hope. As the disciples of Jesus today we can know His peace and his power in our hearts.

The next thing an encounter with Jesus gives is joy. Joy is a natural byproduct of peace. Joy is always better than happiness. The world wants happiness and fun. Happiness depends on what’s happening around us. Joy comes from inner peace. Fun disappears when we're sad, but we can have inner joy even in heartbreak. When we lose a Christian loved one, we're sad; but have joy knowing they’re with God.

We often wants God to change our circumstances, whereas He wants instead to change our character. Joy that comes from God enriches our lives and enables us to feel secure even when our circumstances are shaky.

Easter is about victory over death. We have joy in knowing that Jesus holds the keys of death and hell. People fear and deny death - but for Christians, death is a non-issue, because we possess the joy of Easter.

So hope, reassurance, peace and joy are offered in these resurrection appearances. But something else too. Jesus offers an explanation using scripture, (Old Testament) and the disciples eyes are opened to see Christ before He departs again.

The two people that Jesus had met on the road to Emmaus (just before this passage) had talked to Jesus and listened to Him. They asked Jesus to come home with them. They had been won by the Word of God without even knowing who the ‘stranger was’. All they knew was that their hearts were “burning” within them, and they wanted the blessing to last.

Jesus explained the Bible to them, and opened their eyes so that they recognized Him. Now they knew for themselves that Jesus was alive. They had the evidence of the open tomb, the angels, the witnesses, the Scriptures and now their own personal experience with the Lord. The fact that Jesus vanished did not mean that He abandoned them, for He was with them even though they could not see Him; and they would see Him again.

The Word of God is a wonderful all-time source of peace and assurance, so Jesus helped them to understand it. He also reminded them of what He had taught them, and He explained how it all fitted together. Now they began to understand the necessity for His suffering and death and how the Cross related to the promise of the kingdom.

Over the centuries God’s people often find themselves in a similar state of uncertainity about recognising Jesus and knowing where are we supposed to be going? What are we supposed to be doing? What are we about? What are we for?

And this brings us to the final part of these resurrection appearances – witness. Because Jesus tells those He meets to go out and be witnesses. Interestingly the one encounter He didn’t do this was with the two on the Emmaus Road. However their natural reaction to meeting Christ was to rush straight off to the disciples in Jerusalem. All of the other occasions have Jesus telling them to go and tell. In this passage today He tells them to wait first for power from on high, the Holy Spirit. Sadly not many people seem to get beyond the waiting. But that, and the Holy Spirit will be the subject of other talks.

For today let us realize that it is in meeting and not quite recognizing Jesus that we are able to enter the story. We might come with our doubts, confusions, fears and misunderstandings. Each week, through worship we can encounter the risen Christ. In the reciting of the scriptures and the preached word we are offered explanation of the good news of what God has and is doing. If we our hearts and minds to this can be set on fire.