Sermon for April 18, 2021 Third of Easter “You are Witnessing”
The resurrection of Jesus was and is an amazing truth. Last week we heard in John 20 “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side.” And this week we hear in Luke 24 “While they were talking about this (Simon and Cleopas taking about meeting Jesus on the Emmaus Road), Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.”
The account of Jesus after the resurrection is told from the perspective of a variety of authors in many differing contexts, I think, so that we can believe in resurrection. Like Thomas we are prone to wanting proof. We are suspicious of one account but when we hear the same account from a variety of sources then our capacity to believe grows. The terror and startling nature of the appearance of Jesus has not really dulled over the past two millennium.
For us 21st century believers, the terror is not persecution by the Romans or persecution by anyone for that matter. What seems to cause us terror is that we might be found out as being Christian, that we might actually have to explain ourselves, that we might have to live as though believing in a living Jesus makes a difference or that we might have to live up to the high calling of Jesus. What gives us fits is that we might be found out.
I learned this week the for Jews in Jesus day, all boys had to memorize the Torah (the first five books of the Bible before they were eight, and the same is true for Jews even today except now girls are included. Can you imagine have to memorize the Gospels before you were eight! We might argue that there is an app for that but then how many actually have the app? And how many use it?
I am sure the math teachers would argue that knowing the plus, minus, division and multiplication is much preferred to always using the app (think Calculator), or the music teacher would rather you learn the notes than pull out the playlist. So the preacher and teacher of scripture would rather you know the Bible rather than just dig out the app when the mood strikes.
There may be other terrors that await the Christian but I am convinced that there are none that Jesus cannot allay. All you need do is ask. And if that is not enough then Jesus will simply ask ‘why are you frightened and why the doubts?’ The Christian life is not a one-way street where we are the ones served with a golden spoon. Jesus asks a lot of us and he knows that by times, what we are called to do will be hard and move us from our comfort zones. And Jesus knows that we can do what is asked of us…Today it is to be a witness to the living Jesus.
Did you hear the Gospel for today? ‘Thus is it written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’
You are witnesses of these things. This truth that Jesus lives and can change lives for good is our work, our witness. Jesus only taught love, only asked us to love and in Jesus day and today all we do is bully him and discredit him and cause his heart and body great suffering. For me what makes my and our actions a bitter pill to swallow, is that Jesus knew we would behave just as we have. And still the love is so great and forgiveness so real, that he rose from the dead to assure us that the worst we can do will not diminish his great love for us. Love and forgiveness is what you have witnessed at Easter. It is the message that we are witnessing to in our day. By our lives, our open hearts, our wading into scary places and yes overcoming our fear that our neighbour just might find out.
But it all begins with Jesus…for he named you, redeemed you and calls you to witness.