the one about a witness...
April 16, 2018, 8:07 AM

Sermon from April 15, 2018

Text: Luke 24: 36b-48

Grace and peace to each of you this morning in the name of God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Risen Christ! Will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, as you heard the gospel this morning, how many of you thought, “Didn’t we hear this one last week?” If you noticed – and hopefully you did today’s gospel reading is very similar to the gospel reading from last Sunday. Today we read from the Gospel of Luke, last Sunday our gospel was from John.

In both stories we are told that the disciples are gathered somewhere together – possibly away from others. This is still all very close to the time after Jesus’ resurrection. Emotions are still high, there is still a lot of confusion, doubt, and worry going around. Not to mention, there is still a heavy sense of fear as well.

In the midst of this moment of chaos – again – we hear that Jesus makes an appearance with his disciples.

I always chuckle a little bit when Jesus appears, and the disciples freak out and become terrified. I don’t think it’s funny because they are so silly. I chuckle because I too would probably be afraid. Imagine if you’re the disciples – the guy who you said you’d follow to the end, but when that eventual end came how did you react? Did you stand by him? Or did you turn tale and run? We know how the disciples acted, they really didn’t stick around, but hung back in hiding. Naturally, if the guy you abandoned in his desperate hour came back to be with you – you’d be scared.

I chuckle because of course the disciples are terrified. Jesus is alive and they probably think he’s probably pretty upset!

Of course, that isn’t the case at all. Jesus isn’t mad. Jesus isn’t out to seek revenge. Jesus isn’t even here to chastise his friends.

Much like we saw last week, Jesus appears to his disciples and gives his assurance and peace. Last week it was in his breath. That comfort that is given to each of us as we see our loved ones breathe.

This week, at this re-telling of Jesus’ appearance there is a focus on his body. Jesus isn’t a ghost, and his disciples shouldn’t be afraid. He can be touched and held on to. He’s real. He’s here. You can give him a hug and he can hug you back.

And because he is real – with a real body – no spirit, no ghostly apparition – it is a real body, so his tummy is rumbling. I imagine you build up quite an appetite being dead for three days, getting up and talking to people. I know how hungry I get if I don’t eat for 6 hours or so.

So, Jesus appears to them and assures them that he is in fact alive – just as the women had said, just as the two on the road were telling them just now. He’s real. He has a body. He is resurrected. The words he told his disciples are true. Oh, and by the way, can you pass the fish to Jesus, he’s a little hungry.

And then, Jesus says something that I don’t want us to overlook – something that we just might read quickly past because of all the extraordinary things given to us in this short story from the bible.

After he makes himself known, eats a little fish, and confirms the truth of his words that he’s be telling them this whole time, he says, “Y’all are witnesses of these things.”

You are witnesses.

When you hear ‘witness’ in the church, or at least stereotypically through the media portrayal of the church, a preacher is usually asking for one and getting an amen in response. Yet, that’s not really what Jesus is asking for here.

Jesus tells his disciples that they are witnesses of the things they’ve seen. The things they’ve seen just now – that Jesus is alive, real, and eats. He isn’t some ghost. But, they’ve also been witnesses of the miraculous deeds, actions, and signs that he has shown to them throughout their journeys together. They are witness to so much. They have seen so many wonderful things.

If we’re not careful, we’ll leave it at that. Where we might think that a witness is someone who just saw something. Where a witness was someone who was just in the presence of what happened. If we’re not careful, we’ll just let that word slip right by without understanding that there is something vitally important to being a witness.

Yes, a witness is someone who was there. Yes, a witness is someone who saw. But, being there and seeing isn’t what makes a person a witness. What makes them a witness is that they share and tell their story.

Jesus is laying before his disciples a plan of action. There is responsibility in being called a witness in God’s kingdom. For a witness is one who shares what they have seen, heard, and been a part of. A witness is someone who tells their story in support of what has happened.

And when people share their story, they don’t always look quite the same. Perhaps that’s why in Luke this morning after Jesus invites them to touch and hold his real body he asks for some food, where last week after Jesus asks his disciples to touch and see his wounds he breathes on them to bring further and deeper reassurance.

Even though these two stories diverge slightly, the fundamental message itself is still the same – Jesus has risen. You can hold on to him. You can see his wounds. He breathes. He eats. He is alive again.

You are witnesses of these things.

You are a witness – share this story. Tell of this good news.

We too are witnesses of the risen Christ. We too are witnesses of the messiah’s new life. We also are witnesses of the renewed life that our Lord invites the world into. We might not receive the same experience that the disciples had mere days after Jesus’ death. But, we too are witness to Jesus’ risen body as it is lived out in the world. Lived out through this community. Lived out throughout the kingdom of God in the world.

Lived out in the story of a man who said, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” Lived out in the life of the ones who welcome the outcast into community through love. We see the risen Christ at work through those who venture into moments of peril and anger and proclaim love, mercy, and forgiveness.

We are witness to the risen Christ as we gather together in community this day to share a meal – a little bread and wine – and in that act of nourishment are sent to live out a life of witness to the world.

We live out our call and title of ‘witness’ by sharing this story of Jesus’ resurrection and hope for the world through our words, through our service, through our love for those around us.

We are witnesses of God’s new thing in Jesus’ resurrection when we hear the news of a great gift of abundance to this community of faith and the first things on people’s lips have been, “How can this help others?”

We bear witness to Jesus’ resurrection when we live into the life he called for us – where we care for those around us, we boldly stand with those who are oppressed, we sit-with those who are mourning and hurting, we celebrate in joy of blessing and thankfulness; where we do all of this not for ourselves, but because of others – no matter who they are, where they came from, or where they are going.

You are – all of you – all of us – witnesses to the Risen Christ our Lord. We live as witnesses to the world as we share this incredible story of truth to the world. We share it through our words, through our worship, most importantly through our service to those around us.

Yes, witnesses do see and experience the risen body. But, what makes them – what makes us witnesses – isn’t because we see and experience, what makes us witnesses is that we share what we’ve seen, heard, and experienced.

Everyone’s witness may be slightly different, yet we tell the same story. We share in the love that has been gifted to us with the entire world and with all – all – who we meet. Proclaiming this radical inclusion and hospitality that our Lord has modeled for us and all of creation.

Be witnesses. You are witnesses. Share what you’ve seen and experienced of the Risen Christ in the world. Amen.

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