See My Hands and My Feet

 

Pastor Jim Kniseley prepared this sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter, April 30,2006.  The text is Luke 24:36b-48.

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

You and I continue in the glow of Easter Joy.  For 6 Sundays we will be hearing variations on the same theme: Jesus has conquered death…Jesus is alive…Because he lives, we too can live with him forever.

 

At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus said to his disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  We call this the Great Commission. There is an old story that relates an angel’s conversation with Jesus just after Jesus gave this Great Commission and ascended into heaven.  The angel said, “Jesus, you have given them plan A.  But what is plan B?”  “There is no plan B,” Jesus replied.  “I have entrusted them with the mission.”

 

Today, once again,  Jesus is reminding you and me in the gospel story that he expects us to be his witnesses. The telling of his story (his life, death and resurrection) is placed in our hands, our hearts and our minds. Jesus wants this good news to be shared with everyone, even to the ends of the earth.

 

Our gospel story for today is one of numerous times that Jesus appeared to people after his resurrection.  In the 24th chapter of Luke’s gospel, we’re told about the women going early on Easter morning and finding the empty tomb and hearing the message of the angel.  Then Peter then rushes to the empty tomb.  Then we’re told about Jesus appearing to two disciples on the Road to Emmaus.  And now we have today’s story of Jesus appearing to all the disciples somewhere in Jerusalem.

 

Can you imagine what they must have been thinking when they saw Jesus? Frankly, according to Luke, they didn’t believe it.  Or, they thought they were seeing a ghost.  And so Jesus takes the time to let them see his hands and his feet.  That still didn’t convince them, so Jesus ate some food in their presence to show that he wasn’t a ghost, that it really was him in the flesh.

 

Then Jesus taught them, as he had so often before.  This time, though, they were listening better.  He reminded them that the scriptures foretold all that would happen to him – especially his death and resurrection. Then it was that Jesus gave them and us our commission:  …repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.

 

This good news of Jesus needs to be shared and believed in every generation.  Someone has said that this good news of Jesus is always one generation away from extinction.  Let’s make sure that our generation does a good job of passing on this teaching to the next generation.

 

In this generation, we have lots of folks who have difficulty believing that life rally goes on beyond the tomb.  It simply is too wonderful to believe that there is a world beyond this one, another existence where what dies here is resurrected there.  Yet, this conviction is at the heart of our faith.

 

I want to tell you a love story.  It concerns the love of Paul Tournier, one of the worlds most beloved and respected Christian doctors, for his wife Nelly.  In one of his books,  Tournier describes how he and Nelly were able to talk about death after her first serious bout with coronary thrombosis while they were in Greece.  She knew how gravely ill she was and that a second attack could leave her severely handicapped or could even be fatal.  Their last month together was a time of intimate sharing.  One the last day she said to him, Perhaps it would have been better if I had died of my heart attack a month ago.”

 

Tournier responded, “And yet my Greek colleagues have done a good job.  They saved your life.  You are glad of that.”  “Yes, of course,” she said, “if I can get back to Geneva and see my children and grandchildren.”  She was silent for a moment, and then added, “But if I had died, I should be in heaven now, and I should be meeting your parents.”

 

Tournier was touched by this.  He writes, “You see, she also married my expectation of heaven!”

 

He replied to her, “Well, when you arrive in heaven, my parents will thank you for having been the wife that you have bee for their son.”  It was to be Tournier’s last words to her.  A moment later she put her hand on her heart and exclaimed, “That’s it!”  He asked, “Are you sure?”  She answered “Yes.”  And she was in heaven. 

 

The world out there simply cannot deal with that kind of expectation.  We know that without the Easter faith, not only death but life itself is ultimately meaningless.  What value is there in love that ends beside a grave?

 

In a little while in this service, you and I are going to be sharing the Peace.  The words “peace be with you” are pretty important to Christian ears.  They are the words Jesus used to greet his disciples after his resurrection.  We heard them today in our gospel story and you will see them recorded in the other gospels as well.

 

What Jesus is really saying is that he wants his followers to experience the real peace that is part of God’s new realm in Jesus.  It is also a call to live now in expectation that this is what God intends for us.

 

So today when we share the peace, actually say the words to one another.  No “hello” or “how are you?” or “glad to see ‘ya.”  In honor of Jesus and in remembrance of his resurrection promises, we use his words during the sharing of the peace.

 

My friends in Christ,  we are his witnesses.  There is no plan B.

 

Amen!