Easter Sunday

 


 

  Pastor at Easter

Sermon of April 15th

 

Jesus Surprises Us With His Unfailing Love    

 

Luke 24:36-48 (49-53)

 

Let us pray. Speak to us Lord, speak to us.
For we are listening. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. 
 

This is not the first time that the risen Christ reveals himself to his disciples. After Jesus’ resurrection, he revealed himself first to the women (2 Marys), then to Simon Peter (v.34), later to Cleopas and another unknown disciple on the road to Emmaus, and at last, while these two disciples and Peter were still talking to the Eleven and their companions about their interaction and experience with Jesus – Jesus gave the group an astounding surprise. He showed up not in spirit form but in bodily form: He talks, He eats (v.43), and he walks as well (v.50).

When these confused disciples saw Jesus, they were startled and terrified. Their reaction betrays what was in their hearts. Then, Jesus asked 2 rhetorical questions:  1) why are you frightened, and 2) why do doubts arise in your hearts?

These questions are meant to force his disciples to admit that they have no faith in his Words. Some of them perceive resurrection is only a fake consolation, a too good to be true promise, therefore, they do not believe. Some others, like the two Mary, Peter, Cleopas, and another unknown disciple, because they have seen the risen Lord, they kind of believe, but still, they are not sure. Although they come to tell the rest about the news, they have no clue about what theyhad experienced lately.

Instead of condemning his doubting disciples, out of love, Jesus patiently helps them to believe. He begins withmaking himself visible: He shows up and stretches out his hands and feet so that these disciples are able to experience his presence. Some biblical scholars even suggest thatin order to convince his disciples that he has risen, Jesus even ate in front of them because itis their belief that spirits/phantoms won’t eat.

Personally, I am amazed by the exchange between the Lord and his disciples that is described from (v. 41a – v.43). For me – it is not merely a piece of apologetic message but a picture of acceptance, reassurance, and consolation. Today’s passage reminds me of an incident that took place by the sea of Tiberias where Jesus asked Peter three times “Do you love me more than these?” Today’s passage, at least for me, is a moment where Jesus takes time to restore his discouraged and defeated disciples.

After all the disappointments that his disciples have offered: Betrayal, denial, walking away, and now even though he shows up and stretches his hands and feet towards them – they still do not or cannot believe. They are so impossible.

Instead of confronting them, Jesus asks a question: “Do you have anything here to eat?” His disciples may assume that Jesus must be hungry. If we were these disciples, I believe that we would think the same. So they offerhim a piece of fish.

This is not about a small thing here that Luke mentions a piece of fish. If we read this passage along with the earlier incident about Jesus’ interaction with Cleopas and another unknown disciple on the road to Emmaus, you know this piece of fish carries a special meaning.

When the two disciples insisted Jesus stay with them, they offered Jesus bread and while Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave to them, these two disciples’ eyes were opened. Bread and fish together reminds Luke’s readersof a very importantevent in Jesus’ ministry – the feeding of five thousand. Jesus asked his disciples to give the multitude food, but they had only so little. Here, Luke emphasizesour lack of faith, and at the same time, Jesus’ compassion and power.

This piece of fish hererepresentsaninadequateearthly element. This is all that these disciples can offer. When the pastor of the Humboldt Broncos saw the tragic scene and stood among the injured and the dead in the hospital, he said to himself helplessly that as a pastor, he should have something to offer, but he has nothing. I think this happens to many parents too. When they see their kids trapped by substances, they should have something to be able to change the situation, to rescue their kids, but they have nothing.

Let’s see how does Jesus react to these disciples? Jesus accepts their service and takes their offer.  What is Luke doing here? Luke tells us Jesus never demands from us what we don’t have because Jesus understand and accepts our condition. Mind you, even the bread and fish are from God.

No accusation, no punishment, but acceptance. Instead of kicking them out, Jesus starts over again. He opened their minds and enabled them to understand the scriptures, and reminded his slow-hearted disciples what he had said when he was still with them: Everything in the Scriptures about him will come to its fulfillment, just as all that the disciples have witnessedso far: The Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day and the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness of sin will be continued to be passed on to all nations.

You may ask why this message still need to be passed on. It is because the promised righteous judge, the victor Christ Jesus, will surelycome to judge the living and the dead in due time. Although we may not know, but the Jewish people know very well that the Lord’s Day is not necessarily a joyful day particularly to those who have gone astray and refuse to believe the good news of Christ.

Not only that they had seen [witnessed] that Jesus forgave other sinners, now, these disciples have first-hand experiencedof the gift of forgiveness, Jesus forgives them even before they admit their iniquity. Itis Jesus who first turns to them, and to us.

My question for you today is this: Have you ever been touched by Jesus’ forgiveness? I mean the time when you realize how fragile, ignorant, miserable, and impossible you are, and to a point that the presence of the resurrected Lord becomesa threat ratherthan a consolation, are you willing to stay there and let the Lord surprise you with his unfailing love? Since all the doors and windows are unlocked, you and I are free to go like Judah Iscariot, but in spite of embarrassment, shame, fear, or even doubt, will we stay here and let God once again put us together with his gentle but all-powerful voice?

The good news is that Jesus never keeps holding on to our failure but keeps motivating us to look up and to move forward. Now a days, many people in our society like to focus on mistakes and criticizeother’s inadequacies like a dog with a bone; but Jesus is different. Jesus generously offersthose wholook uponhim the gift of forgiveness. When Jesus calls for repentance, it is the same way he says, “Come to me, all that are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

By now these disciples should know better what it is like to be forgiven – the heavy burden all a sudden being removed from their shoulders and all the chains loosened.  What a relief, what pure joy and peace. If you have tasted the sweetness of being forgiven, and if you really love those you say are loved by you – will you not tell them what is like to be set free, and to be forgiven as well, if you truly love them? Will you not pray for them so that they may be touched by God and be able to experience the same love that you have receivedfrom the risen Lord? 

Therefore, before we move on to mission, to do things, let us do a self-examination by pondering and answering all these questions that we have heard this morning, for without answering these questions, we may continue to feel ashamed of the good news of Christ, and consequently, our mission work will never go far or will even go nowhere. Here are the questions:

  • Why are you frightenedif the risen Lord is here?
  • Why do doubts arise in your hearts?
  • Do you have anything here to sustain life?
  • Have you ever tasted the sweetness of God’s forgiveness?  

 

 

©2018, Pastor Mei Sum Lai, MDiv. Please do not reproduce this article in whole or in part, in any form, without obtaining the written permission of the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Updated: April 20th, 2018