3rd Sunday of Easter
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 24:36-49 Sermon
April 30, 2006
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
538 "Lord Speak To Me That I May Speak"
90 "The Strife Is O'er, The Battle Done"
91 "Christ The Lord Is Risen Today"
197 "O Happy Day When We Shall Stand"
I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD
TEXT (vs. 36-43): “As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a ghost. And he said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a ghost has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And while they still disbelieved him for joy, and wondered, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.”
There’s a story I read once about a Judge in Yugoslavia who did a rather stupid thing. He was sitting in the bathtub one night, when he stood up and reached over to the wall to turn on the bathroom light. He promptly received a very strong jolt of electricity which coursed through his body.
His wife heard him scream, and ran into the bathroom to find his limp body sprawled out on the bathroom floor. She promptly phoned for the police and the rescue squad. They determined that her husband had been electrocuted, and so they transported him to a local mortuary. Since the Judge was a very important local figure, news of his unfortunate accident spread through the community. Even the local radio station carried the news of his untimely demise.
It was the middle of the night, when the Judge regained consciousness while he was lying on the prep table in the mortuary. He got up and found the night watchman, who promptly screamed and ran off. His first thought was to notify his wife, so he found a telephone and called her. She screamed and fainted. So then he tried telephoning a few friends, and they all thought it was someone playing a cruel joke. So he decided to go and personally show up at the homes of some of his neighbors. When they answered the door and saw that it was him, they immediately slammed the door, thinking they had seen a ghost. So he decided to phone some friends who lived in another town, who hadn’t heard the news. They were able to finally convince everyone that he hadn’t really died, and that he was just unconscious.
Human beings for the most part are a skeptical people as this Judge discovered. Everybody had been convinced that he was dead. To change that opinion proved to be a very difficult task, even when the tangible proof was there. People know that death is a certain and permanent thing. Corpses don’t get up off the prep table in a mortuary and start making telephone calls and knocking on people’s doors. They reason that it must be someone playing a practical joke; or for those who preferred a more supernatural explanation, it must be a ghost.
In our text for today, Jesus is having a rather difficult time convincing people that he had risen from the dead. Unlike our friend the Judge who had merely been rendered unconscious by an electrical shock, Jesus had actually died. There was undisputed proof of that. Even though Jesus’ death wasn’t an easy thing to deal with, still everybody knew that people die. That they could accept. For someone to rise from the dead, that was something they really couldn’t comprehend. In their way of thinking, there had to be some other explanation. There just had to be.
The disciples should have known better. How could they have forgotten the daughter of the ruler who was dead? She was definitely dead, all right. So the people laughed at Jesus when he told them that she was not dead, but asleep. Jesus took her by the hand, and she got up from her death bed.
Or how could they have forgotten the incident that happened in Bethany? Jesus’ good friend Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha had died. He had been in the grave for four days, and his decomposing body was producing a rather foul odor. But at the behest of Jesus, Lazarus walks out of his tomb, still wrapped in the burial linens. He was alive.
I remember one commentator making the statement: “Jesus never preached a funeral sermon, because he broke up every funeral he ever attended.” That is so true.
Now comes Jesus’ own resurrection. He appears to the women at the tomb, and the disciples thought they were crazy when they told them. Then Jesus appears to the disciples without Thomas, and Thomas doubts the report of the other disciples. So Jesus appears again to the disciples which included Thomas.
Then Jesus appears to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Those two disciples returned and were talking with the rest of the disciples, recounting this incident; and this is where our text for today begins.
While they were telling their story about what happened on the road to Emmaus, Jesus himself comes and stands amongst them. And again they doubt that it is really him! They think that they are seeing a ghost, some sort of disembodied spirit that resembled their master.
In order to convince them that it was really him, Jesus has them examine and probe his wounds he suffered on the cross. And if this wasn’t enough proof, he asks them for something to eat. They hand him a piece of broiled fish from their supper table (at least they were eating a heart-healthy diet!) and Jesus consumes it in front of them. That’s something that no disembodied spirit or ghost could do. It was Jesus himself standing there; it was the same person that they had known and followed for the past three years.
Jesus then had to open their minds so that they would fully understand what Scripture said about him. He had to suffer and die; but on the third day he would rise from the dead. The Scriptures had to be completely fulfilled in him.
In the second article of the Apostles’ Creed, we repeat these words every Sunday: “On the third day, he rose again from the dead.” We restate the reality of Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead over and over and over again. Beyond the words of all of the skeptics, beyond the doubts created by our own human frailty, the resurrected Christ stands firm and strong.
It’s with this understanding that we can now affirm the words spoken in the third article of the Apostles’ Creed which say, “I believe in the…resurrection of the dead, and the life everlasting.” That’s not talking about Jesus’ resurrection here, but our own. That’s an affirmation of what the Bible says will happen after our own earthly death.
We are saying along with Paul in Philippians 3, 21 that Jesus "will change our weak mortal bodies and make them like his own glorious body." We are stating that death is not the final "Amen" of our life. We will rise again to life not just as a ghost or a spirit, but we will rise bodily and enjoy eternal life with a new body.
St Paul gives this wonderful description in his first letter to the Corinthians. He says, "This is how it will be when the dead are raised to life. When the body is buried, it is mortal; when raised, it will be immortal. When buried, it is ugly and weak; when raised, it will be beautiful and strong ... What is mortal must be changed into immortal; what will die must be changed into what cannot die" (1 Cor 15:42,43,53).
I’m sure you have a ton of questions about all this just as I do. What kind of body will we have? What does a glorified body look like? Will we all look alike? What if we prefer the muscles of a body-builder or the shape of a model? Does our glorified body also have a glorified digestive system? In fact, will we need to eat? What about sleeping? Because others will have new bodies will we recognize them? And what about those people whose earthly bodies have been destroyed by fire, bombs, or eaten by sharks or wild animals? We could go on.
You and I are not among the first to have wondered this. The apostle Paul tells us that people in his day were puzzled by all this as well. He says, "Someone will ask, "How can the dead be raised to life? What kind of body will they have?"
There are a lot of questions Paul doesn’t address, but he does say that we will have a new and wonderful body. Like Paul, the best we can do when trying to describe what will happen to us when we rise from the dead is to go to nature for some good metaphors.
When we look at a dahlia bulb it doesn’t look very interesting. It looks more like an old shriveled up potato. But when the bulb is planted, it grows into a plant that has very beautiful flowers. At this time we are the bulb with all of our imperfections and weaknesses but one day we will rise to be like the flower, more beautiful, and attractive than we could have ever imagined. The dahlia flower has a definite connection with the bulb, but it is far more glorious.
Or look at a caterpillar and see how ugly and hairy it is. After a short time entombed in a cocoon we marvel at how its body has changed and how beautiful it has become. That’s one reason why the butterfly is symbolic of Easter.
So it will be for us when we leave this life and are raised to eternal like. To use Paul’s words in I Corinthians 15, 42-43, "This is how it will be when the dead are raised to life. When the body is buried, it is ugly and weak; when it is raised, it will beautiful and strong.”
Not only will our bodies be new and glorious but also our minds will be renewed. In this life our minds are filled with all kinds of sinful things, selfishness, greed, sexual immorality, deceit, hatred and so on. When we are raised all this will be a thing of the past. We will know perfectly what God’s will is. Our relationships will be perfect, especially our relationship with God. In other words, we will be just as God had intended the human race to be when he first created Adam and Eve, and placed them in the Garden of Eden. What it will be like in heaven is something far more glorious than anything we could try to imagine in this life. The Bible only gives us glimpses of the beauty of eternal life because words fail to describe something that wonderful.
If we look at our text for today in verses 46 and 47 of Luke 24, Jesus speaks the following words: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”
The key to our glorious resurrection and our entrance into the mansions of heaven begins with repentance and forgiveness of sins. Because of what sin has done in our lives, we are sinful, doubtful, and skeptical human beings. We have distrusted and doubted God and his Word many, many times. Even though the Bible is very plain in what it says, and there really should be no margin of doubt, yet we still play the role of the skeptic. When we see how we have transgressed God’s law, we so often find ourselves in a state of despair instead of hope. Even though we read the words of God’s love and forgiveness, we often can’t get beyond the words of judgment and condemnation. The pessimism of the law seems to overshadow the hope of the Gospel too much of the time.
Verse 45 of our text tells us: “Then [Jesus] opened [the disciples’] minds to understand the Scriptures…” Just as their minds were opened, so the Holy Spirit works within us to open our minds to the Scriptures as well. And so we look at the Scriptures and see that there is hope beyond all doubt and certainty beyond all skepticism.
We look and see the words of the Gospel which promise us forgiveness and hope. There is no doubt or fear when we come to Jesus our Saviour in faith. Through faith in him, we experience the full measure of God’s love. Jesus suffered and died on the cross to pay for all those sins of ours—our sins of skepticism, and doubt, and fear, and all those times we have broken God’s law and tried to drive a wedge between ourselves and him. And then Jesus rose again victorious over death and the grave. He did this to fulfill the Scripture on our behalf, so that we could have certainty and hope that our sins are forgiven before God in heaven, and that we will inherit the mansion he has prepared for us. This is the certainty we have through our faith in Christ our Saviour.
Jesus’ resurrection defeated the power of sin and death. If the power of sin had not been destroyed then we would have to face the judgment of God and hell. If the power of death had not been destroyed, our last breath would be the end of us and there would be no hope of life beyond the grave.
Christ has risen. He is alive. He showed himself to the disciples to be actually, physically alive. Christ has risen and we will too! We will rise from the grave and enjoy a life in heaven without any of the weaknesses and blemishes in our bodies that we have now. We will enjoy a life without the worries, stresses, pain and uncertainty of life in this world. It’s absolutely guaranteed!
In our Gospel lesson for today, we heard how the disciples were terrified because they thought they were seeing a ghost. The once dead Jesus stood right there amongst them and invited them to touch him, to look at his wounds, and join him in a meal. And even though they couldn’t understand how this was possible, they were full of "joy and wonder". We don’t understand everything about the resurrection and especially about our own resurrection. There are those who say we are foolish believing such things, but the whole idea of a resurrection after this life also fills us with "joy and wonder". It gives us peace and comfort when we become afraid of what death will to do to us and our families. St. Paul summed up our confidence like this in I Corinthians 15, 20: "Christ has been raised from death, as the guarantee that those who sleep in death will also be raised."
May we always remain strong in faith in our resurrected and living Saviour Jesus Christ, and in his promises. We can be sure that through faith in him, we shall indeed have a blessed future when we are resurrected from the dead, and live in the life of the world to come.