Pastor at Decatur United Methodist Church
If you are a parent, you know what I mean when I say that I love my children just the way they are. When they have messed up or done something wrong, I will often tell them how much I love them and that they could never do anything to make me love them any less. I love my children just the way they are. But good parents know they even though they love their children just the way they are, they don’t want their kids to stay just the way they are.
We send our children to school so that they will learn. So that they will explore new things and interact with peers in new ways. We want our children to have challenges that at first seem impossible, but through hard work they can overcome them. We want our children to grow. I miss the days of rocking my kids before bed, but at the same time I am thrilled at how they are growing.
My son and I went on a bike ride together just a couple of weeks ago. We road about six miles. I so enjoyed this time with my son. This is something we could have never done just a couple of years. I love my son just the way he is, but also want to see him grow. I also want him to move and develop more fully into who he is.
If you have children or if you have been around children, you know what I am talking about. We love them, and we also love to see them grow, change, and develop. We love our children, and we want more from them.
I think this idea of being loved who you are and at the same time wanting more for you is very closely related to the good news of Easter that we have been talking about over the past couple of weeks.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have been exploring the good news that Jesus rose from the grave on the first Easter. In Jesus’ rising, God decisively proved that death is not the final enemy and that we can have hope in a brighter future. Then last week we looked at what is called an appearance account of Jesus. John told us the story of how the disciples were hiding behind locked doors then Jesus appeared to them. But then a week later they were hiding behind these same closed and locked doors again. Even though they had witnessed the most amazing event since the creation of the world, they went back to their lives as normal, but Jesus showed up again and offered them new life again. That’s the way that John tells the story.
This week we are going to look at a different account of Jesus’ resurrection appearance. Today we are going to look at the way Luke describes what happens. You will notice that the way John talks about it and the way Luke talks about it are a bit different. Don’t worry too much about these differences.
These accounts are written several years about the events happened and the people writing them are describing them to the best of their ability. When we try to remember things that have happened, we will get some of the details mixed up. Perhaps like a husband and wife who has been married for thirty years describing what happened when they moved into their first house. There is no doubt that they made this move, but you can guarantee that they will disagree on how it happened. In fact, they are likely going to fight over the details about what happened. When I think about the differences of some of these accounts about Jesus, this is what I think.
So, we turn to Luke. And leading up to this account from Luke, takes us back to that first Easter. On that first Easter Mary had seen the risen Jesus, but the rest of the disciples had not seen him yet. They were confused with this news from the women who had seen him. Maybe they thought that the women were a little crazy, because they knew people did not rise from the dead. One thing the Luke and John’s story have in common is that the disciples are scared during this time, they are living in fear.
Then Luke tell us that on the same day, two disciples were walking to the village called Emmaus, which is a place outside of Jerusalem. On the way to Emmaus, there is this man that comes up to them and begins talking with them. You see, these two disciples are pretty down, their leader had just been killed. They end up telling this fellow traveler about Jesus. To make a long story short, this fellow traveler was actually Jesus, but the disciples didn’t recognize until they shared a meal together. As soon as they recognized who Jesus was, Jesus left them.
As you can imagine this was a startling thing and they wanted to tell someone. So Luke tells us that they turned around and returned the seven miles back to Jerusalem. It was going to be late at night by the time they got back to Jerusalem, but they go and tell the rest of the disciples that they had seen Jesus, that the Lord really had risen.
So the disciples are scared and are hiding in Jerusalem. They think Jesus is dead and they might be next. It’s at this point that we are going to pick up the story with how Luke tells it: (Luke 24:36-49)
36 While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 37 They were terrified and afraid. They thought they were seeing a ghost.
The women and these two other disciples had already seen the risen Lord. They had already seen Jesus and already told their friends, but the rest of the disciples still aren’t convinced. They know people don’t get up after they die. And they think they are being haunted by ghost; maybe the ghost of Jesus is coming to take revenge because they didn’t stand up for him. Even when Jesus shows up, they are still in fear and scared of what might be happening. As we will see, Jesus meets them where they are, in their fear, but is not content with them staying there. Jesus speaks:
38 He said to them, “Why are you startled? Why are doubts arising in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It’s really me! Touch me and see, for a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones like you see I have.”40 As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 Because they were wondering and questioning in the midst of their happiness, he said to them, “Do you have anything to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of baked fish. 43 Taking it, he ate it in front of them.
At this point, Jesus is just trying to calm them down. He meets them in the fear, but wants something more for them. Don’t be worried, I’m not a ghost. Just look at my hands and my feet and you can see that its really me. But the disciple just don’t get it. Jesus is trying to reason with them to convince them, but they aren’t getting it. Then he says, do you have anything to eat, just give me something to eat. Why does he do this? Ghosts can’t eat. So if he really is a ghost, he will take this food and it drop to his feet. He’s saying, just let me settle this by showing you I can eat. So he eats, and apparently that settles the fears and worries of the disciples. At this point, he is beginning to help the disciples move from their fear into something else.
44 Jesus said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the Law from Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.
Jesus meets the disciples in their fear and helps move them to hope and understanding. By seeing that Jesus was really alive and by hearing these words spoken to them, we see that Jesus is moving the disciples from fear to hope. Luke tells us that Jesus opens their minds, and this gives them a sense of hope, a sense that they don’t need to fear. Jesus is glad that they are no longer afraid, but Jesus is not content with them having hope. Jesus wants to move them even further. Jesus meets them in their fear, and move them to hope and then to something more, to mission. Here’s what Luke writes:
46 He said to them, “This is what is written: the Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and a change of heart and life for the forgiveness of sins must be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 Look, I’m sending to you what my Father promised, but you are to stay in the city until you have been furnished with heavenly power.”
Jesus says, I suffered and died and on the third day, I rose from the dead. This act of victory proves that we have hope that fear and death are not final. But there is more. He tells his disciples that he is glad that they have hope, but now they also need to move this hope into mission. What kind of mission? They move this hope into the mission of preaching the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ to all people. Jesus meets them in their fear and moves to hope then moves them to ministry. Jesus loves them right where they are, but moves them to something more. Jesus says to them I have done all of this — now it’s your turn.
Friends, God loves you for who are you. God loves like you are. The good news of Easter is that you can have hope instead of fear. While it is true that God loves you like you are, God also wants more for you. Yes, God meets you where you are, but God isn’t content to leave you where you are. Just as Jesus moved the disciples to mission, God wants to move you from wherever you are into a better place, a place where you more fully live out the mission of God by sharing the gospel and serving in the world.
Jesus wanted the disciples to move and to take the next step. In light of this, what do you think God might want from you? What next step do you think that God might want you to take?
To use a big, kind of church word, this is called sanctification. Sanctification means to be made holy. It’s a grace given by God to Christ followers that allows us to grow in holiness. That helps us to grow from fear into hope and then from hope into ministry. This means that once Jesus meets us where we are, he wants us to grow in grace. To move from fear to hope and from hope to mission.
Paul, another Christian leader, wrote about this to the Christians in the city of Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:11)
11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, reason like a child, think like a child. But now that I have become a man, I’ve put an end to childish things.
God loves you as you are just as we love our children as they are. But we desire more for our kids than who they are and God desires more for you than you currently are.
This is the next step in the Easter story. This is the next step in the Resurrection. The victory that comes in the resurrection is more than the hope that death is not final. The victory in the Resurrection is that is that God loves us and moves us to reach out into the world to love others, to preach the good news, to share what has been shared with us.
This what being a Christ follower and being the church is all about. Christians are not created to make themselves feel good. The church is not created to make a nice place for to hang out in Christian fellowship. The church is created with a mission. The church is created by God to give people hope for a better tomorrow and send those same people out in mission to share the good news and serve in the world.
Decatur United Methodist Church
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