3rd Sunday of Easter | Jesus Appears to His Disciples
Acts 3:11-21; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36-49
Alleluia! Christ Is Risen! (He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!)
And there you go.
Christ is risen. Indeed He is risen.
He is risen and victorious over sin, death, and the devil.
His victory is yours.
His life is yours.
It is the biggest, truest, most important thing about Easter.
It is the biggest, truest, most important thing in your life.
And all by itself,
The fact that the very same Jesus who was crucified for you, is now raised for you…
All by itself, that is enough.
All by itself, that one word will suffice.
But Jesus never stops with enough.
True as it is, Jesus will not leave His Church with just that word.
The reports of the women are trustworthy and true, and the disciples should have believed them.
They should have immediately believed the disciples from Emmaus.
But they are clouded with fear.
It seems like a long time ago for us, but in Luke 24 it is still Easter Sunday.
Which means that the events of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are not so far gone.
With haunting clarity, the disciples remember their betrayal, their broken promises,
And their broken Hope, their only real Friend, Jesus, strung up on a cross.
They remember the nails and the spear.
They remember His limp, dead body being taken down and taken away.
And they remember that it was their fault.
What Peter would later preach in Solomon’s portico is true for them, too.
“You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.”
So they’re not just afraid of the Jews.
If it is true, if Christ is risen “indeed” then the disciples might have reason to fear Him, too.
And it seems crazy to you and me that this is what the first Easter Sunday was like.
But that’s because we’ve pretty much always known the whole story.
And that takes the sting out of even the most somber Good Friday Service.
Not so for the disciples.
First they were afraid of Jesus being dead. Goodbye hope.
Then they were afraid of Jesus being alive. Goodbye life.
Now they are afraid that He is something in between, like a spirit. Goodbye pleasant dreams.
Those three things can probably summarize all your Easter fears as well.
If the Emmaus disciples are confused or lying;
If the women are just spinning tales;
If the man in bright white was just a parlor trick;
If Jesus of Nazareth is still dead;
Then all your Easter fears are valid.
And, quite frankly, you may as well go home,
And I’ll go back to the Defense Department.
Because if Jesus is dead, I have nothing to say and nothing to give.
The second fear is different.
You have gathered here this morning, very much like those disciples.
With haunting clarity you call to mind:
Broken promises, broken relationships, broken hopes, and betrayals of Jesus at every turn.
So if He is alive, and even more, if He is God, then…then shouldn’t you be afraid?
Shouldn’t you be afraid of vengeance, and retribution, and divine justice?
Then there’s that third fear.
They thought they saw a spirit.
Is Jesus now…something else?
A few days ago He was just like you, but if this is what Jesus’ so-called Resurrection is like,
Is this how I’ll spend my eternity, too?
As a disembodied spirit, floating around, creeping out my friends?
Even in Easter, Jesus’ disciples are plagued with fear and doubt.
So it is important to note that Jesus’ first words to them are not “I’m back.”
Jesus’ first words are “Peace to you!”
It’s not a polite or pious way of wishing someone a good morning.
It’s Jesus’ very own absolution.
The very first words Jesus speaks to them are words of forgiveness.
Forgiveness for all the betrayal.
Forgiveness for all the fear.
Forgiveness for all the doubt.
“Peace to you!”
“Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your harts?”
Why all this Easter fear?
“See my hands and my feet, that it is I Myself.
Touch Me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
I love you! I forgive you!
He says, “I know your number one Easter fear. And you can give it up now. I’m here. I’m alive. I’m whole. I’m raised indeed! I will never die again!
“I know your fear number two as well: ‘Peace to you!’ I am not angry with you. I forgive you. All is well.”
As for that third thing, don’t you remember that I made Adam body and soul?
Don’t you remember that I am body and soul?
My resurrection is your resurrection.
My body is raised, and your body will be raised just the same.
So enough spirit-talk. Give me some fish.
That’s how Jesus answers Easter fear.
With His risen Body, His living voice, and a Holy Meal.
It’s just as He said it would be.
It’s just as Moses and the Prophets and the Psalmist said it would be:
That the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,
And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His Name to all the nations,
Beginning from Jerusalem.”
They are witnesses of these things.
Jesus has sent the promise of His Father upon them,
And they have been clothed with power from on high to proclaim these things.
Likewise, you have been clothed with the power from on high to believe these things.
By your own reason and strength even Easter would be nothing but fear.
But you are the baptized.
The Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel,
Enlightened you with His gifts, sanctified and kept you in the true faith.
And in the very same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
In this Christian Church He daily and richly forgives all your sins and the sins of all believers.
On the Last Day He will raise you and all the dead and give eternal life to you and all believers in Christ.
This is most certainly true.