19 April 2015: Third Sunday of Easter
10.30 Sung Eucharist
Acts 3. 12-19; Luke 24. 36b-48
May our hearts, Lord, be opened to receive your love, so may our minds be open to hear your word. Amen.
This prayer is rooted in our gospel reading to-day; the disciples’ hearts were first opened to receive God’s love, then their minds were opened by Christ to understand the scriptures.
As Christ directly moved the disciples away from themselves into God’s realm, so too can we through the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Before they got it, though, they were in a right mess. Their initial reaction to Christ’s death was complete turmoil. The disciples’ response to the evidence pointing to his resurrection was persistent disbelief. They were in hiding, afraid to go out, scared of being mocked or even attacked. It happened to Jesus, would it happen to them?
By end of the passage, the disciples’ fear has turned to boldness; their confusion to conviction; their troubled spirits to joy; their wallowing in self-pity and disappointment to worship. They have been transformed from unbelief to belief.
It’s an extraordinary transformation!
Their world of fear, confusion, self-pity and disappointment changed to a world of boldness, conviction, joy, and then worship.
Here’s a tough question; which of those worlds do we think we inhabit?
Are we more caught up in our own comfort and security, than with the demands of faith and obedience to Christ?
Are we are more preoccupied with nurturing our own self-image, than with the salvation of the lost?
Are we here in this building insulating ourselves from the secular world in which we live, rather than penetrating it with the good news of the gospel?
Are we like the disciples in their time of doubt and unbelief?
What transformed these almost invisible disciples to an invincible force that turned the world upside-down was that Jesus really rose from the dead, and that they believed it.
Or so it seemed, but when Jesus actually appeared, it was clear that their “belief” in his resurrection was insufficient. Jesus’ first words were, “Peace be with you”.
But they did not respond in peace, they were “startled” and “troubled”. The peace of God and the presence of God are inseparable. If Jesus was really alive, as they professed, why would his appearance be such a shock, why weren’t they at peace?
In John’s gospel, he tells us the disciples were in a locked room, they thought Jesus was a ghost, so understandably frightened.
Maybe like us, it was easier for the disciples to believe in Jesus being a spirit, than being physically present. It comes down to “belief” or “unbelief.” The disciples thought they believed. They said that they believed. But they did not really believe it.
Belief is not just about what we profess, it needs to be borne out in practice. In spite of their claims, their practice lagged behind.
If our belief and our behaviour do not match, it is often our belief that is inadequate, as it was for the disciples.
How does the “insufficient belief” of the disciples at the appearance of Christ compare to our belief in the resurrection?
What if we went as far to admit that Jesus is alive today? Alive in spirit, alive in our hearts, maybe like the way our memory of those who have died lives within us. But if we can’t go as far as believing Him to be physically raised from the dead and present here today, then our unbelief is similar to the disciples. It was this unbelief Jesus was determined to transform to genuine faith.
Christ stood before them. He encouraged them to touch his flesh, His hands and feet that bore the nail holes from the cross. In this sense, at least, his body was “like” the body He had before his death. The difference was Christ’s body was now incorruptible, capable of appearing and disappearing into a locked room. Through Christ’s presence, Heaven had come down to earth.
Jesus ate the same fish the disciples were eating, He was no ghost. The disciples were now convinced; they had been transformed to Joy and Amazement when they truly believed it was really him in flesh for real.
How can we be transformed, like they, to inhabit the world of belief?
This Easter message is the way: “Christ is risen!”
In Christ, through our Baptism, we also are risen, passing from death to life, from the slavery of sin to the freedom of love. This is the good news that we, empowered by the Holy Spirit, are called to carry to others in every environment.
Faith in the resurrection of Jesus and the hope he has brought to us is the most beautiful gift a Christian can offer the world. A gift that should shine on our face, in our feelings and in our behaviour, in the way we treat others.
We proclaim the resurrection of Christ when his light illuminates the dark moments of our existence and we share it with others; when we smile with those who smile, and weep with those who weep; when we accompany those who are sad and at risk of losing hope; when we recount our experience of Faith to those who are searching for meaning and happiness.
And right there – with our attitude, with our witness, with our life – we say ‘Jesus is risen’ with our soul, and we become complete human beings again.