Sermon – 04-19-20 – Easter II & Easter III – Cycle A
Scripture – Easter II: Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31
Scripture – Easter III: Acts 2:14a, 36-41; Psalm 116; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35
Sermon Title: “Is It Really True?”
On Easter Sunday, we spoke about the reunion that the disciples had when they met the risen Christ in Galilee. In this Matthew account, the disciples are now feeling a revived spirit. Something new is happening. They have a sense of being accepted for a serious goal: to start the church of Jesus Christ. There is new energy mixed with “Jesus is asking us to do what?”
Then, strangely, last Sunday, our designated gospel took us to the gospel of John with the table scene. In the first table scene, Jesus comes through a closed door and shows the disciples his nail wounds and he eats and drinks to prove that he is not a ghost, That scene lacks one of the disciples. It is Thomas who is missing. Later, he will not believe his co-disciples that Jesus appeared to them – the real Jesus. So Jesus, needing all 11 disciples on board for the great mission, appears again when Thomas is present. Thomas learns it is true. It is the Risen Christ.
We had that striking picture of Thomas on the bulletin cover last Sunday. Now he believes! This is the real Jesus! We tend to make fun of this Thomas when we call him doubting Thomas. We tend to lay a coating of humor over Thomas. However, you know how it is when we point a finger at someone, the other fingers are pointing at us. Do you believe everything that you hear or read? Do I? We are actually encouraged to do research, to investigate instead of falling for every opportunity.
We could say that there should have been more investigative Thomases when our virus started. Aha! Again I am pointing a finger. So let us lift Thomas today to a position of honor instead of ridicule. He is one of the eleven who are elevated to lead a lowly life while spreading the truth about Jesus Christ, the Son person of God. The disciples shall go forth, make other disciples, and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are their walking papers.
Now today on the third Sunday of Easter, we are taken to the Luke Easter story where two disciples are walking along the road toward a town called Emmaus. A third person comes along and joins them and asks them what they are discussing, then starts telling them the whole story from Moses forward through the Old Testament, saying this Jesus had to be crucified. It is part of the plan. The two men still do not realize that it is Jesus walking with them. Quoting from our gospel passage today,
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.
These two disciples, not of the eleven, but followers of Jesus none-the-less, hurried to Jerusalem to find the eleven disciples to share this news.
So our gospel lessons find us meeting with Jesus after the resurrection, either around tables or at a mountain. Moving forward from the mountain scene, we find at least some of the disciples pulsing into the “Go Tell” command of Jesus. That is what the book of Acts is about. Sometimes called “The Acts of the Apostles,” this book is written by the same Luke who wrote the Gospel of Luke. The main characters in this Book of Acts are Peter and Paul.
Acts starts with repeating the end of Matthew and the mountain scene and the Ascension of Jesus Christ. Ten days later comes the Holy Spirit from heaven symbolized by jumping flames and a mighty wind. After that gifting of the Holy Spirit, Peter is the one who starts with dynamite. He gets right out there on the streets telling this story and how each person who is listening is invited to become a believer of this Jesus instead of ridiculing him. Peter is such a dynamic speaker that about 3,000 persons are baptized and become part of the Church of Jesus Christ.
You may have caught something in the Acts reading last Sunday and today that seemed as though Peter were accusing this crowd of being responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. Even today, there is the thread among some Christians that still blames our Jewish friends for the death of Jesus. However, listen carefully. Peter says to the crowd, “. . . this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucifed and killed by the hands of those outside the law, but God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.”
I am increasingly in awe of the thread of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, running through the whole Old Testament, the Hebrew scriptures. Some learned people try to diminish the significance of these references to the One who finally appeared on earth as a baby. In the part of Peter’s preaching last Sunday, Peter included a passage from King David, the significant ancestor of Jesus. Peter is saying, “Since [David] was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ ” Peter goes on to say, “This Jesus God raised up, and, of that, all of us are witnesses.”
God led me to a book about which I am excited and for which I am thankful. It is called, Making Sense of the Bible by Adam Hamilton, the same person who wrote the book Half-Truths which some of us read at the beginning of Lent for a combined study group with St. Paul’s. Adam Hamilton brings the thread from Adam to Jesus. To me it seems like a fluorescent path, or perhaps I should be saying a path of sunshine, through the darkness of the Old Testament.
Moving from Peter’s fiery speeches which converted thousands of people to this same Peter’s letters to the multitude of Christians as the years passed, we find Peter emphasizing love instead of blame. Which one of us is free from blame? How many times have we reneged on an opportunity to spread the word, or to be kind to someone, or the times we were actually mean to someone? Were we crucifying Jesus so to speak? Peter’s words to those 1st Century Jews are salvation for us today. Repent, reaffirm our baptism, be willing to be transformed, always carrying love as a blanket. Silver and gold are not the tools of salvation. Jesus Christ alone is our salvation. We just sang to Jesus, “I want you more than gold or silver, only you can satisfy; you alone are the real joy-giver and the apple of my eye. You alone are my strength and shield; to you alone may my spirit yield. You alone are my heart’s desire, and I long to worship you.”