Third Sunday of Easter

by Crossings

From Doubter To Shouter
Third Sunday of Easter
Luke 24:36b-48, [49]
analysis by Lori A. Cornell

36bJesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence. 44Then he 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 of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. [49And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”]

DIAGNOSIS: Forgotten

Step 1-Initial Diagnosis: Forgetful
Death clouds our hearts and minds; it makes us forget prior relationships. The disciples were full of sorrow because of Jesus’ death. They had watched from a distance as his limp frame had been pulled down off the cross. Jesus had been pierced and life had oozed from his side; and along with his life their hopes poured out too. Jesus’ death (and, likely, the disciples’ own shame at having abandoned him) had sealed their faith and hope in the tomb. So when they saw Jesus again, they didn’t have any hope with which to greet him –only terror and superstition; they thought he was a ghost (v. 37). Fear and disbelief had seized their minds so that they forgot what Jesus had told them (v. 44). Not that they are the only ones who forget. We, too, forget.

Step 2-Advanced Diagnosis: Doubtful
Death squeezes out hope. Even when the disciples realized they were not dealing with a ghost, but with a real live “flesh and bones” human being (v. 39), they still didn’t remember that Jesus had fulfilled everything that he forecast and that scripture anticipated. Instead, doubt gripped their hearts (v. 38). They were incredulous about the whole encounter: How could Jesus possibly be alive and be standing in front of them in the flesh? Meeting Jesus again filled them with joy, yes; but it was a bittersweet experience — because their joy was mixed with disbelief (v. 41). They couldn’t believe their eyes. Somehow, the good news of Jesus’ resurrection was too good to be true; and so despite their joy they doubted him (his flesh and bones to the contrary). That same mixture of joy and disbelief is in us.

Step 3-Final Diagnosis: Without Hope
A heart that doubts is without hope. Whether you suffer from a little disbelief or a lot, when you can’t believe something as good as your own Lord being raised from the dead, sadly, you still aren’t benefiting from his company. Jesus was with the disciples, but despite that they are still without hope. Their hearts still need softening (v. 38) and their minds still need to be cracked open (v. 45). And being stuck in hopelessness may be the judgment that is on us all.

PROGNOSIS: Remembered

Step 4-Initial Prognosis: With Christ
But Christ casts out doubt and despair. Jesus doesn’t allow the closed minds and confused hearts of his followers to get between him and them. Instead, he brings his terrified, joyful, disbelieving followers a whole host of gifts: First, he brings himself — body and all, close enough to touch (v. 39, 40); he embodies the promise of resurrection for them. Second, he reassures them that he is true to his word: Everything he told them about his passion and resurrection has fleshed out, so to speak (v. 44). Third, he entrusts them with a ministry that will benefit them as well as “all nations” (v. 47): His resurrection carries the benefit of repentance and forgiveness of sins. With Christ the disciples have a restored relationship (forgiveness, which makes repentance possible), they have the promise of bodily resurrection, and they have a future empowered by Christ (v. 49).

Step 5-Advanced Prognosis: Faithful = Full of Power
Christ’s faithfulness creates witnesses. The gifts of the risen Jesus are powerful. They have the power to turn joyful-but-disbelieving disciples into witnesses. The disciples’ terror and shame are wiped away by the company of Christ and by his promise of continued blessing — that he will clothe his followers with the power of the Holy Spirit (v. 49). Faith pushes out fear, and joy in Christ — joy in his forgiveness, resurrection, and trust — forces out disbelief.

Step 6-Final Prognosis: Mind Full (of Christ)
Faith clears doubtful hearts and opens closed minds; faith makes room for witness. The resurrected Christ declares that those who believe in him are also (consequently) his witnesses. And he enables that ministry of witness by giving believers the Holy Spirit. The faithful don’t simply consider doing ministry, but expect to follow Jesus into all sorts of places. And, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ leads the faithful to “remember” him to all nations. Faith is not just personally believing but publicly remembering the name of the risen Christ before friends and strangers alike. Faith prays, witnesses, and acts in the name of Jesus. We believers remember Christ to the world, because he has and continues to remember us.


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