Fleshing out the Resurrection
After Jesus’ resurrection, he appeared several times in bodily form to his disciples to show them that the resurrected life is not just an intangible spiritual experience but is a reality that is embodied in the flesh. Because of this, we are called to flesh out the hope and joy of new life through concrete acts of love in our daily lives. Showing radical hospitality is one way that we can specifically live out this resurrection love.
In life, there are some things that are just hard to believe, hard to comprehend, surprising, unexpected, extraordinary things that happen.
We see this in nature like with the Emperor Penguins, how they survive and reproduce and protect each other in the harsh conditions of Antarctica. We see it with birds who migrate by flying thousands of miles every year and somehow make it to their destination. Starting next month we’re going to have the cicada phenomenon, which is an incredible story as well.
We see extraordinary things happen in sports, like when a complete underdog beats a heavily favored team.
Were any of you into March Madness this year? My alma mater the UCLA Bruins were an unbelievable story. They almost didn’t even make the tournament, and ended up going to the Final Four, almost beat previously unbeaten Gonzaga!
People do some incredible things as well that are hard to imagine. Climbing Mount Everest, sail a little boat all the way around the world.
A former campus pastor colleague of mine, Todd Lehman, rides a unicycle, and that’s a feat in and of itself, but one time he rode that thing all the way across the state of Ohio. It it took him a week or more, and that’s incredible if you ask me.
The resurrection of Jesus is one of those things that is unimaginable, that defies logic, that’s beyond the limits of science.
And compared to all of the other amazing things that have taken place in our world, I believe that this event has had the most impact on world history, and the most implications for the lives of those who dare to follow in the way of Jesus.
In Luke chapter 24, there are two stories of Jesus appearing to his disciples after he rose from the grave; the first is when he encountered two of them while they were walking on the road to Emmaus, and the other is the one we just heard.
Both of these stories have a similar pattern of what happens:
- Risen Jesus appears
- Disciples don’t recognize him at first
- Scolded for doubting Jesus
- Food is shared
- Respond in wonder and joy
These are two of several times that Jesus appeared to his followers after he rose from the grave. Why did he appear to them? I wonder, What was he trying to get across to them? And how does this impact those of us who seek to follow him 2000 years later?
On one level, the answer is obvious. Jesus’ appearances after his resurrection are the clearest evidence of why the tomb was empty. Over the centuries, people have tried to explain away the empty tomb,
Saying that someone must have rolled away that large round stone that covered the tomb, stole Jesus’ body, and then disposed of it in a place where no one could find it.
But with Jesus appearing to people, and showing them the wounds on his hands and his feet from the crucifixion to reveal that it was him, it reveals that he wasn’t just a ghost but that he truly did rise from the grave. Not only his spirit but his body as well.
Jesus says to them, “touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24:39b) Or as the 2nd century church father Ignatius translated it, “look and see that I am not a bodiless ghost.”.
So seeing Jesus in the flesh after the tomb was empty was clear evidence of his resurrection, and that’s helpful for us humans to know, since we like to have as much empirical evidence as possible about things that are hard to explain.
But maybe there’s another reason why Jesus appeared to his disciples in bodily form after he rose from the dead, why the risen Christ is an embodied Christ and not just an ethereal, immaterial spirit like Casper the friendly ghost.
Fred Craddock, the author of the Interpretation series commentary on Luke, says that Luke emphasizes the physicality of Jesus’ presence. Maybe Luke does this because of his profession as a physician, where he saw people’s bodies all day.
In any case, Craddock in his commentary says that the risen Christ is the same Christ who suffered, was crucified and died. In other words, he says, the crucifixion and the resurrection, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, are joined together forever.
So, Jesus, instead of spiritualizing his resurrection, and taking it out of this world into some otherworldly, intangible sphere, he shows his disciples with his own body that the resurrection is tied to the flesh and blood life that not only he lived here on this earth but also the life that we live on this earth as well.
As those who call ourselves disciples of Jesus, what it means to follow him is closely tied to the way he lived on this earth, as one whose life could be summed up as love — love fleshed out through sacrifice, through suffering, through forgiveness, through redemption, and all of it with the hope that new life can rise up out of what was broken or seemed dead.
And the resurrection of Jesus is the culmination, the exclamation point, of the story of God’s love for the world. It is evidence that in the end, love wins, that the radical, all-out, self-giving love that defined Jesus’ life is the most powerful force in the world, so powerful that not even death can contain it or stop it.
And now in these appearances after the resurrection, Jesus is showing his disciples that the power of resurrection love, is not something that is completely out of this world, but it is a spiritual reality right here on earth.
That it is manifested in his own resurrected physical body, and that for us to say that we believe in the resurrection of Jesus is to say that this spiritual power can be fleshed out in concrete acts of love as we go through our everyday, ordinary lives.
As Mother Teresa of Calcutta used to say, “we can do no great things, we can only do small things with great love.”
One of the concrete ways that we can show love to others is through hospitality, through making space for people and making them feel welcome in our homes, in our churches, and in our lives.
One way that hospitality is fleshed out is through sharing food or meals. It’s interesting that in our story today, as well as in the one right before us when Jesus appeared to the travelers on the road to Emmaus,
That it was when they shared food that the disciples’ eyes were opened and the presence of Jesus was revealed to them. On the road to Emmaus, it was in the breaking of the bread; here it was broiled fish.
Actually, I heard a sermon once where the preacher made fun of the fact that all Jesus was offered to eat here was broiled fish. But actually, that would sound pretty good to me, especially if it was blackened with some nice spices. Have you tried smoked paprika? We put it on about everything!
Anyway, here in this story, what’s more remarkable than the broiled fish was that the disciples weren’t very good hosts...
They didn’t offer Jesus food; Jesus had to ask for something to eat. He’s like, “hey, do you guys got anything to eat around here? I’m hungry.” Again, here we see reality of Jesus’ body being physically present with them; a ghost doesn’t have much of an appetite, but based on my experience, a young man is usually hungry.
This kind of reminds me of when I was a teenager. Growing up, our house became the hangout place for me and my friends.
In high school, my friends would come over, walk right into the kitchen and the first thing they would say was usually “hey, you got anything to eat?”. (I guess they were more like Jesus than I gave them credit for sometimes!)
My parents were pretty cool with it, and we had not only an open-door policy at our house, but an open-fridge policy as well!
The fridge was usually stocked with stuff teenage guys liked, and to add to it, my mom was usually in the kitchen- spent and still spends about every waking hour in the kitchen it seems!
So my mom would start getting out the pots and pans and sometimes whip something up right there for my friends, kind of like a made-to-order chef.
She and my dad showed a lot of hospitality to my friends, and to this day my friends talk about how welcomed they felt at our house, and how great it was to have that space to hang out together. It was like a sacred and holy place for us, and the food played an important part of that.
So showing hospitality is one concrete way that we can flesh out the self-giving love of Jesus and live in the reality of the resurrection. And when people experience that welcoming presence, and when food is shared around tables or a blanket spread out in the grass, or around a campfire, so often we experience the presence of Jesus in our midst.
I think that’s one reason why I enjoyed our Easter service and the activities surrounding it so much a couple of Sundays ago. Our beautiful outdoor space became a place of hospitality for that special day:
Some people were serving food, some were setting up chairs, people were greeting each other and welcoming them, especially excited to see people they hadn’t seen for a long time due to the pandemic. Children were having fun finding Easter eggs, and everyone had a great time.
That morning, I witnessed people feeling the warmth of God’s love shown through hospitality as we worshipped a God who through Jesus, showed us the greatest expression, the greatest outpouring of love ever to walk the earth.
We experienced the powerful love of God through celebrating the Jesus’ victory over death, and then shared that love in concretely with one another. In a small but significant way, we practiced resurrection that day.
And I hope and pray that as we move forward as a congregation, that Daniels Run Peace Church can continue to be a place where people feel welcomed and loved, and can experience a sense of belonging, no matter who they are, no matter where they’ve come from, no matter where they are at in their stage of life and their journey of faith.
Becoming this kind of community marked by radical hospitality may stretch us, it will challenge us in new ways as we work at learning to live in community with people who don’t always think like us or see things the way we do, people who don’t always speak our language, literally and figuratively.
Just like it took time for the disciples to recognize the risen Jesus and realize the implications of that resurrection for their own lives, it takes time to grasp what it means to live as a resurrection people for us as well.
Like the disciples, we may experience confusion, amazement, disbelief, wondering, and joy, all at the same time. I love that phrase “in their joy they were still disbelieving and wondering”. It was a mixed bag of emotions that they were all sorting through.
And just as Jesus was patient with his disciples, we also need to be patient with each other and patient with ourselves as we seek to comprehend and embody the way of the risen Jesus. We need to show grace to each other and grace to ourselves, just as God has shown with us.
Jesus reminds his disciples in our story today that the message of the resurrection is a message of repentance and forgiveness, and we need to flesh out that repentance and forgiveness in our own lives and in our relationships with each other.
That’s what ultimately enables us to keep pressing on, keep seeking to be faithful, keep trusting God, keep hanging in there with each other, keep being gentle and kind.
The message of repentance and forgiveness is central to the message of love, and when it is practiced in real life we really do experience the power of the resurrection, of redemption and love in our midst.
And experiencing these things is what keeps our hope alive, what keeps us from giving up and throwing in the towel.
The late great pastor, theologian and author Eugene Peterson published a book of sermons a few years ago, that he preached early on in his career while serving as pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church, which is located in Harford County, Maryland, about 20 miles outside of Baltimore. So not far from here.
One of the sermons was based on the three letters of John found near the end of the Bible. Peterson highlights that these letters are all about love, and he says that John mentions the word “love” 51 times in these three short letters.
He says in his sermon that “…the letters are about Christians getting along with one another, loving one another in the valley of an ordinary work week with neighbors and spouses and children, jobs and responsibilities”. (p. 360, As Kingfishers Catch Fire)
And then he emphasizes that the source of our love comes from a God who loved us so much that he showed us the way of love through His Son Jesus, who lived, died and rose again for the sake of love.
Peterson says, Being loved creates a person who can love, who must love if that person is going to be fully human. “Getting loved is a launching pad into giving love.” P. 363
May we continue to open ourselves up to receiving the love of God into the deepest parts of our lives, and out of gratitude may we open our hands and our lives to be witnesses to others of the love that we have freely received from God through Christ. AMEN.