Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 24:36–24:49
The Third Sunday of Easter
April 18, 2021
On so many levels, we want what is real in life. From the food that we eat to the relationships that we have, we desire what is authentic, genuine, and true. We want real ingredients in our food, not artificial. In a world that is saturated by toxins, we are careful about what we put into our bodies. The same holds true in our relationships: we want real and honest communication, rather than people being dishonest or disingenuous with us. When someone tells us something that seems incredulous or hard to believe, we may say, “For real?” In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus gives real proof to his disbelieving disciples who struggled to grasp that this really was Jesus standing before them, alive and risen from the dead. Today on this Third Sunday of Easter, the theme for the sermon is “For Real!” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
Like last Sunday’s Gospel lesson (John 20:19-31), so again in today’s Gospel lesson the risen Lord Jesus Christ comes into the midst of his followers and once again says those blessed words: “Peace to you!” (Luke 24:36). Surely, that was not what they were expecting to hear from Jesus. If anything, they were expecting to hear a reprimand; a rebuke. After all, didn’t the disciples turn tail and run when Jesus was arrested? They had abandoned Jesus; they left him in the lurch to die. But the good news of Easter is that Jesus did not abandon them. The good news of Easter is that Jesus will not abandon us, either. In the midst of our failures and fiascos, when we have not been real with Jesus, he remains real for us. The saving love of Jesus that moved him to go to the cross and offer his very life there as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, that same saving love moves Jesus to seek out his fearful and uncertain disciples, then and now. He doesn’t wait for us to come to him. He comes to us. For real!
What comes before today’s Gospel lesson is Jesus’ appearing to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on that first Easter evening (Luke 24:13-35). Go home and read this because it sets the stage for what today’s Gospel is all about. After the eyes of those two disciples were opened and they recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread, they got up and went back to Jerusalem to tell the others that the risen Lord Jesus had appeared to them. That is where today’s Gospel lesson picks up: “As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you!’” (Luke 24:36). I love what comes next as Jesus invites his disciples, whose minds have just been blown, to engage their senses and know that this is Jesus – for real! First there is Jesus’ own voice as he speaks to the disciples: “Peace to you!... Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:36b, 38). To hear the voice of a loved one once again is a dream come true, and so the sense of hearing comes into play. Next, Jesus tells them: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself” (Luke 24:39a). That is the sense of sight; to behold with one’s own eyes and to see. Then Jesus invites the disciples: “Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:39b). That is the sense of touch; to feel and know that this is not smoke and mirrors, some kind of horrible trick, but that it is for real. And finally, Jesus asks: “Have you anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:41), and so the sense of taste is engaged as Jesus eats a piece of broiled fish. Was it because Jesus was hungry? Or was it to help the disciples know that this was not some apparition in front of them, but the real Jesus? I believe it was the latter. Jesus ate the fish not for his sake, but for theirs. And so we have the sense of hearing, the sense of sight, the sense of touch, and the sense of taste. Was there also the sense of smell here, though not reported by Dr. Luke, the “beloved physician” (Colossians 4:14)? We don’t know that, but we do know that all of these proofs together helped the disciples to know that Jesus was truly risen from the dead – for real!
Today is a milestone in our life together as Lutheran Christians. On this day exactly 500 years ago – April 18, 1521 – Martin Luther, the German Augustinian monk whose writings had stirred up a hornet’s nest of controversy in the Church of his day, stood before the imperial assembly of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. This formal assembly of electors and officials from the Empire, called a diet, took place in the imperial free city of Worms, Germany, and so has come to be known as the Diet of Worms. This diet was called in part to address the growing concern that both church and state had over Luther’s writings and teachings, which were labeled as heresy. Luther himself was summoned to be present, and he was formally called upon to publicly state whether the books and writings presented at the diet were, in fact, his own. When he answered in the affirmative, he was then called upon to renounce that what he had written and taught was heretical. On April 18, 1521, Luther’s response was recorded: “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen” (Diet of Worms - Wikipedia). Historians still debate whether Luther actually said those famous words attributed to him: “Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.” Whether Luther said these actual words or not, he did – for real! – stand up to speak truth to the powers in his day. That bold witness to the power of the Word remains our rock and anchor today. Like Luther, we must continually go back and ask ourselves this question: “But what does the Word of God say?” By the power of the Holy Spirit, it is that written Word that makes known to us the living Word, the Word made flesh (John 1:14). And so the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection stand as the touchstone of our faith. In a world filled with much that is false, misleading, and deceptive, the Word of God remains real and true. Here we stand! We can do no other!
Faith, by its very nature, may not seem real. We live in a world that demands concrete proof in order for something to be accepted as real, and even then, may be rejected. We trust in that which we cannot see with our own eyes. Though unseen, the risen Lord Jesus Christ worked powerfully through Peter and John in today’s first Scripture lesson (Acts 3:11-21), leading many to faith and trust in Jesus. That same risen Lord Jesus Christ comes to us today to help us walk by faith, not by sight. Through the sound of the good news of forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in Jesus that we hear, through the taste of the risen Savior’s Body and Blood in the Sacrament, through the gentle and caring touch – even virtually – from fellow believers, the risen Savior comes to us to strengthen and bless us. That is for real.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.