Jesus Appears to His Followers
Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 24:36–24:49
The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Vacation Bible School Week 4: “God’s Wonder Lab”
August 1, 2021
“Jesus Appears to His Followers”
One of the biggest challenges that we had to deal with during the COVID-19 pandemic was not being able to see one another in person. And that was pretty tough, wasn’t it? Sometimes that seeing was virtual, and came through Zoom time with family members or friends. Sometimes that seeing came through windows or plexiglass dividers as we did our best to connect with loved ones who live in care facilities. As we have been able to reconnect with those whom we haven’t seen for a year or more, it’s like a wonderful reunion! That happens here at church as members who have been away return and see old friends. There is no substitute for that in-person, face-to-face seeing with our own eyes. That is what’s before us in the Gospel lesson for this Sunday. This is the fourth week of our 5-week Summer Vacation Bible School series, God’s Wonder Lab. Today we hear about how Jesus appears to his followers after his resurrection from the dead, and that becomes the theme for preaching. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
We’re not used to hearing this Gospel lesson in the middle of the summer, so it may seem a little out of place. This is something we are accustomed hearing about in the springtime during the Easter season. In fact, this was the appointed Gospel lesson back in April on the Third Sunday of Easter. And yet, hearing about Jesus’s resurrection is always appropriate. Hearing that we worship and serve a risen Savior who has brought life and immortality to light is always in season. The cross stands empty and the grave is open. Jesus does the impossible as he rises from the dead and appears to his disciples. As the angels reminded the women on that first Easter morning, so we need to be reminded again and again: “He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:6). Sometimes, though, we act like we worship and serve a Savior who is still in the tomb. People who do not know Jesus, but know us, may get the impression by how we conduct ourselves that life is a terrible burden; that there is no hope; that joy and gladness are no more. When people see us, do they see the risen Lord Jesus Christ? Do they grasp the life-changing truth that Jesus is alive and at work in the world? The truth is that our lives may be the only sermon some people will ever hear! Let’s make sure that by our words and actions we are pointing them to Christ who is risen from the dead, who lives and reigns to all eternity.
Today’s Gospel lesson occurs on that first Easter evening. Here in Luke 24, Jesus had already appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and made himself known to them in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:13-35), and now Jesus makes himself known to the rest of the disciples. They were a dispirited and demoralized group whose teacher and leader had been brutally executed, and they had all abandoned him. But Jesus did not leave his frightened followers in doubt and fear. He came to them and appeared in their midst. He spoke sweet words of comfort and hope: “Peace to you!... Why are you troubled and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke 24:36b, 38-39). We can imagine how stunned and astonished those first disciples were! Jesus invited them to see with their own eyes and to touch with their own hands (Luke 24:39-40). He showed them the wounds which he still bore in his glorified resurrection body. He even asked for and ate a piece of fish in front of them! Jesus gave his disciples all kinds of proof that he really was alive; that he truly had risen from the dead. This was not some bizarre dream or vision. They weren’t seeing some specter or ghost. It was Jesus himself.
The problem for us is that we weren’t there to see the risen Savior with our own eyes and to touch him with our own hands, like those first disciples. So where’s our proof? How do we know that this isn’t some hoax? How can we be sure that Jesus is really alive? There may well be something of doubting Thomas in all of us. We walk by faith, not by sight, and that’s not always easy. In today’s world, we do not see Jesus face-to-face. We are not able to touch him and watch him eat. Sometimes this raises doubts and can lead to disbelief. Even the disciples were fearful and doubting at first when they saw Jesus face-to-face. But Jesus doesn’t leave us in our doubt and disbelief. He showed the disciples, and he shows us today, how the Scriptures point to his death and resurrection. At the center of the Scriptures is Jesus himself, just like he said: “… everything written about me in the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44). And then that wonderful verse follows: “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Jesus has to open our minds as well, transforming us from doubt and disbelief into resurrection rejoicing. It is true that we do not see Jesus with our eyes like those first disciples, but as Jesus tells us: “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29). And that’s you and me; we have not seen, and yet we do believe that Jesus is risen from the dead, and that he lives and reigns to all eternity.
And now what? Well, we’ve got work to do. Jesus has given all of his disciples a job: “… repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:47-48). That’s where each one of us comes in. Though we have not seen Jesus, we, too, are called to be his witnesses in the world so that people everywhere will see him and know him through us. We are Jesus’ witnesses wherever we go; whatever we do. We are Jesus’ witnesses through what we say and through what we do. We have the great privilege of telling others who Jesus is and all that he has done for us by giving his life for our sins on the cross and by rising in triumph from death and the grave. Jesus does the impossible! Truly, “He has done marvelous things!” (Psalm 98:1). Amen.
Join us next Sunday for our fifth and final Summer Vacation Bible School Sunday as we hear about how Jesus sends Paul (Acts 9:1-19).