Skidaway Island Presbyterian Church
May 3, 2020
The worship service can be watched on YouTube. The sermon starts at 15:01 and is over at 36:06, in case you would like to fast forward to just catch the sermon (or watch all but the sermon). Just click here to be taken to YouTube.
We are continuing our look at the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. As I said last week, Luke provides three vignettes of Jesus on that first Easter. The first is with the women at the empty tomb, then Jesus meets up with the disciples along the road to Emmaus. Somewhere, too, this day, we’re told Jesus encountered Simon Peter, but we’re not give a first-hand account of that meeting, just an after-the-fact mention. The final meeting on this first Easter is similar to the Easter Evening description in John’s gospel, but there are some differences we should explore. In Luke, the disciples are confused and wonder if Jesus is a ghost. Jesus points to himself and his “flesh and bones” as an indication that it is really him. Then, Jesus asks if there is something to eat. After all, ghosts (according to their belief) didn’t eat. Jesus is given some leftovers from dinner.
I don’t have a classic photo to show you of this encounter. Artists seem more interested in painting the Emmaus story or the story of Thomas sticking his hand in Jesus’ wounds. So, let’s think for a minute about leftovers. Leftovers doesn’t seem suitable fare for a risen king, does it? Cold fish? But Jesus surprises us. Just as he was born a king, but in a manger and not a castle, upon his resurrection, Jesus doesn’t expect a fancy banquet. Just a piece of broiled fish. Simple food, the food of the masses.
Jesus isn’t pretentious. With Jesus, it’s never about having the best stuff. Instead, it’s about relationships and being connected to God the Father. Sometimes his followers forget this. We build fancy cathedrals in his honor. But for a man who lived most of his life on the road, one should ask if this is where Jesus would feel at home? For this reason, those of us in the Presbyterian and Reformed Tradition have tended to shun that which is flashy. Our buildings tend to be simple and functional. Our Scottish ancestors saw to it that even clergy dress is simple. Most of us wear Geneva gowns, more akin to the academy than to the high church. We’re simple folk, which brings us back to leftovers. It’s the perfect meal. Don’t waste things; make the best of what God has given you, and be thankful.
For those of us who are living in this strange time of pandemic, this is a good reminder that we should be thankful for what we have, even leftovers. Read Luke 24:36-49.
One of the common characteristics of the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus is that no one is looking for him, and no one “finds him.” Instead, Jesus just shows up. The disciples are hearing from the women about Jesus not being in the tomb, reports of him being in Emmaus, and from Simon Peter. But they don’t send out a search party to find Jesus. They’re scared. They lock themselves into a room while discussing what they consider as rumors. And when Jesus mysteriously shows up, they freak out. “It’s a ghost!”
One of the lessons we should learn from the resurrection stories is that Jesus controls both his and our destinies. It’s not about us going out looking for God, it’s about God looking for us. There are no barriers that we can put up to avoid God. The disciples discovered this when Jesus pops in. This is good news for those of us sheltering and avoiding contact with others in order to stay healthy during this pandemic. While we might not be able to go to church on Sunday mornings, God can invade the privacy of our homes. We can’t keep God out. As Jesus shows us, God is in control. That’s good, because we can screw things up, so we’re a lot better off depending upon the God who surprises us, than depending on our own inability to bring us back into a relationship with the Almighty. This is what the Presbyterian doctrine of election or predestination is all about.
But before the disciples can understand this, they must realize who this is that has invaded their meeting. In their mind, Jesus is dead. You don’t come back to this life once grasp the idea that he is risen. First, he asks for a bite to eat. It’s been a while since his last supper. It’s important that they see food going in his mouth (see food, seafood, get it?). Jesus then points to his flesh and bones. Luke wants to assure us that Jesus’ appearance to the disciples after his death isn’t just wishful thinking on their part. The disciples expect Jesus to be dead and his appearance strikes fear in them. Jesus assures them what is happening by eating and showing his body. Still, his presence in the resurrection state creates questions for us such as how just how he got through the walls and locked doors. Because Jesus is also God, there are mysteries we can never comprehend.
The second thing Jesus does, which is like what he did with those in Emmaus, is to help the disciples understand the scriptures. Jesus wants them to grasp the idea that his suffering, death, and resurrection has been God’s plan. The Law of Moses (or what the Jews call the Torah or the first five books of our Old Testament), along with the prophets and Psalms, all point to Jesus Christ. God is working out history with humans, which means there is much in the Scriptures that’s messy. We had this discussion yesterday in the men’s Bible study. We are reading Genesis. As humans, we have a hard time understanding stories like that of Tamar playing the role of a prostitute, yet finding a place in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus. God has a way of redeeming us and working through us to bring about his purposes. We might screw things up, but God can make it right. Again, that’s the doctrine of election or predestination at work.
This brings me to the last point I want to make on this passage. Jesus doesn’t open their eyes only so they can understand what had happened that weekend which began on that terrible (yet good) Friday. Jesus is preparing these misfits, who denied and abandoned him, to continue with his ministry and to take it to the ends of the world. Throughout these post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, there is a call to mission. The disciples are to be Jesus’ witnesses.
Of course, because this is God’s doing, not the disciples’, they will need to be given the strength and ability to carry this mission out. Jesus, in his commission to the disciples in Luke’s gospel, is looking forward to the: coming of the Holy Spirit, to Pentecost, after which the disciples will take Jesus’ message to the end of the world. As I insisted over and over again when preaching through Luke’s second book known of as “the Acts of the Apostles,” it should have been called, “The Acts of God through the Apostles.” For it wasn’t the Apostles that made the difference, it was God working through them. With God, all is possible. Without God, nothing is possible.
So, what can we take away from this passage as we sit, isolated, in our homes? First, while we keep others at a distance (and for a good reason as we are striving to stop this virus), we can’t keep Jesus out. You never know where he might show up. But don’t worry if you’re in your pajamas or an old sweat suit. That doesn’t bother Jesus, just as he won’t be offended if you offered him leftovers from the fridge. But understand this. Jesus doesn’t just show to make us feel better. He shows up because he has a job for us to do. He shows up to encourage us to trust in God and to be his ambassadors, starting where we are at and then to the ends of the world. Jesus shows up to call us to be gracious and thankful even during a pandemic.
Jesus shows up and calls us because, sooner or later, we are no longer going to be hiding in our home. Life will open back up and when that happens, we need to be ready (just as the disciples were ready on Pentecost) to go into the world and make a difference. Think of this time we’re in as a Sabbath. Like the disciples, we rest today. In a short while, there will be plenty for us to do. As followers of Jesus, we’re to change the world, to make it a kinder more generous and gracious, home. May we catch that vision and live into it. Amen.
 Luke 24:34
 See Book of Order F-2.05 and Westminster Larger Catechism Question 141.
 James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015), 729.
 While Luke doesn’t mention locked doors, it is still apparent that Jesus suddenly appearing in the midst of the disciples is miraculous and unexplained. See John 20:19.
 Fred B. Craddock, Luke: Interpretation, a Biblical Commentary for Preaching and Teaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990), 291.
 Genesis 38 (especially verses 14-19) and Matthew 1;3.
 In Matthew 28, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are sent to tell the disciples, then the disciples are sent to tell the world. In Mark 16:15, the disciples are to go tell the world. In John, Mary Magdalene is sent to tell the disciples (John 20:17); the disciples are sent into the world to forgive sin (John 20:21-22); and Peter is sent to tend and love Jesus’ “sheep.” (John 21:15-23). In the cases where there is not implicit instruction, the disciples seem to know that they are to go tell about Jesus’ resurrection as in the case with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13ff).
 Edwards, 735.
 Matthew 19:26, Mark 10:27.