Acts 3:12-19; Psalms 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48 April 18, 2021
This morning, Jesus shows the disciples that he is real and that the resurrection is real.
We read from Luke, so by this time of day, the women have gone to the tomb and found it empty. Men in white asked them why they were looking for the living among the dead.
They come back and tell the disciples, but they are not believed. Then Cleopas and another disciple arrive to report having walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus.
They are trying to sort all these amazing reports out when Jesus is standing in their midst. They can hardly believe their eyes. Can he be real?
To prove he is not a ghost, Jesus invites them to look at his scarred hands and feet. They are still not sure they can believe their eyes, so he eats some of their baked fish.
Isn’t that an amazingly simple way to prove the truth about God’s love being the way to eternal life? To eat something?
But we see this many times a day in our country today. After I got mugged and run over by the pickup truck in Washington, D.C. I spent 10 days in the hospital and I was on IVs for a week.
What did I have to do to get out of that place? I had to show them I could eat solid food.
They were skeptical about my return to health…doubting… testing. Once you show you can do it, though, your recovery is certified as real and you are released back into the world of the living.
Jesus comes to reassure his friends that he is risen from the dead. He has also returned to make witnesses of them.
Now they know the great power of that love. They understand they do not have that power, but that power has them. If they can be faithful as Christ has been faithful, it is the love of God that will save them…from themselves…and from death.
Margery Williams found a wonderful, beautiful way to illustrate this concept with a children’s story back in 1922.
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real, you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.
“But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
The skin horse is the wise, honest, gentle kind of witness that Jesus is trying to turn the disciples into. They have seen what they don’t want to see, and they do not deny the pain the truth brings with it… or the joy of it all…as you become true believer…and a compelling witness…to the truth of love and the love in truth.
Getting mugged in the spring of my last year in law school meant I missed two weeks of classes. One of the classes was Conflicts of Law. I made a deal with the classmate I sat next to, Paul from Connecticut.
One Thursday he would attend class and give me his notes. The next Thursday I would attend class and give him my notes. I missed one of my Thursdays, a Tuesday and two Fridays.
When I came back, Paul turned in his chair and stared at me… “Where have you been?” he asked. I got mugged and hit on the head, knocked into the street and run over by a pickup.
They did surgery to stop the bleeding and spent 10 days in the hospital, including three days in intensive care. But I’m back now.
“Mmmhmmm…” he said. “I knew it was going to be good…but that’s really, really good.” Professor Rothstein started the class and we turned to taking notes.
At the break, another friend, Chuck from Wisconsin, came over and said he was glad to see me back.
“When did you get out of the hospital?” Friday.
“You look great! Did they catch the guys who mugged you?” Not yet.
“How about the truck that ran over you? Did they find that guy?” Not yet.
“Well, it’s great to see you back. Be careful.”
So I turned to Paul and he was pasted against the back of his seat. His eyes were the size of silver dollars. He was hyperventilating a little bit.
“It’s all true! It’s all true!” was all he could say. To remove all doubt, I pulled up my shirt and showed him a not-quite-healed surgical scar from my breastbone to my belly button .
My friend Paul gave me the last two weeks of his notes…but more important to me, he never doubted me again. He might even have told a few people about it.
It’s hard to accept bad things when they happen to us. They affect so many people around us and that can hurt as much as the thing itself.
That’s when I am thankful to be at least a little bit like the Skin Horse. This, too, shall pass. There is pain, to be sure, but there is something more important in all that goes on than the way we want it to come out.
God nudges us in the ways God wants us to follow. When we are surprised by the turn in the road, though, it is hard to see beyond the moment. We are filled with so many emotions it’s hard to sort them all out.
The disciples were in a place they didn’t want to be after everything that was supposed to go right had gone horribly wrong. They had justifiably high hopes, but then it was all terror.
They are afraid. They can’t believe people they have known when they hear the first eyewitness accounts. They still have trouble remembering what Jesus told them after Mary and the others return from the tomb…even after Cleopas reports from the Emmaus road.
It’s hard to believe in anything, sometimes, when what you were so sure of is ripped away from you.
You come to doubt your own judgment…your own ability to see what is real.
But the good things a person…or a group of people…have done cannot be taken from them. They saw the miracles. They heard the words.
Together they brought light and hope into the world in a new way…a way that will last forever.
True, they only served him, but they did that to make way for what had to be. In turn, their master served only God. Now they can see the result. Now they know it is real.
One day soon, as we read in our passage from Acts, the world will be able to see what they have been trying to do…and how wonderful their accomplishment has been.
Jesus’ revelation of himself to them today is a complete game changer. The powers of this world were not defeated so much as the coercive use of their mortal powers was embarrassed to find itself unable to crush the truth of God’s love for the world.
It happened then…and it has happened many times since then …it is happening somewhere in the world today, even as we gather here…and it will happen again.
Because no matter what people say…no matter what people do… the truth always has been…and always will be…and is now…the truth.
Our calling is to continue to hold up that truth for all the world to see…to speak the truth for all the world to hear. And one day the world will come to accept the truth and do all in its power to live out that truth in joy and hope and love…just as Jesus shows the disciples…one more time…today.
Our scars do not obscure that truth…they reveal it…and raise it up once again for all the world to see…that they might come to believe in the overwhelming power of truth and love…that they might touch him and see… and have life everlasting.
O Lord, what is it that you want to accomplish in the world through us…and through me… this day? Amen.