Scripture readings: Acts 3:12-19; Ps. 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48 Sermon by Linda Rex (from Luke 24:36b-48 and 1 John 3:1-7, 14)
In Touch with Jesus
Many people go through life as though there is no reality other than what can be seen, heard, tasted, smelled and touched. It seems that they don’t think much, if at all, about the things of the spirit. As Christians we do. We know God exists and we talk with him in prayer. But do we have spiritual eyes to “see” his presence and spiritual ears to “hear” him speak? To the extent that we do, we’re in touch with ultimate reality.
King David knew that reality. In Psalm 4, he asked God to hear his prayer and thanked him for his gracious response. David reminds us that when we focus on what is worthless and deceptive, we miss out on the spiritual realities. But when we live in humble recognition of God’s presence and are attentive to his voice, we find joy and peace. In Psalm 4, David mentions a “faithful servant” who God set apart. In the ultimate sense, that servant is the God-man Jesus Christ. To the extent that we see and hear Jesus today, we are in touch with ultimate reality.
In Luke 24 we learn of one of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to his disciples. Fearing for their lives, they have holed up in a room in the city of Jerusalem. There they excitedly discuss whether or not what a few of them have experienced is real. Some say they have seen Jesus.
Several days before, a few of them witnessed Jesus crying out in agony as he hung dying on the cross. They saw his blood poured out on the ground. They saw him being wrapped in grave clothes and then placed in a tomb. They were crushed by the loss of their dear friend, the one they thought was the hoped-for Messiah. Now, experiencing grief and doubt, they sorely need spiritual vision and hearing. They need a dose of ultimate reality.
Addressing that need, Jesus appeared among them. Their first thought was that they were seeing a ghost, and they were terrified. But then Jesus said, “Look!” He wanted them to have spiritual sight. “Look at my hands and my feet,” he said. “It is I myself; touch me and see.” His language was emphatic, “It really is me!” he was saying.
Here was Jesus, the same person they had walked, talked, eaten and worked with. He’s alive! He’s no ghost—he’s flesh and bone. Yet Jesus was appearing to them in a way they had never seen—as a glorified human person. He entered the room without using the door. How did he do that? And how could he be with them if he was dead?
Jesus was opening their eyes to behold the miracle of his resurrection and opening their ears to hear his voice of comfort and challenge.
For a brief time following his resurrection, and before ascending to heaven, Jesus met multiple times with his disciples. Doing so enabled them to see what it would be like to live in a resurrected-glorified human body. Jesus patiently explained how everything in the Law, Prophets and Writings (what we call the Old Testament) spoke of him and his mission. This reassured and prepared them for the mission Jesus would give them—to tell the world his story, the story of God’s great love and grace. Concerning that love, one of these witnesses, the apostle John, would later write this:
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God and that is what we are. (1 John 3:1a)
John felt it was essential for his readers to “see” the spiritual reality of God’s love—a love so great that, through Jesus, God makes us his beloved children. John continues:
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 1:2)
John exhorts us to look at Jesus and ourselves with spiritual eyes. We need to know we are God’s beloved children, and to realize that one day we will see Jesus in his glorified human body. Even more than that, on that day we will be like him, since our bodies will be like his glorified human body.
This will happen because of what Jesus did in both bearing away our sins and destroying the devil’s work. Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus removed all the obstacles that stand between us and the glory that God created us to bear. In union with Jesus, we are swept up into the life and love of the Father, Son and Spirit for all eternity. Jesus defeated evil, sin and death, and brought us home to our heavenly Father.
John then tells us how we should respond to this glorious truth—this ultimate reality:
All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:3)
By the Spirit’s power, our life as followers of Jesus is to reflect the reality that we are made in the image of God, that we were created to live in loving relationship with God and one another. John goes on to say that it’s obvious when we’re either living that way, or not. Our lives show that we truly are God’s children when we are practicing “righteousness,” which means “right relationship” with one another:
We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. (1 John 3:14)
How we treat each other shows what’s going on in our hearts. Are we alive in Christ, or are we dead? Given our fallen nature, apart from Christ, we are the walking dead. Our feeble attempts at saving ourselves end up as dead ends. We have no hope apart from Jesus and his life. That was a lesson the disciples in that room in Jerusalem learned.
God loves us so much that he not only forgave our sins, reconciling us to himself in Jesus, he also sends the Spirit by which Jesus, our High Priest, ministers to us—revealing himself to us and in doing so showing us our true destiny as humans. Jesus is alive forevermore so that, in him, we too may have real life.
You see, the resurrection of Jesus is God’s “Yes!” to humanity. God bound himself to the human race forever in Christ, and calls us to embrace that truth—the reality that we are God’s very own, made in his image, to share in loving relationship with him and with one another forever. God longs for us to believe this truth and to live into it. Jesus says to you and me, “Open your eyes, your ears and your hearts to the truth of who I am, and because of that, who you are. Trust in my love and grace.”
As we do, we die to our old ways of being. We die to trusting in ourselves, and in our ways of doing things. As we grow in our awareness of and attention to the true spiritual realities of life in Christ, we walk in newness of life.
Dear friends, Christ has come, lived our life, died our death, and has risen! He is alive forevermore. In him and by his Spirit we are saved! We are healed! We are delivered! Hallelujah!
Let us pray: Abba, thank you for your great love, demonstrated to us in the gift of your Son. Thank you for never abandoning us or rejecting us, in spite of how we have treated you and Jesus. By your Spirit, open our eyes to see you and our ears to hear you. And open our hearts to receive your embrace and to embrace you in return. Lord Jesus, make us aware of the ultimate reality and brings us into agreement with that truth—the truth of who you are and who we are in you. Make us effective witnesses of the miracle that you are Jesus—the miracle of your life, death, resurrection and ascension. Amen.