Speaking Of Life 3021 | Jesus Goes Viral Jeff Broadnax Have you ever seen a video that moved you so much or made you laugh so hard that you just had to share it with someone else? If so, you may have participated in making that video “go viral.” When a video “goes viral” it spreads exponentially with little effort or expense. This is a dream come true for advertisers or artists. In fact, many try to produce this phenomenon by implementing various strategies or tactics but there is no sure way of guaranteeing a video will “go viral.” It only happens when the video connects with people in a significant way and it is shared. A particularly moving video can get shared around the globe and viewed by millions in a very short time. We could say this is similar to how the Gospel gets spread around the world. It’s not that someone came up with some brilliant marketing strategy--or perhaps some ONE did--but rather it happens when a person has seen and been moved by Jesus. That personal encounter, I call those divine appointments, leads to a natural sharing of the Good News of who Jesus is and what he has done. Like seeing that amazing video, seeing Jesus compels us to share with others in hope that they too will see Jesus. He’s just too good not to share. Unlike a video that goes viral, seeing Jesus is not a short-lived experience. It’s a lifelong relationship of seeing and coming to know him and his Father by the Spirit, day in and day out. The more we turn to him and come to see and know him the more our witness of him will naturally flow out of us. We won’t need any fancy marketing campaigns. We will just tell that epic story as we experienced it. Listen to the interplay between experiencing God personally and witnessing to him publicly in this Psalm: Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. How long will you people turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord. Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:1-8 When we see Jesus, we will also see that Jesus is the true Witness in the World. He has known the Father for all eternity and knows just how good he is. Since Jesus sees the Father, he is compelled to share him with us. We could say that Jesus is the Someone who shared the “visual” of his relationship with the Father. Let’s celebrate the One who shines the light and love of the Father and join in on Jesus going viral. I’m Jeff Broadnax, Speaking of Life.
Psalm 4:1-8 • Acts 3:12-19 • 1 John 3:1-7 • Luke 24:36b-48
This week’s theme is being witnesses of the Lord. The call to worship Psalm starts off with a plea and ends with the assurance that the Lord hears our calls to him. The text from Acts follows the healing of a crippled beggar in Jesus’ name, which gives Peter the opportunity to witness to many people. The epistolary text explores the concrete reality of being children of God, which sets us out to be like Jesus. The Gospel text finds the disciples being confronted with the reality of the risen Lord who calls them to be witnesses to all nations.
Talking about Jesus
Luke 24:36-48 (NRSV)
Have you ever been with a group a people who were talking about another person when suddenly that person walks into the room? It can be an awkward moment, depending on what was being said. That is roughly the situation that is taking place to begin our sermon today. Today’s text follows immediately on the heels of the story of Cleopas and an unnamed disciple who are encountered by Jesus on their walk to Emmaus. They were talking about Jesus and all that took place in Jerusalem leading to his crucifixion. As they were talking “Jesus himself came near and went with them.”
Now, at the beginning of our text for today, we have these two disciples gathered with other disciples sharing their experience and discussing the strange reports that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Notice Luke’s words:
While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. (Luke 24:36-37 NRSV)
There seems to be a pattern developing. When you gather with others to talk about Jesus, he has a tendency of showing up to join the conversation. But he doesn’t come to us to shame us or catch us in some awkward conversation to embarrass us. He comes bringing peace. These disciples needed to hear these words of peace from Jesus as they responded to his appearance by being “startled and terrified” as they thought they were seeing a ghost. Although they have been talking about the testimonies of those who encountered the risen Jesus and even though Jesus was standing in front of them, these disciples were fearful that it was not true. They may be thinking that whatever they are seeing looks a lot like Jesus but surely, it must be something else. This can’t be real. It doesn’t make any sense from all we know of dead people. A ghost maybe…but Jesus in the flesh. Impossible.
Notice how Jesus responds to their fears.
He begins by asking them a probing question: “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” When Jesus stands before us and gives us his peace, why do we still fear? This may be a good question for us to take up today. The peace (shalom) that Jesus has brought to us is real. It’s not a suggestion or a sentimental nice thing to say. Jesus has brought peace and that is a reality. As we look around us, we may be tempted to think Jesus’ pronouncement of peace is a mirage. We may not see a lot of peace in our world and therefor draw the conclusion that Jesus’ peace must be some vapory form of peace, shallow and “ghost-like” but nothing of substance. So, we remain in our fears. What lies at the heart of our fears? Is it not a lack of trust in God’s Word to us in Jesus? What is more real to us, what the world presents to our eyes or what the Word speaks to our ears? We are called to faith, to believe and cast our full trust on the One who loves us, who came to us as Lord and Savior. If he brings peace, you can rest assured that it is a real peace to be received, not an ungrounded allusion to doubt.
Notice the next thing Jesus does after getting the disciples to ponder the reason for their fear.
He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24:38-39 NRSV)
He moves to help them see the reality. He doesn’t chide them or throw up his hands in frustration. He simply takes them where they are and works to grow their faith in him. Jesus is content to work with their present fears and culturally conditioned responses. In that culture, it was not an uncommon belief for a dead person to appear as a ghost. In fact, they had some tests that could be used to validate whether a person was a ghost or not. First, you could check the person’s feet to make sure they touched the ground and were not floating like a ghost. Second, the hands could be examined to see if they were solid with flesh and bones. Also, you could check to see if they had teeth and could eat. Jesus, apparently, is taking the disciples through this template of testing to show them he is indeed Jesus himself.
And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. (Luke 24:40 NRSV)
Even as Jesus puts himself through this “ghost test” we can see that the disciples are struggling “in their joy” to believe. We would say, “It seems too good to be true.” But Jesus is committed to bringing them into the reality of the good news that he was coming to them as the risen Lord. This seems to be the thrust of Luke’s telling of the story. He does not mention the nail scars on Jesus’ hands or has anyone touch the hole in his side, like other accounts of Jesus’ appearances. Jesus is simply trying to establish for the disciples that he is real, not a ghost. He is Jesus in the flesh, risen from the dead.
This account of Jesus appearing to his disciples can bring us great comfort in our times of fear and doubt. We can know that Jesus wants to move us beyond our fears so we can embrace his peace. He takes us where we are and moves us beyond our limited capacities. He doesn’t come to us with disappointment or annoyance at our weakness of faith. If that were so, he would not be living in the peace he is holding out to us. But Jesus is living completely in the peace he promises. He does not fear our fears and doubts, and he is not anxious about our culture’s influence on our ability to trust in him. Rather, he moves in peace toward us, calling us further to himself.
The last test Jesus applies to himself is eating.
While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. (Luke 24:41-43 NRSV)
Notice how he involves the disciples in what he is doing. Not only does this present evidence that Jesus is not a ghost, but it may connect with them on a personal level as their memory may return to the time they handed Jesus some fish and Jesus used it to feed thousands. Now they were giving him fish that he is using to open their eyes to who he is.
Jesus is being consistent in how he relates to the disciples. He takes what they give him and uses it to reveal himself further to them. And Jesus is still doing that today. Have you ever experienced the Lord asking you to give him something that he then turns into a means of revealing himself to you in a deeper way? Maybe he asked you to give over some stinky fish of complaining only to find that God shares with you his overflowing joy. Maybe he asked you to give him that offense from another you have been unable to forgive only to find that God has forgiven you completely, setting you free to forgive others as you have been forgiven. Or maybe he has asked you to give just a little more in the offering basket than you were comfortable with only to find that God is a generous God who gives all things without compulsion. In this way, our giving becomes a form of receiving. God takes what we give him and uses it to further his blessing to us of knowing him.
After Jesus presents himself to the disciples in this way, he then reminds them of what he told them about Scripture—it’s all about him.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. (Luke 24:44-48 NRSV)
He wants them to know who he is beyond all their fear and doubt and he directs them to the Scriptures to do just that. But he goes further: “Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” Let that sink in. When we read the Scriptures, we can trust that Jesus is right there with us by the Spirit, opening our minds to understand further who he is. How important it is to continually be searching the Scriptures, reading along with Jesus who is opening our minds to understand who he is as revealed in them.
Not only did Jesus open their minds to understand what the Scriptures are saying about him, but he used the Scriptures to open their eyes to who they are in Christ—his witnesses. When Jesus appeared to them and brought them to see that he was real, and not a ghost, he was also preparing them for their calling of being a witness. Sometimes when we talk about being witnesses or about evangelism, we do so as if we are on our own. But Jesus is the true Witness, and he calls us along to join him. He is preparing us for this calling by witnessing to us who he is and who his Father is.
There is no way we can be witnesses outside of his witness to us and his continuing witness to the Father by the Spirit for the sake of the world.
Jesus also makes them more than “eyewitnesses” of Jesus after the resurrection. He links their witness with the Scriptures as they are to be “witnesses of these things”—the things that he just opened their minds to in the Scriptures. The calling to proclaim the gospel will entail being “ministers of the word.” Also, notice that Jesus said the proclamation “to all nations” would begin “from Jerusalem.” In other words, they will first witness from where they are. Jesus links witness to relationship.
He prepared the first disciples and us today to be witnesses by having us come to know him personally for who he is. We are to share that first with others we are closest to. We begin where we are, with our families and friends. Our sights are not set only on some distant land to reach with the gospel, but as witnesses who have been encountered by the risen Lord, we naturally want to share with the closest person within reach. Being a witness will be a natural response of seeing the Lord. So, our text has come full circle. It begins with disciples talking about Jesus who, after being encountered by the living, risen Lord, are set out to talk about Jesus.
As you go out today, back to your families, your neighborhood, your work and wherever you find yourself, I hope you go encouraged by the reality that Jesus comes to you. He comes to you to bring you into his peace. He comes to you to reveal himself to you further, so you can know him and his Father more deeply. He comes to you to build your faith in him so you can go into your world living in the reality of God’s love for you, living in the repentance and forgiveness of sins that has been proclaimed in the name of Jesus. In this name, may we go out talking about Jesus, sharing with others who Christ has revealed himself to be to us in the Scriptures.
Jesus has come to you. May you see him more clearly and hear his words of peace. And in his name, may you go out and share his words of peace with others.
Small Group Discussion Questions
- Can you think of a movie you saw that you couldn’t help but share with a friend or family member? Discuss how this can be analogous to sharing the gospel with others.
- The “Speaking of Life” video stated that Jesus was the true Witness in the world. What do you think of this statement? How does that inform our calling to be witnesses?
- Put yourself in the circle of disciples when Jesus appeared to them after the resurrection. How do you think you would have responded? Can you identify with the fear and doubt the disciples experienced, even though Jesus was standing right in front of them?
- Jesus asked the disciples, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” How would you answer that question today? Discuss together possible answers to this question.
- The text brings out that Jesus asked the disciples for something to eat and the disciples gave him some broiled fish. Then Jesus ate the fish as a way of showing them that he was not a ghost but was real flesh and blood risen from the dead. Can you think of examples in your own life where Jesus has asked you to give something to him that he in turn used to help you see him more?
- Discuss the importance of Scripture for our calling to be witnesses to Jesus.