April 26, 2009
?Third Sunday After Easter (B)
“I don’t believe it!” is the oft-heard response to incredible news. In the shock of the unexpected loss of a loved one, a grieving family member will repeat to herself, in stunned disbelief, “I don’t believe it!” If the prize patrol from Publisher’s Clearing House pulls into your driveway during the Super Bowl, you will likely say, “I don’t believe it!” Suppose someone you love is dead-you watched the crucifixion yourself-and has been buried. In spite of it all, some of your friends have heard reports that your friend has come back from the dead. A few even claim to have seen Him. Of course, this is the story of the disciples and the resurrection. This is the third scene in the resurrection drama presented in Luke. The disciples reacted to the news with “I don’t believe it.”
I. Jesus’ bodily resurrection is good news.
It must have made Jesus want to beat His head against the wall sometimes when His disciples seemed to miss the point. He told them He would rise from the dead. Scriptures said He would rise from the dead. The disciples just didn’t get it though. After Jesus has appeared to two disciples on the Emmaus Road, the disciples are talking about all the events of recent days; and Jesus appears to them. Instead of believing, the disciples thought they were looking at a ghost. Jesus said, “Touch me! I’m flesh and bones. Give me something to eat! Ghosts don’t eat!” Now, instead of disbelieving because of facts that prove intellectually difficult to accept, the disciples are in disbelief because of the joy of seeing the resurrected Christ.
Luke says in
II. Forgiveness of sins is good news.
It must have been an incredible experience to listen to Jesus of Nazareth teach on the hillsides of Galilee. Crank that up a notch and imagine having Jesus, the risen Christ, open your mind so you could understand the Scriptures. All of the foreshadowing and allusions Jesus had made to His death and resurrection prior to their happening must now have come bombarding into the consciousness of the disciples. All of this had to happen to fulfill Scripture. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, forgiveness of sins is possible. You can be made right with God by having your sins forgiven. That’s good news to experience, and it’s good news to share.
Jesus tells them that it will be preached to all the nations, but that seems down-played a bit in this passage. Jesus isn’t telling them to go to the ends of the earth right away. Instead, He says, “Begin where you are. Right here, right now in your Jerusalem, you are my witnesses. Begin by being my witness here in Jerusalem, and the rest will take care of itself.” He doesn’t say much about technique or strategies for witnessing. Instead, Jesus simply affirms that the disciples are witnesses.
It’s interesting that the lectionary seems to eliminate the most essential element in witnessing-that is Jesus’ exhortation to wait until they are clothed with power from on high. Witnesses yielded to the Spirit seem to be the Holy Spirit’s strategy for sharing the good news of the forgiveness of sins.
There may be some people who have difficulty believing they could ever receive any good news. Others may scoff at such good news on what seem to them to be intellectual grounds. But those whose hearts have been changed from “I don’t believe it!” to “Wow! That’s incredible!” have wonderful good news to share.