Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is a book out there entitled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The title is a bit of an exaggeration, but the point it’s trying to make is quite true. The skills we need to get along with others in the world, are learned in Kindergarten. If you can share, refrain from hitting, clean up after yourself, apologise when you hurt someone, and so on, you will be well on your way to becoming a kind and productive citizen.
How would you respond if I told you that everything you need to know about Jesus Christ is found in our Gospel reading from Luke? Now that’s also a bit of an exaggeration, however this text does serve as an important summary of Jesus’ life, ministry, and the very gospel message we proclaim. This means this passage will help us to discover how all of this Jesus stuff applies to us.
God really raised Jesus from the dead
First, this text teaches us that God really raised Jesus from the dead. That’s the whole point of Easter. Many are not convinced. Many remain uncertain. Dead men don’t rise, ordinarily. But how do we know it’s true? The open, empty tomb. The folded burial cloths. The scarred hands and feet and side. The appearances to eyewitnesses. That’s how you build a case in court. You present the evidence. You call eyewitnesses to bear witness and testify. That’s what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are doing. Testifying. Laying out the evidence for you, and for the whole world, that this Jesus is the crucified and risen Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world, the Son of God.
Notice that even the apostles didn’t believe right away. Yet Jesus offers proof, “Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself.” Jesus invites them to touch Him. This is no ghost. This is bone of our bones, flesh of our flesh. His tomb is empty. The disciples not only saw Jesus, they touched Him. Flesh and bone.
Jesus takes a piece of broiled fish left over from dinner, and He eats it right in front of them. It’s not that He was hungry. And He wasn’t looking for a snack. More evidence. Ghosts don’t eat fish. Or really anything, for that matter. This is the flesh and blood Jesus consuming a real piece of fish. Eating is a body thing.
Jesus’ was raised bodily. The resurrected Christ was not a disembodied spirit. Jesus is not a resuscitated corpse. Jesus is not a ghost; he is a real person. And if the body of Jesus is risen, then our bodies will also rise on the Last Day. Your resurrection is guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus can be trusted because He’s risen from the dead, as he said. That’s a matter of history, an historic fact. Our faith rests on facts not feelings. Two historic facts – that Jesus died and on the third day rose from the dead.
Jesus brings peace to the anxious
What message does this risen Jesus bring? “Peace be with you.” The first words out of His mouth are words of peace. Jesus brings peace to anxious, frightened hearts. And unlike our words, His words carry divine weight. They do what they say, just like they did in the beginning of Genesis where God spoke and it was so. “Let there be light,” and Light there is. Peace be with you, and peace there is. This is the peace the world cannot give, the peace Jesus promised to His disciples before His death. Jesus appears in their midst and says, “Peace be with you.” That’s the Easter greeting. It’s how you speak in the resurrection.
This is not an idle wish. This is not a peaceful easy feeling. Jesus shows them His hands and His side. That is the source of His peace. Peace comes from the wounds of Jesus, the marks of His crucifixion. These words of peace come at a price. See the wounds. His hands, His feet, His side. The violence of the cross is our peace. “By His wounds, we are healed.” Those wounds are your peace, your healing, and the source of your forgiveness. “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities.”
Every act of violence, of inhumanity, every genocide and injustice, is answered once and for all in the death of Jesus. There is peace with God. There is peace with each other. Peace always comes with blood, and this peace comes with the Blood of the Lamb shed on the wood of the cross and delivered to you with the bread and wine of the Supper.
Jesus is our peacemaker. Death is defeated. The grave can’t hold us. Sin is forgiven. Peace is restored. By His death He conquered Sin and Death. By His death He reconciled the world to His Father. By his blood he reconciled us to each other. It is the risen Jesus who comforts every anxious and suffering heart with a message of peace. It is the risen Jesus who has secured a peace which passes all understanding.
We cannot understand the Bible without Jesus
Then Jesus opens their minds to the Scriptures, so that they can understand Moses, the prophets, the psalms – the entire Old Testament. It’s all about Jesus. Even before the name of Jesus was known and before the Son took on our humanity, the entire Old Testament was laying the groundwork. The Old Testament points to Jesus. Jesus fulfils all that was ever written about Him.
That’s the key to understanding the Old Testament, and in fact, your entire Bible. Look for Jesus. It is Jesus who teaches us how to read and understand the Bible properly. The Old Testament always looked forward to a time when God would finally act to fulfil all the promises made to Abraham, Moses and the prophets, when the whole world would be brought into the embrace of God’s saving and healing love. That is what happened in Jesus. God does not keep his promises “more or less.” He fulfils his Word down to the last detail. Think of the details of the many Old Testament prophecies about our Lord: the birth in Bethlehem, the flight into Egypt, the 30 pieces of silver, the pierced side. He said that is the way it would be, and that is the way it was! From Genesis to Revelation each book points towards Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection and each book proclaims repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus name.
Jesus sends the Church to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins to everyone
Then, Jesus sent His disciples out into the world to make that forgiveness audible to those who had not seen. This is why God has a church in the first place, so that sin would be rebuked, so that people may repent, so that forgiveness of sins would be preached and heard and believed and lived. God doesn’t care if we are entertained on Sunday. God wants you to hear that your sins are forgiven in the name of Jesus. He wants to give you something concrete and tangible to believe, something outside of yourself, namely, that Jesus died for your sins and that He was raised for your forgiveness. God wants you to trust him and then go into the world and love of your neighbour.
What then shall we do? Think for a second of how you came to believe. Someone told you. Maybe that telling was your parents bringing you to Baptism as a baby, to church and Sunday school as a child. Maybe that telling came from a friend, a co-worker, a neighbour. Someone told you. That’s exactly what Jesus told us to do. Christians are to proclaim “repentance and forgiveness of sins” in Jesus name. It’s not fancy. It’s not complicated. We trust in God’s promises, we love our neighbours. We tell others that they need to repent and that in Christ we find forgiveness and peace.
Jesus is also clear that “repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” We must remember that the good news of Jesus Christ is universal in its scope. It is for everyone everywhere. Even our enemies. Today’s world is full of disputes, large and small, only a few of which get into the news. Nations, ethnic groups, political factions, tribes and economic alliances struggle for supremacy. Each can tell stories of the atrocities committed by their opponents. Each one claims that they therefore have the right to the moral high ground, and must be allowed redress, revenge, satisfaction. The only way forward is the one we all find the hardest at every level: repentance and forgiveness in Jesus name.
The Gospel is not a philosophy. It is not even a way of life. It is the eternal good news based on historical events prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled by Jesus the Messiah. We preach Christ who was crucified, yet raised from the dead by God. This risen Christ brings us peace, a peace with God and one another which was bought by his blood. This is the message of the whole Bible, and a message that we must bring to the whole world. This is a message that gives us …
…the peace of God, which passes all understanding, which will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.