Not A Ghost, But Flesh and Blood!
3rd Sunday in Easter
Rev. Steven D. Spencer – Pastor of Messiah Lutheran Church, Salem, OR
Epistle:1 John 1:1–4
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
Holy Gospel: Luke 24:36–49
As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.
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 and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Grace, peace and mercy from God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, amen!
As some of you know I just came back from a conference in Minnesota. The conference was all about the person of God.
Who is God? How can we know Him?
I want to make a very important statement. One I’ve made before, “if you believe in any God other than the God of Holy Scripture you’re not saved!” Let me clarify that, “If you believe in some God who has not revealed Himself in the Holy Scriptures you’re not saved, but condemned!”
Now you might be thinking come on Pastor, we know that! You’ve said this before, why repeat it again? Why, because it is such an important truth. A truth that the flesh, the world and the devil don’t want you to know! We live in a very spiritual world surrounded by people who are unchurched. You see everyone is spiritual and has some concept of God. But sadly many have no idea of who He truly is! If you believe in any God other than the true God, you’re not saved. We all have a natural knowledge of God. We can look outside, we see the mountains, we see the trees and we see the flowers and know it is the handiwork of someone greater than ourselves. We can look at the human genome and know there a creator. We know from what’s around us that there is a god, but what god? Some type of god that gives society an understanding of a higher element of truth? Some type of god that is a majestic benevolent benefactor of humanity? Some type of cosmic force? What God? And is it the true God?
By human nature, by the natural knowledge of God we know there’s a god. But that knowledge cannot save us. It is only a supernatural knowledge of God that saves us. It’s only the God who took time to enter our time and space. A God who writes Himself into our history, who makes Himself into one of us; He is the only one that can save us. But who is this God?
That is one of the reasons I love the Gospel of John so much. John 1: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John waits fourteen tantalizing verses before he pops the cork: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” God comes to us, Immanuel God with us!
In our Epistle lesson John does it again. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.”
This is no make believe Jesus; no “Christ of blind faith” No Jesus of myth and legend. “We heard Him,” John says. “We saw Him with our own eyes; we observed Him and touched Him with our own hands. The One who is the Light and Life of the world, who made all things, and redeemed all things by His blood, Him we preach so that you might have fellowship with us, and our joy might be complete.” Now there’s a good, gospel reason to evangelize - that others may have fellowship with us and that our joy might be complete. This is much better than putting the burden of an individual’s salvation on their own shoulders instead of on Jesus’.
There’s no other saving name than the name of Jesus. There’s no other savior than Jesus who was crucified as our sacrifice for sin. No one else has a death and resurrection; no one else can rescue you from sin or death but this Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, the Visible, Touchable and Hearable Jesus.
Luke tells us that the disciples were frightened, hiding in a room, discussing all the rumors. Two disciples claimed to had even seen Jesus on the road to Emmaus. He taught them and broke bread with them. The disciples are discussing what this all means when suddenly Jesus appears literally out of nowhere, and says “Peace be with you.”
Those poor disciples! Can you imagine, their nerves are must have been frazzled. The crucifixion, the burial, the rumors of resurrection, an empty tomb, Jesus sightings first by Mary, then the two on the Emmaus road, all this in three days. And then without so much as a polite knock on the door, Jesus appears risen from the dead and says “Peace be with you.” The disciples must have nearly jumped out of their skin, thinking it was a ghost. Remember they thought the same thing when Jesus walked on water.
Jesus shows His hands and feet, those wounds that are our healing, the wounds that identify Jesus. Any Jesus without those wounds isn’t the real Jesus, no matter how glorious He may appear. Remember that! Jesus said there would be all sorts of false christs near the end, so brace yourselves and get ready. You can tell the real One by His wounds. “Those dear tokens of His passion, the ones His resurrected body still bears.” He shows them to the Father as evidence of our redemption. “See, I’ve paid the price,” He says. He shows them to His disciples as evidence of His resurrection from the dead.
Jesus says: “Go ahead and touch me.” You can’t touch ghosts. Spirits don’t have flesh and bones. And please notice that Jesus has “flesh and bones” after His resurrection. This is the resurrection of the body, not some sort of immortal spirit hovering about in the clouds. And then to drive the point home, Jesus asks for a piece of broiled fish, and He eats it, right before their eyes. Ghosts don’t eat fish.
John says, “We heard Him, we saw Him, we touched Him. That’s how real the resurrection of Jesus is. Hearable, visible and touchable! And though He isn’t visible to us today, He remains quite hearable in His Word, in the church. And though we cannot touch Him in the way that John did, He still touches us in all our humanity. He touches with water in baptism; He touches us with His body and blood in the Holy Supper. Hearable, visible and touchable! Real! It doesn’t get more down to earth than that. Or more even more real!
This touchable Jesus, with wounded hands and feet and sides, who eats fish, opens those closed minds of His disciples so they can understand the very Scriptures. So they could understand that the Christ must die and rise. And likewise the sinner must die and rise daily by repentance and forgiveness; and “that repentance unto forgiveness of sins is to be preached in His name to all nations.”
“In His Name” that’s the name of Jesus. There is no other name in heaven or earth by which we can be saved. It’s the great lie of the devil to say that God has many names and is worshipped in many ways. That’s Satan’s way of throwing all religions into a blender and spinning the blade. There not all the same. There’s only One who died and rose from the dead, there’s only One who goes by the Name of Jesus. No other name can save you, because no one else ever rose from the dead. Ghosts don’t eat fish.
Repentance is what the disciples were to preach. Did you catch that? Repentance, not renovation, not renewal, not refreshment, not retreat, but REPENTANCE! The Greek word is Metanoia. It means a change of mind, a turning around. With minds opened to the Scriptures, the church is sent into the world to turn it around. We have only one word to resound: Repentance.
Think of repentance as a complete turn around, a new mind, a new self. It’s being turned inside out, away from self to God, away from sin to forgiveness, away from fear to faith, away from disobedience to obedience, away from flesh to spirit. It is a turning to the God who has turned so graciously and mercifully to you in Jesus. That’s what the church is supposed to be preaching. Not health, not wealth, not happiness, not fame, and not fortune, but repentance in the name of Jesus.
We are born turned from God, turned inward, self-centered instead of Christ-centered. Don’t deny it; denial not the way of repentance. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” That goes for the most innocent newborn to the most senior of holy citizens. We are born in that condition; we have sinned. “If we say we claim we have not sinned, we make God out to be a liar and His word is not in us.” Don’t deny that one either. Whatever we do has the fingerprints of a sinner on it.
But here’s the good news: If we confess our sins, if we own up to our sin God is faithful and just, and in His faithfulness and righteousness He forgives our sin and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. That’s what the death of Jesus has accomplished, forgiveness and cleansing. Why does God put up with the world, with you and me? It’s for Jesus’ sake. What does God love to do more than anything? To forgive and cleanse - baptize and absolve, to pardon sinners.
The world doesn’t get this. They have no clue that God actually wants us to come into His presence not with excuses and bribes but with confession an honest admission of our guilt. For we have sinned in thought, words, and deed. But God keeps His promise and by the blood of Jesus forgives you. That’s something to tell the world, because the world doesn’t have a clue that this is how God works.
There’s good news for the sinner: If anyone sins, he has an advocate, a defense attorney who speaks to the Father. He bore the price of our sin on the cross. He paid our debt in full. He received our sentence and paid it. He’s the defense attorney who receives the sentence of His guilty clients. And He stands before the Father’s throne with those wounds - His hands, His feet, His side - and says, “Father, forgiven them.” And the Father does. The wounds of Jesus testify that the price has been paid.
But not only for
our sins, but for the sins of the whole world. It’s almost as though we are
hearing the Holy Spirit giving John a nudge and saying, “Don’t stop there, John.
Don’t water it down. Pour the good news straight up.” Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, absolutely. And that’s good for us to know. But there’s more, a whole world more. “Not only for ours sins, but for the sins of the whole world.”
Salvation in Christ is exclusively inclusive. It’s exclusively in Christ Jesus, there’s no other name, no other way, no other door but the narrow door of His death and resurrection. And yet it is inclusive, embracing “all nations,” every sinner, every sin without exception. “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”
And it would all seem too good to be true, if not for this one fact: Jesus is risen from the dead. He was seen, heard, and touched. Ghosts don’t eat fish for He is flesh and blood. This is most certainly true. In Jesus Name, Amen and amen!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. AMEN!