Risen – 06.06.2021
There was once a little boy named Philip, who was born with Down syndrome, and he attended a third grade Sunday School class with lots of other 8 year old boys and girls. Now, typical of that age, some of the children did not accept Philip with his differences – it can be hard to learn how to do that. The Sunday after Easter the teacher brough in some old pantyhose containers, the kind that looks like a big egg – maybe you know what I’m talking about. Basically, each kid was given a giant plastic egg, and the children were told to go outside on that lovely spring day, find some symbol for new life, and put it in the egg-like container. Then they would return to the classroom and each kid took a turn sharing their “new-life” symbol, opening the containers one by one in surprise fashion. So, after running about the church property in wild confusion, the students returned to the classroom and placed the containers on the table. Surrounded by children, the teacher began to open them one by one. After each one, whether a flower, or a butterfly, or a leaf, the class would ooh and ahh. Then one was opened, revealing nothing inside. The kids yelled out, “that’s stupid. That’s not fair. Somebody didn’t do the assignment!” A little Philip spoke up from the back of the crowd – “that’s mine.” The children rolled their eyes, “Philip, you don’t ever do things right! There’s nothing there!” But insisted, “I do so do the assignment. I did do it. It’s empty, because the tomb was empty.” Silence from the class. From that moment on, Philip became a full member of the class – accepted and treated with respect from his new friends. Not long afterwards, little Philip died from an infection that most normal children would have shrugged off. But at the funeral, this class of 8 year olds marched up to the altar, not with flowers, but with the Sunday School Teacher and each kid laid on the coffin an empty pantyhose egg.
Today is the final sermon in our sermon series called The Finale. The finale of the finale, if you will. It’s been a long journey to get to the end of the book of Luke – and even though some of these stories we have heard before, every time we come to the bible, with an open heart trying to grow closer to God – there is a chance to find something new. Let’s take a look.
[read v.1-3]. They come to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They can not find a body. Now, for those of us who have heard that every single easter for decades – our mind jumps to the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. But let’s hold on a second. They brought spices. Because that was the tradition, when someone was dead. Dead bodies decompose, they stink, and so you put spices on them to make it nice for the burial. So, spices in hand, they show up looking for a dead body. The point here is these ladies are super, super, for sure, 100% certain that Jesus is dead. They watched him die, they brought supplies for embalming, they’re looking for a dead body. There is zero hope in this situation. Nobody’s coming to the tomb thinking, “well maybe he’s awake.” Because they know, he is super, super, for sure dead.
[read v.4-5]. Now, I don’t know what “dazzling” meant in the ancient world, but for me – it makes me think sparkles. So we’ve got these two angels with dazzling clothes, asking, “why do you look for the living among the dead?” But the ladies still don’t quite catch it. [read v.6-7]. The angel is sort of walking them through it. Remember… he told you all this… he explained literally every single piece of this ahead of time. [read v.8-9]. The women have this moment where their eyes are opened and finally they see – oh, there it is! It’s been in front of them all this time, and finally it all sort of clicks and they get it. So they scoot off to tell the disciples, and let’s pause for a moment to recognize that the very first people to share the gospel – the good news of Jesus’ resurrection – were women. And I know there’s some traditions that don’t encourage women to preach, and I always kind of want to check their bibles and make sure they didn’t scratch that line out. Because without women sharing the good news of Jesus Christ – we wouldn’t be here today. And this church in particular is a testament to the power of women sharing the love of Jesus. We’ve got great men in this church too, don’t get me wrong – but the women of this church know how to step up. It keeps going [read v.10-12]. It seemed to them an idle tale. Which is fancy talk for – they did not believe the women. Because remember, we started out with the disciples 100% certain, super, super, for sure he’s dead. Nobody had any hope, none.
[read v.13-17]. Two guys, walking from Jerusalem – heading out to the next town over. Jesus shows up, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. [read v.18]. You know that moment, when you’re talking to a youth, a member of the young people and they look at you and they’re like, “ok, boomer”? You know? Like you’re a parent or grandparent or fun aunt or whatever – and you’re just trying to connect on their level. “Hey, how’s that Minecraft game going?” And they’re all – ugh, nobody plays Minecraft anymore, where have you been? You don’t know anything. That’s the look I’m imaging on this guy’s face. You don’t know what’s been going on? Have you been living under a rock? [fake hair flip] See, and when I was a kid – I used to hate that moment. I hated not knowing what people are talking about, so I would fake it. Oh, totally I know what you’re talking about. But here’s what I learned – when you pretend to know the answer, you never actually figure out what the answer is. Much better to ask and learn, than to pretend and sit in the dark. [read v.19-21]. Oop, did you catch it? We HAD hoped. Past tense. Oh man, there was this guy Jesus and he had a showdown with the chief priests and we thought he was going to redeem us. We had hope, but now we do not have hope – because he’s dead. And we are 100%, super, super, duper for sure that he’s dead. And it’s been three days. Hope is in the past tense. [read v.22-24]. SO these two guys are talking TO JESUS, telling him all the stuff that’s happened in the last couple days, and then they admit, “Oh yeah, and some ladies found that his body was gone, which was super weird, we don’t know what to think about that”
I can’t blame Jesus for this next bit. [read v.25]. You idiots! I mean this with love, but you guys are morons. Actually, I do like his phrasing better, “how slow of heart to believe” And here’s the best part – they still don’t know who he is. That comes later, when they get to the town – they beg Jesus to stay with them, and they have dinner and at the dinner, [read v.30-31]. It was the moment he breaks the bread – their eyes were opened. I mean, common that’s pretty awesome. The bread from communion symbolizes the presence of God among us, and at that moment their eyes are opened to see that Jesus had really been with them all along. I mean, that’s just great stuff.
So we fast forward a little bit, and all the disciples are back together, hanging out in Jerusalem, and Jesus shows up again. [read v.36-37]. They thought they were seeing a ghost. Because the empty tomb wasn’t enough. Because the story of the women wasn’t enough. Because the story of the men from the road to Emmaus wasn’t enough. They STILL have no hope. Because Jesus was super, duper for sure 100% dead. Some people look at the resurrection and think, “well maybe the disciples made it up, like wishful thinking” – but in the actual story they were all a bit thick about it. It took a lot of convincing. [read v.38-43]. I’m not a ghost. Stop running away from me and get over here and gimme a hug. See the holes? I’ve got flesh and blood, and I can eat broiled fish. It’s really true, I’m back for realsies. I love that line in verse 41 though, where it says, “while in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering..” Like, they’re starting to get excited, but a little bit they’re still doubtful.
[read v.44-45]. Do you notice a theme of eyes being opened? First with the women, having their eyes opened, then the men on the road to Emmaus, then the disciples watching him eat fish, and now finally – their eyes are opened to understand the scriptures. To see how the bible tells this incredible story, and teaches us who Jesus is. And what’s really awesome about this is the next part. He opens their eyes to understand the bible, and then gives them the message. [read v.46-47]. Jesus tells the disciples – here’s the job, you get out there and tell them about me. Tell the world that Jesus the messiah died, and rose from the grave. Proclaim Repentance and Forgiveness to everyone. That’s it – those two pieces. Repentance and forgiveness.
It’s funny, because it’s only two pieces. It’s not hard to understand. When we do something against God, we need to repent. And because of the love of God, shown in what Jesus did, God’s forgiveness is available. Repentance and Forgiveness. It’s beautiful. And Jesus very simply says, “Alright, you’ve got the good news figured out – now go tell everybody about it.” And yet for so many of us, we get it a little mixed up. Jesus says, “proclaim both to everyone” and we come back to him, “that’s cool, but how about instead – I pick the people I don’t like, and tell them they need to repent. You guys are bad and you need to repent. And I pick the people I DO like and I tell them all about God’s love and forgiveness. You guys are just the best, God loves you and he’ll forgive you. We focus on the bad for our enemies and the good for our friends. It kind of reminds me of eating s’mores with my boys. Now that the weather is getting better, we love to do fires outside in the evenings. And when it burns down to the coals, the best thing you can do is roast up some “mashmewwos” and make s’mores. And the middle kiddo, Amos. He’s two, and I don’t know when the last time you saw a two year old eat – but it’s like a truck full of elmers glue crashed into a truck full of hersey syrup doing 90 on the freeway, except messier. Right? But lately he’s been doing this thing, where he eats all the stuff out of the middle of the smore. Like, the chocolate and the marshmallow are gone – in his tummy or on his face. But he’s got these two soggy graham crackers left, and they’re cemented together with leftover marshmallow. And he looks at me with those big ol’ adorable eyes and says, “you can have the rest daddy, I will share.” And one of these days I swear I’m going to stop… letting him get away with it. But it’s gross, right? Don’t give me the soggy leftovers. Don’t give people half the story based on how much you like them. You get the repentance message because I don’t like you. No! Proclaim to the whole world, the whole story. Repentance AND forgiveness. And then the end of the chapter – Jesus takes the disciples out to Bethany, and it says, [read v.51-53].
The good news this morning is that God opens our eyes with the resurrection. Over and over again in this story Jesus is opening their eyes. And he does that to give them hope. Because remember, their hope was dead. They had no hope. Nothing to believe in. Nothing to keep them going. Let’s be honest. This has been a really tough year. People are burning out left and right. We try to keep a positive attitude, but man the heavy days are heavy. So much has been broken this last year. There is so much rebuilding to do, when you look at how far we have to go, just to get back to normal – it’s kind of exhausting to think about. And I know some of us in the room, some of us tuning into the livestream – we’re starting to give up, we’re starting to lose hope. Even those of us who are doing great, still riding high and strong – one bad day, and it can feel like it all just crumbles around us. Sometimes we just want to pack it all up and go home early, the story’s not going to get any better, is it?
But the resurrection of Jesus Christ opens our eyes to a brand new hope. It’s not just Jesus that rose from the dead, but also our hope. The hope that had died, hidden away in our hearts – hibernating until sunny days come again. The resurrection brings rival into our hearts and new life to our hope. So let me ask you – with your eyes opened by the resurrection and the hope that is brought back to life – what do you see? Do you see sinners all around you? Enemies for you to fight or be afraid of – or do you see people who you can share the love of Jesus with? Do you see businesses failing all around you? Or do you see a community that needs your love and support? Do you see a drug addict, or an alcoholic? A criminal or an adulterer – or do you see a child of God, far from home, in need of someone to come alongside them and point them the way? Do you see empty pantyhose containers? Or a representation of the empty tomb?
Maybe you’re living this life, and your hope has been dead for a while now. Or just sleeping. Maybe you’ve been walking around with your eyes closed. But the resurrection changes everything. We need to let it reignite the fire in our hearts. And so I have two challenges for you this week. First, open your eyes. Wake up your hope, bring it back to life. Seriously, I want you to do this this week. Let the resurrection of Jesus redefine what you believe is possible. You ever have that thing, where you tried once or twice to do something, to kick a habit, or fix a relationship or share the gospel with someone, do something new at work – and it didn’t work, so you just sort of gave up. I tried everything I could think of. It’s not possible. Maybe it’s time for us to wake up our hope, let the resurrection open our eyes and revisit the impossible. My first challenge to you this week is to open you eyes, let the resurrection redraw the lines of what you thought was possible.
The last thing I’ve got for you – the second challenge – is just, do what Jesus has asked you to do. Proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all the nations. Tell everyone about what Jesus can do for them. What has he done for you? What sins did he forgive? What way did he transform your life? Share that with the people around you and you might actually be able to reawaken their hope. For a lot of people in this messed up world, their hope is dead. They could use a little resurrection. And the only thing keeping them from hearing about Jesus and opening their eyes to a brand new living hope – is you. You could give that to them. Open your eyes, and proclaim repentance and forgiveness to everyone – and maybe their eyes will open too.
Once upon a time a little boy named Philip used an empty pantyhose egg to open the eyes of his classmates. Jesus used the resurrection to reignite the hope of his followers, and this morning God brought you into this room, or pushed you to tune in this morning. And so I’ll leave you with this. May you open your eyes, may you look at the world in a different way and redefine what you believe is possible. May your hope come back to life and your heart be set on fire for Jesus. May you proclaim both repentance AND forgiveness to the entire world – let’s get to it. Amen.