Sunday, April 15, 2012

Knowing Jesus Today. Homily for Luke 24:35-48

3rd Sunday Of Easter
Homily for 4.15.12
Luke 24:35-48 

TODAY is the 3rd Sunday of the Easter Season, and the Lectionary offers us a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus, the living one, from St. Luke’s Gospel. Our narrative occurs on the heels of the famous encounter of Jesus with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.

You will recall that these two disciples, dejected by the death of their would-be Messiah, Jesus, are walking home with darkness in their hearts at the death of hope. Well, let’s listen to St. Luke tell the story:

Suddenly, Jesus himself came along and joined them and began walking beside them. But they didn't know who he was, because God kept them from recognizing him. "You seem to be in a deep discussion about something," he said. "What are you so concerned about?" They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, "You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn't heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days." "What things?"Jesus asked. "The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth," they said. "He was a prophet who did wonderful miracles. He was a mighty teacher, highly regarded by both God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders arrested him and handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had thought he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. That all happened three days ago. (Luke 24:15-21)
You remember the rest of the story, right? The LORD opens to these two the scriptures showing the things concerning himself. And so powerful is the encounter that they prevail upon the incognito Jesus to break bread with them, and it is in the breaking of the bread that Jesus is revealed to them for who he is.

Now we are ready for today’s lectionary, where the texts begins:

The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you."
I love this story! Isn’t this just like the LORD? In the very middle of our trouble and sorrow, right in the heart of the death and gloom and the brokenness of the human condition, Jesus makes his presence known and offers his peace that passes understanding.

This is a beautiful text really, especially the portion that reads:

 “The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them...” I love the fact that portrayed here how Jesus makes himself known by caring for his own.
All of which caused me to ask the question: How is Jesus made know to us, today?

I mean, we are not likely to see the risen Jesus today as these first disciples did, not since the ascension anyway (unless of course you are of the mind that Jesus’ appearance, his parousia, is possible at any time). So, how is Jesus known to us, we who live post-ascension?

I would offer three ways Jesus is know to us today from the present text:




Today’s text reads: The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.

In a few moments we will, again, break the bread and drink the cup from the LORD’s Table, and we cannot be reminded too often of the significance of what we about to do here.

First, we must remember, as N.T. Wright reminds us, when Jesus wanted us to understand the cross he didn’t give us a theory or a theology, he gave us a meal. As Bishop Wright says:

“We break bread and drink wine together, telling the story of Jesus and his death, because Jesus knew that this set of actions would explain the meaning of his death in a way that nothing else -- no theories, no clever ideas -- could ever do.” (from Simply Christian, pg. 151)
Of course, in the table before us there are many moving parts:

  • At this table we are taken back to that first meal with Jesus and his disciples in the upper room, becoming part of the celebration. 
  • At this table before us we push against empire which says, “We are in control and we are the only game in town! We provide for your every need; we feed you.” And what does the LORD say through the communion of his table? “Not so fast here. These are my people and I provided for them life and healing, meeting of their needs even down to their daily bread!”
  • And, at this table before us we see where the future is going. We see that final, complete banquet that the LORD is preparing for us on that day when the world has finally and completely been wrenched away from empire and evil and has been restored to the reality GOD always intended. 
So, what we must never forget is that this table before us belongs to the LORD! And here, as we stand before the LORD’s Table we eat at his invitation, actually meeting with the living and risen Christ, who is the LORD of the world. That is, Jesus is here present to us at his table in a unique way and we are therefore blessed with his grace and his eternal love.


We also meet the LORD in the reality of his comfort. The text reads:

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed...
To be sure, as we have said, we do not have the luxury of actually seeing the risen LORD -- and wouldn’t that have been something?! But that does not mean we are therefore bereft of his comfort and cut-off from his care.


No, we find the reality of his daily comfort:
  • in our personal moments of prayer when we hear that still, small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking peace to our soul, 
  • in the gathering of two or three from the discipleship-community where the intercessions from GOD’s new humanity rise in our hearts and lift our burdens, 
  • in the faithful under-shepherds and deacons who are called to a caring ministry that daily walks with the flock of GOD in honesty and sacrifice, 
  • and in the gathering of worship where our voices give rise to music and our cares are somehow lifted from that meeting in community, causing us to find hope for GOD’s promised future. 

We should remember in this regard that Jesus, the Great Shepherd, cares for the flock of GOD with passion -- the passion of the cross -- even to the point of laying down his life for the flock. And as such, his oversight does not falter and his attention is not detoured by our sin. Even though our Shepherd does not remove us from the brokenness of the human condition, he fulfills the promise to walk with us through the jaggedness of life, binding our wounds and salving our souls with his ever-present healing comfort.


Finally, we meet the LORD in the words of Holy Scripture, for it is in Holy Scripture that the church has invested the authority to tell us the story of Jesus and his love. The text reads: 
"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 in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
Clearly, it is in the Spirit’s imputed power to the Scriptures that we are able to invoke the presence of Jesus as we read his story -- the story of his life, his teachings, his healings, his death and his resurrection. That is, we discover in the narratives of the text -- the black words on white paper -- the power to summon afresh and anew the reality of Jesus’ life mission onto our own lives and our own missional calling.

Said differently, as we meet the reality of Jesus’ presence in the pages of the text, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we hear the same calling his disciples heard -- “Follow thou me!” And, as we continue to heed the Master’s summons to be part of a community of disciples that forsake all for him -- that calling which was inaugurated in us by the words and the works of Jesus in Holy Scripture -- we are also shaped by that same text as they are daily heard in the current community of faith, which is both deeply flawed and deeply loved by the LORD.