Easter 3B: wit·ness /ˈwitnəs / noun – see Luke 24:48

Readings

  • Acts 3:12-19
  • Psalm 4
  • 1 John 3:1-7
  • Luke 24:36b-48
You can find the readings, in the CEB and NRSV translation, by clicking this link.

Sermon

This week we read the resurrection account according to the gospel of St Luke.  It’s another story, another version, another take on what it means for the disciples still processing the news of the Risen Christ.

Today’s Easter story in Luke, the appearance of Christ to the Apostles, comes after a series of other equally important stories.  The news at the tomb, delivered to the women by two men in gleaming bright clothes, witnesses to the truth of the resurrection.  Then delivered from the women, now witnesses themselves, to the eleven and all the others [Luke 24:9b, CEB] who had a collective reaction of disbelief.  Except perhaps Peter, who ran back to the tomb to confirm what had been said.  He finds an empty tomb, and wonders about what could have happened.

Then, on the same day, two disciples are walking on the seven-mile road away from Jerusalem to Emmaus and Jesus appears and walks alongside them, teaching them and highlighting things that were said to them by their teacher, Jesus.  And these two don’t recognize Jesus until he broke bread before their eyes and then disappears.  Two more witnesses to the truth of the resurrection.  And they bring their witness and accounting to the eleven.

After all those stories of witness, we come to today’s gospel reading.

We are still in the season of Easter, fifty days that bear witness to the one day.

And Jesus begins, much as in last week’s reading from John, by sharing God’s peace with those gathered disciples.

Peace shared in the midst of the chaos, the grief, the overwhelming questions and the fear of what comes next.  Jesus shares peace, not only in that moment, but also into the world’s future and through the promise of what Christ has done for that world.

Peace presented to the disciples, who are afraid.  Afraid of what is to come according to John’s gospel, or from what is right in front of them according to Luke’s gospel.

Peace to soothe the fear and a presence to assure them that what they are experiencing is real.

Jesus shows them himself: scars, wounds, touchable, seen, and the ability to eat – just like you and me.  Not a ghost or an apparition of some kind.  Truly, real.  And alive.

But, that’s not the end of it.

Jesus then speaks about everything that has happened, opens their minds to the scriptures, and says, “You are witnesses of these things.” [Luke 24:48, CEB]

The Rev. Karoline Lewis puts it this way:

“Jesus’ address to the disciples is not, ‘you will be witnesses.’  Not, ‘please be witnesses.’  Not, ‘consider being witnesses if you have time.’   No, ‘you are witnesses of these things.’  We are witnesses.  As it turns out, witnessing is not voluntary, but a state of being.”[1]

Did you catch that?  We are witnesses.

Through the Easter season, we are professing our faith using the words of the Nicene Creed, a public word that witnesses to our faith.  We say that we believe in one God.  We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, who came down from heaven, who was crucified, who died and was buried, who rose again, in accordance with the Scriptures.

The Risen Christ is not a ghost, is not a disembodied spirt, is not a reanimated corpse or zombie.[2]  The Risen Christ has a body, and even though we can’t embrace it as the disciples in the gospels of John or Luke did, we believe it.  And we are witness to it.

One of the things I have come to expect anytime Jesus says something is that the reactions of all the people are almost always questions.  And, Jesus’ statement that we are witnesses brings a particular question along with it: How are we to witness?

The truly wonderful thing is that we have examples right in the very place where we read about what we are to witness to:

The 2 men in the bright clothes; the women who gathered at the tomb; Peter who went back; the two men on the road who broke bread with their teacher; every Apostle; every Disciple; every single person who was touched by an interaction with Jesus, miracle or otherwise, like the Samaritan woman at the well – the first preacher, and arguably the first Apostle; every person who accepts the call of God’s Spirit to discover the gifts of grace, mercy, faith, and endless love; and each and every one of us.

Our words and deeds as members of the body of Christ give witness to what God has done for us through Christ and continues to do for the world.  And in just as equal a measure, our lack of words, our inaction, and our looking the other way bears witness to God.[3]  We announce to the world exactly how we imagine God to be and how we want the world to see God by how we live, and move, and breathe in it.

Being a witness doesn’t seem to be all good, all the time.

Because, as Karoline Lewis puts it again: “‘We are witnesses’ does not depend on our acceptance or agreement or approval. ‘We are witnesses’ does not depend on our readiness or recognition or responsiveness. ‘We are witnesses’ just is.”[4]

Each and every time we gather to worship, we are witnesses to the Risen Christ meeting us in the gathering places – wherever two or three are gathered.

Each and every time we hear the Word read and Good News proclaimed, we are witnesses to the Risen Christ opening our hearts and minds to what God has and is doing.

Each and every time we come to the Lord’s Table and feast in this meal of bread and wine, we are witnesses to the Risen Christ in, through, under, and around the breaking, eating, and drinking.

Each and every time we hear blessing and are sent out from our gathering places, we are witnesses to the Risen Christ.  We, members of the body of the Risen Christ, raised up for the world, and sent out to witness to the amazing news.

Truth is, witnesses is what we are.  By God’s call and through God’s peace and in God’s compassion.  And God is always on ahead of us, doing the work – we get to be the active witnesses.  Thanks be to God!

Let us pray:
Lord of Dawn and Darkness, how grateful we are for your loving mercies.
You called us to be your witnesses, to all the world, unafraid of what others might think or say about us.  We have been invited out of our darkened hideaways, into the light of your world as emissaries of hope and justice, peace and compassion.
Be with us, as we participate in ministries of healing and hope through this church, in our community, region, nation, and world.  Give us courage and strength to be your disciples in all the circumstances of our lives; for we ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
— written by Nancy C. Townley, and posted on the Worship Connection page of the Ministry Matters website and at re:Worship

 


Sermon Inspirations

  1. Mark G. Vitalis Hoffman. “Commentary on Luke 24:36b-48” Preach This Week: Gospel Reading, April 15, 2018.  org
  2. Lucy Lind Hogan. “Commentary on Luke 24:36b-48” Preach This Week: Gospel Reading, April 22, 2012.  org
  3. Karoline Lewis. “We are Witnesses” Dear Working Preacher: April 09, 2018. org
  4. Jacob Myers. “Commentary on Luke 24:36b-48” Preach This Week: Gospel Reading, April 19, 2015. org

This week’s image is entitled, “Christ and His Disciples,” created by Odilon Redon, in the 20th century.  The image is public domain, and is presented solely for education and admiration.  Reproduction from this page is discouraged.  You can find out more about the painting here, and the artist here.  The image has been modified for the purposes of this blog.


[1] Karoline Lewis. “We are Witnesses” Dear Working Preacher: April 09, 2018. WorkingPreacher.org
[2] Jacob Myers. “Commentary on Luke 24:36b-48” Preach This Week: Gospel Reading, April 19, 2015.  WorkingPreacher.org
[3] Karoline Lewis. “We are Witnesses
[4] Karoline Lewis. “We are Witnesses

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