You Are Witnesses: The Hands and Feet of Resurrection

Third Sunday of Easter

THEME:  None can stop the spirit — Then Jesus opened their minds

TEXTS:

  • Acts 3:12-19
  • Psalm 4  “Put your trust in God…”
  • 1 John 3:1-7  “See what love the father has given us…”
  • Luke 24:36b-48  Jesus among them

See the Risen Christ — Luke 24: 36b-48 [I tell the gospel…vv. 36-53]

Jesus’ resurrection is a rare story told in all four gospels as the climax of the gospel. The resurrection is of central importance in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the early church Jesus’ resurrection is of central importance. It is as important to us today as it was for the first disciples that first Easter.

How God raised Jesus from the dead we don’t know. That God raised Jesus from the dead we do know. I am not talking about insisting on having the right words, the right formula, or the right doctrine (orthodoxy) in order to know Jesus’ resurrection. The reality of Jesus’ resurrection is about living — (orthopraxis) right living.

Our Anabaptist ancestors called it “walking in the resurrection.” It is not about believing rightly but living rightly. We cannot fully understand resurrection; yet we are walking resurrection witnesses.

The past two Sundays, Easter Sunday and the second Sunday of Easter we heard John’s gospel account of the risen Jesus appearing to disciples. Amy helped us to “look more resurrected.”

We have to hear the story again to help us witness to and walk in the resurrection. Today we hear another gospel account of the risen Jesus appearing to disciples. Luke tells us this story of the risen Jesus.

The resurrection story begins not with Jesus’ resurrection – God had already done that.

It begins with women who go to the tomb and become the first resurrection witnesses. The women found the tomb empty and ran and told other disciples that Jesus is alive and has risen. Later that day Jesus mysteriously appears to two disciples on the Emmaus road who don’t recognize him. So he tells them – again – every story from scripture that reveals who he is and what h is. Finally the resurrected Jesus is made known to them in blessed and broken bread. Jesus disappeared and the two ran back to Jerusalem to report this good news to other disciples who are in puzzled excitement about a risen Jesus! The story is not finished. Jesus will not let them – or us – alone. Listen as one who is there.

While they were talking about this,

Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’

They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.

Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?

Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see;

for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’

And when he had said this, Jesus showed them his hands and his feet.

While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering,

Jesus said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’

They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

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, the prophets,

and the psalms must be fulfilled.’

Then Jesus opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them,

‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer

and to rise from the dead on the third day,

and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed

in the Messiah’s name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

You are witnesses of these things.

And see, I am sending upon you what God promised;

so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them.

While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God………This is the Gospel of the risen Christ!

Becoming the Hands and Feet of the Risen Christ

What did you hear in this first resurrection appearance of Jesus?

Listen again to the gospel, the good news of Jesus’ resurrection.

What did you hear now? What word or image or action jumped out at you?

What were Jesus’ first words to the disciples?

What was their reaction? They were startled and terrified. Why?

What did Jesus say to these startled frightened disciples?

What does Jesus go on to do and say?

Whenever I listen and learn a biblical story I hear something new. What I have heard many times before in the great gospel of the risen Jesus Christ are keys to the gospel. We can identify these keys in Jesus’ words:

“Peace be with you.”

“These are my words….”

“Thus it is written….”

“You are witnesses”

What I heard in a new way this time is how Jesus identified himself with particular parts of his body. What part of his own body does Jesus direct our attention to as revelation for being raised from the dead? Hands and feet!

“Look at my hands and my feet.”

Jesus showed them his hands and feet.

Why would Jesus do that? Why would Jesus tell them to “Look at my hands and feet,” and then show them his hands and feet? Why wouldn’t Jesus say “Look at my face?” or “Look at my body?”

When you look at someone what do you look at first? I think I usually see a face first, if for no other reason than our eyes are in our face. We see face-to-face. “Now we see as through a mirror dimly, then we shall see face-to-face,” as Paul says….

I cannot answer for Jesus – why Jesus directs us to his hands and feet. I think Jesus is doing a lot more here than directing our attention to where he was nailed to the cross by his hands and feet. Hands and feet meant something more in our bodies and in the world. This something more is to make us living resurrection people – to embody and enact the risen Christ in the world wherever we are and wherever we go.

Let us be imaginative for a moment. I have been reading a book on my beloved Flannery O’Connor called Flannery O’Connor’s Religious Imagination.

What are our hands and feet for? What do they do?

Hands and feet do many things.

Our feet hold us up…ground us…move us around in the world…

Our hands do many things….

Feet ground us in the earth and hands connect us to the air…

With our hands and feet we move about the earth and do many things.

With our hands and feet we are at the intersection of heaven and earth.

Of course it is not only with hands and feet that we do these things. It takes all members of the body. But Jesus specifically identifies his resurrected self with hands and feet.

Then Jesus goes on to “open their minds to understand the scriptures.”

Imagine our feet grounded in God’s word and our hands open to the world of our daily lives. To see and be the hands and feet of the risen Christ is to be grounded in the Word lived in the world. Jesus is not giving the disciples all the answers. He blesses and sends them into the world so they can interpret scripture in light of the world and the world in light of scripture.

After this hands and feet resurrection lesson on how to look and live Jesus does three things. What does Jesus do and say?

Jesus says, “You are my witnesses” — names them as his resurrection witnesses

Jesus sends the Holy Spirit — “I am sending upon you what God promised.”

Jesus takes them out and blesses them and leaves them….

From that moment on they – the disciples – are the hands and feet of the risen Christ upon the earth. And so are we! Startled and fearful. Doubtful and despairing. Eager and hopeful. We are all of those and more.

Jesus says to us today right here and now, “See my hands and feet…Become my hands and feet.” You are my witnesses…I bless you with the Holy Spirit so you will walk in the resurrection forever. Amen.

Each Sunday of Easter someone is giving a testimony to what God is doing through the risen Christ in their life. We are witnesses. This Sunday I invite a spontaneous witness or two to share a very short testimony about how you see and embody the risen Christ in your life. How have you seen or been the hands and feet of the risen Christ?

Would anyone be willing to share briefly? I will bring a microphone to you.

[Easter morning…..baptism of Dylan, Evan, and Brian!]

Peace be with you

When the risen Jesus Christ appeared to the frightened disciples in a locked room that first night in Jerusalem, his first words were, “Peace be with you!” This is the greeting that the risen Jesus offers us and invites us to over always in the name of the risen Christ

May the peace of the risen Christ be with you!

And also with you!

Amen!