Third Sunday of Easter (B)
April 18, 2021
Text: Luke 24:36-49
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Then “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38; ESV).
Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Let that sink in. That means Jesus wins. Satan loses. Jesus died. The serpent crushed our Lord’s heel. But Jesus is risen. The serpent’s head is crushed. Jesus died. Death swallowed Him up. But Jesus is risen. He burst a hole through death’s belly. Jesus died. Such are the wages for our sin. But Jesus is risen. Our Lord paid sin’s wages in full.
Now, what trouble is there that doesn’t have its source in Satan, or isn’t a symptom of death, or isn’t a result of your sin, or some combination of all three? Do you get the point? Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! And you are baptized into that victory, and you eat and drink that very reality, and the fulness of all of this is preached into your ears. So what’s the matter with you?! Whatever troubles you, or causes you to doubt, has been done to death in Jesus’ crucifixion. And the antidote to all your troubles and doubts is risen from the dead in the flesh of Jesus. Rejoice.
But we are worried and troubled about many things, and we do still have our doubts, don’t we? Like the disciples in the Upper Room on Easter evening. We, too, have abandoned Jesus when following Him was too dangerous. We, too, have denied Him by our words and actions for the sake of staying safe. We have had hopes and dreams for Him that were never His plan; political ambitions, material prosperity, earthly freedom and sovereignty, glory and honor. And when our Lord did not deliver… when instead He delivered the holy cross… we were disappointed, and we lost hope. We have had in mind the things of men, rather than the things of God. We have had in mind, chiefly, ourselves and our own security, comfort, and promotion. So when we realize Jesus is standing among us, just like the disciples in our Holy Gospel, we, too, are startled and frightened, as though Jesus is a ghost, a phantom, a demon out to get us.
But what does Jesus say when He comes into the midst of our fears, troubles, and doubts? Shalom. “Peace to you!” (v. 36). This is St. Luke’s account of the occasion we heard about last week from St. John (John 20:19-31). Do you remember what the word Shalom means? Peace with God. Sins forgiven. Restoration. Wholeness, healing, prosperity, tranquility, and overall wellbeing. Which is to say, Life. Life, real and eternal, in Christ, who died for all of our fears and denials and sins, and who is risen from the dead. See my wounds, He says. Go ahead, touch them. I’m no ghost, and I’m not out to get you. Do you really think, after going through what I went through for you, that I’m here to kill you now? Come on, guys! Peace. Shalom. And He shows them His hands and His feet. Remember, this is all for your forgiveness. And, by the way, when He shows them His crucifixion wounds, don’t let it be lost in translation what He says to them. He says, not just “it is I myself” (v. 39; ESV), but “I AM… Myself” (Krenz translation). YHWH, your LORD, your gracious God incarnate, who has accomplished your salvation. Here I AM, flesh and bones, the very Body that was crucified, risen and living and… eating? Yes, “Have you anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:41; ESV). And they give Him a piece of broiled fish. And while this certainly shows them He is a real, live, fleshy human being… Ghost’s don’t eat!... let it not be lost on us that, once again, here is Jesus, feasting with a bunch of sinners. Remember how I used to do this with tax collectors and prostitutes, thus embodying the mercy of God for sinners and initiating Communion with them? Well, here I am doing it with you.
We’d love to be there. And we are! Because that is what Jesus is doing, here and now, from this Altar. Gathered together as we are, troubles, doubts, and fears, real sinners with real sins. And here is Jesus, standing among us, the very Body crucified for us, the very Blood poured out for our sins; the very Body risen and living for us, the very Blood that courses through His living veins. He announces Peace to us, Shalom, the Holy Absolution. And then He feasts with us, embodying the mercy of God for sinners and initiating Communion with them. He did it for tax collectors and prostitutes and doubting Apostles and disciples. Well, here He is doing it for us.
And in spite of all appearances to your fallen, earthly eyes, you see this reality with your ears. This is what I said! “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you” (v. 44). And this is just what all the Scriptures, on every page, say, “everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” all these are fulfilled in Me, by My suffering, death, and resurrection! He opens our minds to understand these Scriptures. He must open our minds, otherwise we’ll never see it. He does it by sending the Promise of His Father upon us, the Holy Spirit, that we may know and believe. “Thus it is written” (v. 46). This has been His plan all along. His death is His victory, and the proof is His resurrection life.
Now, give this some thought. Examine your own life, your mind, and your heart. What is it that troubles you and leads you to doubt? What it is that startles you and causes you to fear, even and especially in the presence of Jesus? Is it some besetting sin, a habit you just can’t break, or a bad situation you just can’t seem to make right? Is it guilt from the past, the accusations of the devil and your own conscience, that keep you up at night? Perhaps you are worried about your job, your security, your future. Maybe your marriage is troubled, or you are worried about your children, or your grandchildren, and the path they’ve taken away from our Lord, and away from His Church. Perhaps a loved one is seriously ill, or has died, and you grieve, or maybe it is your own health. We are all anxious about the state of our nation and our world these days, politics, pandemic, wars and rumors of wars, cultural deterioration, cancellation, and societal decay. And we all know that it isn’t safe these days to be a Christian, and it will be increasingly dangerous as time marches on. These troubles and doubts are real, and the brokenness and pain they cause should never be trivialized. But so also the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for you is very real, and the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ for you is very real, to be the end of all these things that hinder your Communion with God, and to be the great setting right of all that is wrong. All of these troubles are caused by Satan, sin, and death. And these are precisely the enemies our Lord has conquered by His cross and resurrection.
So in all your troubles, doubts, and fears, come here to the Lord’s House, and to Lord’s Table. Because here your risen Lord Jesus stands among you and speaks His Shalom, and gives you to touch and taste His wounds, the beautiful scars of His risen and glorified Body, the trophies of His victory. And here He breathes His Spirit into you, and puts His resurrection life into your mouth, into your body, to strengthen you to confront these very issues in your life, in repentance, in faith, with His Word, knowing that all your sins and failures are forgiven, and you have eternal life. And so, in every circumstance, to confess Him with joy, and without fear, and to be His mouth and hands in the world, bringing His redemption and restoration (His Shalom) to every place and relationship in which you find yourself. For your Lord Jesus is making all things new (Rev. 21:5). And He has swallowed up death forever (Is. 25:8).
Which reminds me, what is going on with that piece of broiled fish? To be sure, it is proof that He is risen from the dead, bodily, and not a ghost, for He eats food, as only a body can do. But also consider this: The great sign of our Lord’s death and resurrection is the sign of the Prophet Jonah. Jonah is swallowed by a big fish, a type of Jesus’ death and burial. But here the risen Lord swallows the fish! Do you get the point? And in the Supper, you swallow Jesus. Jesus swallowed death. You swallow Life! And do you know what that means? As He is risen, so He will raise you. Bodily. Eternally. To eat and drink with Him in the wholeness of His Shalom.
So “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” Jesus wins. Satan loses. Your sins are forgiven, hell is defeated, and death has no more claim over you. Thus it is written, and the Apostles are witnesses of these things. Repent, therefore, and believe the good news. Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Shalom! In the Name of the Father, and of the Son X, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.