4/16/2018 9:07:24 AM
The Easter Effect - April 15, 2018
Posted under: Pastor Leyrer Easter
Pastor Joel Leyrer
Text: Luke 24:36-49
Dear Friends in Christ, if we can imagine there was a succession of those yellow triangle or diamond shaped warning signs along the spiritual “road” the disciples traveled from Good Friday morning to Easter evening, what might they be? Here are some suggestions:
• Emotional turbulence ahead
• Watch for falling spirits
• Caution: confusion for next several days
• Prepare to merge realities
It is simply not possible to adequately describe the psychological shift the disciples must have gone through once they realized the very same Jesus they saw dead and buried was in fact alive. One moment they were going in one direction; then almost instantaneously in another.
Most of us have been told that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. That’s possibly what went through the disciples’ minds. But in this case it was true. Perhaps that is why the Lord in his grace appeared to his followers multiple times. It undoubtedly took multiple times for this to sink in.
But when it did, it had an impact. And still does. We might call it
THE EASTER EFFECT
1. We find comfort in our Risen Savior’s concern for us
2. We find joy in our Risen Savior’s presence with us
The lesson before us takes place on Easter Sunday evening. Earlier in the day Jesus walked with two of his followers as they made their way from Jerusalem to a village approximately 7 miles to the northwest called Emmaus. They didn’t know it was Jesus accompanying them until they had reached their destination and stopped for the night.
During their walking and talking, Jesus explained how everything that happened to him was part of God’s plan for mankind and was foretold in Scripture. Later, as they sat down to eat in the evening, Jesus revealed himself to them. Then he disappeared from their sight. But the disciples remembered what he told them along the road, and how everything now fit together – including his resurrection.
They were not about to sleep on this news. We’re told they immediately returned to Jerusalem in what was probably their personal best for a seven-mile sprint. They found the place where the Eleven disciples and other Christ-followers had gathered. Breathlessly, they told them what happened. This is where today’s lesson picks up:
36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.
Pretty self-explanatory. We have no difficulty understanding the disciples’ wonderment, fear, and confusion. We would have felt the same way. Noteworthy is the way Jesus lovingly and carefully addresses their troubled hearts and doubting minds. He wants them to know they were not undergoing some surreal or hallucinatory experience; rather, he was confirming them in their new reality. Christ is risen and with his people!
Some Bible scholars believe the next portion of our lesson took place at a later date, perhaps just before his ascension into heaven. Maybe. It doesn’t really matter. Whenever it happened, Jesus conversation with his disciples continues:
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
As he did for the Emmaus disciples, Jesus explained how all of Scripture (at this time the Old Testament) converges on him and his work as the Savior from sin. And he indicates that his disciples in every age will be the blessed instruments he uses to proclaim a living and forgiving Savior before a world that desperately needs to know him.
If we are looking for application of this lesson to our lives today, it can first be found in the concern of Christ that his followers know beyond the shadow of any doubt that he is alive and with them.
This is the great Easter truth Jesus wants us to know: He is always with us. He may not converse with us face to face over a piece of fish as he did with the disciples in today’s lesson, but the Risen Christ continues to speak to us in his Word. And in the Word it is evident that his loving concern for us – as well as his desire to dispel our doubts and calm our troubled hearts – spills into every area of our lives.
For example, it concerns our Risen Lord when we worry, so he tells us to cast all our anxieties upon him.
It concerns Christ when we are troubled or disheartened or weary of life, so he invites us to come to him for rest and promises to refresh and renew us as we walk with him.
It concerns Christ when we feel we have to shoulder heavy burdens by ourselves, so he tells us to come to him in prayer and ask with the promise that it will be given to us, seek and we shall find, knock and the door will be opened to us, all in harmony with his good and gracious will for our lives.
It concerns Christ when we feel insignificant or of little worth, so he reminds us that we, individually, are of such great worth to him that he gave his life for each of us, and that he loves us with an everlasting love.
It concerns Christ when we are weighed down by our sins, so he points us to the cross and says, “Yes, you are a sinner, but when I said ‘It is finished’ I meant it. You are forgiven. So go forward living for me in the present rather than dwelling on the past.”
t concerns Christ when we feel lonely, so he comes to us with the assurance that he is with us always, even to the end of the age, and that he will never leave us or forsake us.
And when we understand the Risen Christ’s concern for us, which is the first life-lesson from our text, we will also understand the second, namely the emotion this information produces in the hearts of Jesus’ disciples. That emotion is joy.
Let’s make sure we understand this correctly. The life of a first century disciple-turned-missionary was not easy. In fact, it was hard. Most of the disciples were consigned to a life of persecution and hardship and eventually died as Christian martyrs.
What gave them strength for the journey and power for living? What propelled them to go forward in their lives and ministries? One thing: the knowledge of the Risen Christ.
With the promise of his presence and the sure hope of life eternal, the resurrected Lord Jesus filled those first century disciples with joy.
How about for us in the 21st century? Is the knowledge of the Risen Christ producing the same emotion in us?
I suspect the answer for many of us is: Sometimes. And if we’re wondering why the answer isn’t “all the time,” there may be a couple of different reasons – both of which can be identified and addressed.
First is the way we are wired as flawed human beings. Although we are new creatures in Christ who understand who Jesus is and what he has done for us, on this side of heaven we still carry around a sinful nature. And unfortunately, that has an effect on us.
In one of his books the Christian author C.S. Lewis refers to what goes on in the lives of Christians as “the law of undulation.” Just like waves go up and down, or undulate, so do we in just about every area of our existence – including our spiritual lives.
It’s this hybrid nature of ours that makes God at times seem so close that we can almost touch him, while at other times our spiritual life seems dry and disconnected. So the law of “spiritual undulation” and our own sinful nature is what prevents us from being in a perpetual state of joy.
We may not be able to completely eliminate this condition, but the good news is that there is a way to minimize it. While our sinful nature is real, it also is not our predominant nature. Our predominant nature is who we are in Christ. And we strengthen that new nature and keep it predominant every time we spend time with God in his Word and partake of the sacrament. The result is a life that becomes less “undulating” and more even keeled and spiritually steady.
A second (and less “theological”) reason we don’t feel a consistency of joy, however, is because too often we simply let too many things get in the way.
In a devotional book written many years ago one the author talks about seeing an eagle on the ground mortally wounded by a rifle shot. In times past that eagle had raced with the winds and flown so high that it was just a speck to those who saw it on the earth below. But now it lay dying – because he forgot and flew too low.
The point the author makes is a valid one and certainly applies to the level of joy we experience in knowing the Risen Christ. Too often we let the cares and troubles of this world or the chaos of a busy life or the setbacks that come with the territory of living on sin-stained planet obscure our view and diminish our joy. In other words, we “fly too low” and get shot down by things that couldn’t reach us if we’re at the proper spiritual altitude.
The disciples in our text didn’t fly low. They may have started out that way, but they ended up flying high, propelled by the knowledge of the Risen Christ. They are personal examples for us.
As well as the reminder that Easter is never over. The Risen Christ is with his people; comforting them with his concern and providing joy for them with his presence.
Comfort and joy. That’s the Easter effect. And it applies to each of us. May God always preserve us in it. Amen.