Three Signs of His Presence
April 22, 2012 The Third Sunday of Easter
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
:36b While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."
37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
38 He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
39 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."
40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?Ē
42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
44 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."
45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,
46 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,
47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
48 You are witnesses of these things.
How do we know that Jesus is there? What indicators do we have that He is near us?
Today, we are going to talk about three ways that we can know. Let's do a Bible study together of this remarkable text about the Resurrection appearance of Jesus.
What are the signs of the presence of Christ?
Peace, Understanding, and Companionship.
Easter had happened. It was a fact. Jesus rose. That was a fact. There was no doubt in Maryís mind that Jesus had risen, but there was a lot of confusion in the minds of the Disciples. It was too amazing, too unusual, too good to be true!
Did you ever have something happen that seemed too good to be true? Good news that you never thought you would get? Resolution to something that you never thought would be resolved? There is almost disbelief that it is happening. Did you ever see the expression on the face of someone who comes into a surprise party? It is a look of total disbelief. Then slowly the person begins to take hold of the reality that it is real and happening now. Sometimes, things that seem too good to be true actually do happen.
It was too good to be true. The Disciples were confused. I would like to talk with you today about three techniques that Jesus used to let the Disciples know that He was really there.
The first is Peace. The second is Understanding; and the third is Companionship. These are techniques that Jesus used back then to prove to the people that He was really there - and that is how He shows us today.
When you encounter Christ either as the Disciples did or as we do in today in prayer, what is the first thing that Christ says?
He says "Peace Be With You."
It was important to Jesus that people are not scared or anxious.
He wishes us peace.
Isnít that remarkable?
When you look to Jesus in prayer that is the first greeting He has for you.
You may be tied up in knots and filled with anxiety; but when you call on His name, He says "Peace Be With You."
That is His first gift to us. Peace like a flowing mountain stream.
Peace like a springtime forest.
Peace like the assurance that all is well in your soul.
Peace like the feeling that it will all work out.
Peace that lets you breathe easily.
The first sign of His presence is Peace.
Do you need peace in your soul?
Reach out to Jesus in prayer.
His arms are filled with gifts - for you.
And the first one is this simple yet profound one - Peace.
It can be yours.
Just reach out, and allow Him to give this gift to you.
What happened next in the Scripture?
They were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. Why are you frightened and why do doubts arise in your heart?
He asks them questions to find out why they are frightened.
It is a sort of divine therapy.
He is inviting an answer from them.
Why are you frightened, why are you terrified?
Tell Me, if you can.
I am listening.
I am here.
I am going to help you.
How about us?
Why are we frightened?
Can we articulate it?
Speaking things out, telling things plainly,
Better yet, writing it down,
Can make a world of difference.
Jesus challenges us, not to simply cringe in our fear,
But to spell it out.
He doesn't simply tell us to "stop it", or "block it,"
But to say it plain.
Why do fears arise in our hearts?
Sometimes in counseling, especially when someone seems tied up with emotion about an issue, I will say, "What it that bothers you most about this situation?"
That usually produces a faraway look to the corner of the room as the person seeks to put words on the essence of fear.
It is a characteristic of our Lord to invite people to put words on their feelings.
"Whom do you seek? Who are you looking for?"
"What would you have me do for you?"
It's kind of wonderful, isn't it, that it is Jesus who asks such things of us?
He is the Expert Listener.
And as we focus on what we really need,
We can feel His presence helping us toward it.
The second sign of His presence is Understanding.
Jesus understands what you are going through.
"Look at my hands and my feet, see that it is I myself."
"He showed them His hands and His feet."
Jesus was the master teacher. He realized that some of us learn by seeing, some of us learn by hearing, and some of us learn by touching.
When the Disciples looked at His hands and feet they could see the nail marks! Even in His transformed Easter body, Jesus retained the scars of His pain. He could have made it all new and all better, but He retained the scars of His ordeal.
To remind us that He understands our pain.
To remind us that He relates to our scars.
To remind us that the Crucifixion is Godís way of saying that He cares about what we are going through.
It is as though God says,
"I care about your pain so much that I allowed my beloved Son to go through it."
What love the Father has shown us!
First He says ďlook atĒ. Then He says,Ē touch me and seeĒ! This is the tactile element.
"A ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have!"
Jesus had a miraculous, remarkable Resurrection body. I believe that firmly. It was a body that they couldnít describe, nor can we. But it was a body that was a solid as my hand, yet could pass through doors and appear and disappear at will. I canít explain it, I can only read it here, and believe it by faith, and know that people gave their lives rather than deny what they saw.
While in their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering.
They were so overwhelmed with joy that they just couldnít believe it, it was too good to be true! But, it was true. So, while they still had some doubt, Jesus said to them:
Have you anything here to eat, said the Lord.
Isnít that remarkable, did you know that sentence was in the Bible? I heard someone laugh at this a little! Good insight! It is funny, in a wonderful way - there is something playful about that sentence. There is a reason for this.
They gave him a piece of broiled fish and He took it and ate it in their presence.
This was a way of proving that it was really Him, and He wasnít a ghost, He was really there. It was a proof. What symbolism does it have for us today?
It means that God is with us in our labor and in our leisure, in our laughter as well as our tears. It means that God is with us not only in the hard times, but in the good times, also. He wants to be with us always. That is Companionship.
The key here is the phrase, "in their presence."
With them; together with them.
I believe it was not that the disciples were simply witnesses to
Christ eating broiled fish,
But that they were sharing the meal with Him.
That very word comes from the root, "(sharing) bread together".
He is with us always;
In great times and tough times;
In times of laughter and times of tears.
He is with us because He cares.
You have accepted Him (or if not, you can),
And He is with you always.
He wants to be together with us, and we with Him.
Meals are special arenít they?
I have a policy that I donít ever want to have a meal over a difficult conversation.
If I have to have a difficult conversation I prefer to be in my office or someoneís office or home, - but not over the setting of a meal.
Then after everything is resolved - that is the time to have coffee or share a meal.
To have a meal together is a sacred time. Jesus wants to have a meal together with you. How did He ask us to remember Him? With a meal! With Holy Communion. Meals are reconciling, my friend. Jesus wants to be with you in your laughter, with you in your tears. Jesus wants to be with you in your labor and with you in your leisure, and in all the everyday moments in between.
One more thing before we go. There is a point about this story and the story from Easter that struck me in a way that it had never had before in thirty-four years of preaching. It is this.
I have no quarrel and no question about the fact that the Redemptive Act on Calvary was the Redemption for our sins and the resolution of the cosmic debt between human sin and Godís perfection.
It's the classic evangelical Christian theological framework.
But that means that Jesus could have just risen from the dead, written on His tomb stone, ďI was here, I did my job, I am going to Heaven, see you later.Ē (Congregation laughs)
Hear the good news!
He didnít do that!
He stayed around!
He came back!
He called Maryís name.
He said "Peace Be With You." He said "Look at my hands!"
He shared a meal with His friends.
The Good News is that on Pentecost He came back in the form of the Holy Spirit to be with us. He stayed and is with us still today, that is the Good News.
As you go to prayer this week, remember that the power of the Holy Spirit is with you, Jesusís presence is with you and He will bring you
and be your Companion in both bad times and good.
And when you allow Him to share that peace,
And receive His understanding,
And be encouraged by His loving presence and companionship,
You will know that the living Jesus Christ
Is with you.
He is with you because
He loves you.
I do, too. I wish you a blessed week.
© 2012 Anthony J. Godlefski