Sunday's Sermon (Print Copy)

 

"Jesus Himself Stands Among Us"

 by Pastor Wayne

April 18, 2021 - 3rd Sunday of Easter - B

Sermon text: “Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’” – Luke 24:36b

 

We usually associate Easter with happy times.

We often think of Easter as a time to celebrate and feel joyful.

Sometimes we forget

      that the people at the first Easter

            were not happy and joyful at all!

 

Sometimes we forget that the first Easter

            took place in a cemetery.

Sometimes we forget that the morning of the first Easter

            found the followers of Jesus in a fog of grief.

Sometimes we forget the sorrow of the women

            who came to anoint the dead body of their loved one.

Sometimes we forget the tears of Mary Magdalene

            searching for the missing body of Jesus.

Sometimes we forget the confusion of Peter

            trying to make sense of an empty tomb.

Sometimes we forget the fear of the disciples

            gathered behind locked doors.

Sometimes we forget the doubts of Thomas

            who would not believe without seeing.

Sometimes we forget the discouragement

                  of Cleopas and his fellow traveler

                        as they walked to Emmaus.

Sometimes we forget how the disciples are described

            in our gospel reading for today:

                  “they were startled and terrified…

                        they were disbelieving and still wondering…”

 

 

Sometimes we forget that on that first Easter

      the risen Lord came to people

            who were grieving, fearful, and uncertain.

Maybe you are feeling like this today.

 

Our gospel reading for today opens with the words:

            “Jesus himself stood among them…”

The significance of this action is very important.

Jesus came to the first disciples!

The risen Lord is always the one who initiates

            and comes to his followers.

The women went to the tomb on the first Easter morning,

            but they did not find Jesus.

Peter and John also went to the garden,

            but they found nothing but an empty tomb.

Doubting Thomas never found Jesus.

The disciples never found Jesus.

Cleopas and the other traveler never found Jesus.

 

None of those first followers ever found Jesus.

It was always just the opposite…

            the risen Lord found them.

In our gospel reading for today,

            it is once again the risen Lord

                  who comes to his disciples.

“Jesus himself stood among them…”

 

So it is with us today.

The risen Lord comes to us…

            even if we are grieving like those women at the tomb…

            even if we are weeping like Mary Magdalene…

            even if we are confused like Peter…

            even if we are fearful like the disciples…

            even if we are doubtful like Thomas…

            even if we are despairing like Cleopas…

“Jesus himself stood among them…”

            and Jesus himself stands among us today as well

                  to comfort us with his presence.

 

Note how Jesus greeted his disciples.

The very first thing that he said to them was:

            “Peace be with you.”

This seems to be the very first thing

            that the risen Lord always said to the people:

                  “Peace be with you.”

This wasn’t just a welcome or a greeting.

There must have been a reason for Jesus to have used these words.

Obviously Jesus must have blessed them with peace

            because they were people who did not have peace.

They were upset, confused, grieving, and worried.

No wonder then that Jesus first said to them: “Peace be with you.”

 

If this morning you are feeling some sense of brokenness…

      “Jesus himself stands among us” and says to you

            these same words: “Peace be with you.”

 

It is also important to note about our gospel reading for today –

            the risen Lord ate with his followers.

In our gospel reading, Jesus ate broiled fish.

When Jesus joined Cleopas and the other traveler to Emmaus,

            after they arrived at the home,

                  Jesus broke bread with them.

Another time we are told how the risen Lord

            prepared a breakfast of bread and fish for the disciples.

Several times, the risen Lord shared a meal with his followers.

 

Jesus wanted to eat something in our gospel reading for today

            to demonstrate to the disciples

                  that he was a real human person with a physical body.

The one standing before the disciples sure looked like Jesus,

            but they knew that Jesus had died.

So they thought that perhaps the one before them

            was some kind of ghost.

 

Jesus insisted it was otherwise.

He invited them to touch him

            and he ate some fish to prove to them

                  that he had a real physical body.

He was no ghost…

            above and beyond feeling human needs and emotions.

He was human with all the physical needs that we have…

            including the hunger for food.

To prove he was not ghost, but a real physical person,

            he joined the disciples in eating some fish.

 

Likewise, Jesus wants to join us in a meal this morning.

“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.”

In the meal of this Holy Communion,

            Jesus himself gathers around the altar table with us.

Of the bread, he says: “This is my body.”

Of the cup, he says: “This is my blood.”

 

The risen Lord joined with his followers long ago to eat a meal.

He still does today.

“Jesus himself stands among us”

            in the bread and wine this morning.

 

Whenever you are feeling sad and broken-hearted

      like the followers of Jesus were on the first Easter,

            rememember that “Jesus himself stands among us.”

“Jesus himself stands among us”

            and gives us his comfort.

“Jesus himself stands among us”

            and tells us: “Peace be with you.”

“Jesus himself stands among us”

            in the meal of Holy Communion.

 

As was true for the first disciples long ago,

            so it is true for you and me today:

      “Jesus himself stands among us.”

Amen.