We are in this time of post-Resurrection stories of Jesus the Christ.
Our scripture last Sunday was the infamous “Doubting Thomas”. Thomas had one moment of doubt and a lifetime of service, but is remembered for that one moment of doubt. Perhaps, we have been quick to judge Thomas because his doubt was shared by all the disciples according to our scripture this morning (Luke 24: 36-48).
Jesus the Christ appears in the locked (dark) room and says “peace be with you”. These disciples, similar to Thomas, are wondering what is happening. These disciples, similar to Thomas and ourselves, do not expect our deceased loved ones to be resurrected and to suddenly appear to us in a locked and darkened room.
Therefore, these disciples begin to say within their hearts and minds “this must be the ghost (“spirit”) of our teacher (Rabbi)”. The disciples do not voice this doubt, and yet Jesus knows it.
Jesus asks ‘why do doubts arise? I am not a ghost. See! Look at my hands and feet for I am bone and flesh’.
This raises a question for me: how did Jesus get into the locked room?
NO WONDER the disciples are trying to figure out what is happening.
NO WONDER doubt arises within their minds and hearts.
I love Jesus’ response in this passage…
- Jesus does not call the disciples ‘fools’ or ‘idiots’.
- Jesus does not say ghosts/spirits are not real, but simply he is not a ghost (spirit) because he has bone and flesh.
- Jesus asks for food to eat, in order to prove his physical Resurrection.
- Jesus opens the disciples’ minds and eyes to the scriptures, in order to provide understanding for their experience.
Jesus’ response, for me, is the key to unlocking this passage.
We ALL have moments of doubt. Last Sunday, I quoted Paul Tillich who wrote:
I would argue that doubt is perhaps the most important element of our journey of faith.
Our countdown video (Doubt -Part 1) this morning spoke about how doubt alerts us to a question deep within ourselves that is seeking an answer and understanding. When we connect with and engage those questions rather than hiding these behind locked doors in dark rooms, we are forced to wrestle with our faith. It is through this wrestling that we experience the greatest (spiritual) growth in our journeys.
THIS leads to the notion of “Awakening”.
These disciples had access to and the knowledge of the scriptures (Hebrew Scriptures), which would have been ordinary/familiar within their faith journey. However, Jesus as a great teacher opens their minds, in order that these disciples would see the scriptures in a new light and grow into a deeper understanding.
This “Awakening”, however, is different from “Revelation”.
Shortly after my divorce, I moved into an apartment complex closer to the congregation I was serving (Gloria Dei Lutheran in Kelso, WA). One neighbor was a “Christian author”. He had never been a pastor or ministry professional. He had never received training or formal education in Church History, Religion, or Theology. However, he wrote to share his “revelations” of Christianity, its teachings, and its theology despite his obvious lack of knowledge.
Normally I would not be bothered by the exploration of faith because becoming awakened is GREAT, but I found conversations with him draining and frustrating.
One conversation, in particular, begun when I arrived home from the office.
“Hey! I have this new revelation I want to share with you.”
“Ok. What is it?”
“We are saved by grace. There is nothing we can do. We are saved by grace alone.”
“That is NOT a new revelation.”
“What do you mean?”
“I promise you that is really NOT a new revelation”.
“Well, who is teaching it? The church I grew up in did not teach it.”
“It really hit the mainstream with a German Monk in about 1517.”
“Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran church.”
Note: You may now understand the reason for the air quotes above.
This neighbor had been awoken through scripture, but it was not secret knowledge. The understanding of “Grace Alone” was present in the scriptures, Lutheran teaching, and Church history; therefore, his eyes and mind was opened to this pre-existing notion. Although a personal ‘revelation’ for him, he was about 500 years behind.
Yet, this neighborly encounter and our passage causes me to ponder:
- What are our eyes, hearts, and minds closed to?
- How often do we miss amazing ‘nuggets’ of truth in scripture?
- What have we missed?
- Can you imagine Christ opening our eyes, hearts, and minds?
Personally, I cannot imagine being one of those disciples who sat at Christ’s feet while he opened their minds to the scriptures that day.
On this faith journey, I have been blessed with great faith mentors and gracious partners who have and continue to wrestle with the questions/doubts that arise. I also have had professors and colleagues who have challenged me to reconsider and explore further, which changes how I teach and preach in this place and time.
Those “Awakenings” (should) never cease.
Martin Luther spoke about the process of becoming who we are called to be (awakening?) which is a life-long process that begins in the waters of Baptism but will not end until the moment of our death. Similarly, Luther also taught that we are to drown ourselves each morning in order to be raised into new life.
BUT, here is the scary truth about these moments of ‘Awakening’:
These “Awakenings” require death first, whether its is death to our selfishness (SIN), a pre-conceived notion we are holding on to, or another death because we cannot have new life or resurrection without it.
During this season of Easter, may we embrace those moments of doubt and questions arising within us by seeking understanding and engaging our faith not for moments of secret knowledge (revelation) but moments of AWAKENING that open our eyes, hearts, and minds to the full presence of God.
That is my hope and prayer for each of us this Easter. Amen.
Primary Scripture was Luke 24: 36b – 48.
Originally preached on April 15, 2018 at Trinity Luther (Union City, IN)