Community

 

Luke 24.36-48

36While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39Look 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.” 40And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence. 44Then 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.” 45Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things.

The resurrection is meant to teach us that Jesus has defeated death, paid the ransom for our sin, and given us the hope of new life.  We believe in the resurrection of the dead, that we will be raised in the end just as Christ was raised.  Jesus shows himself to his disciples, attempting to erase the doubt that they were experiencing.  He shows himself to them, his hands and his side, and even asks them for something to eat.  These things are basic tests to prove to them that he is not a ghost or a vision, but truly himself, Jesus, standing before them.  

But fully comprehending Jesus’ resurrection takes a certain amount of revelation.  Trying to understand it apart from the rest of the Biblical story is difficult.  Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is the climax of a grand story that begins with “In the beginning…” and ends with “Amen.”  And so seeing Jesus from start to finish is important because he is the key to God’s purpose for creation.  In our text, after Jesus begins to remove their doubt, speaking with them and eating with them, he then opens up their minds to understand the Scriptures.  This is important because within Scripture is all the necessary knowledge for salvation.

But there is a theme surrounding the Scriptures being opened and Christ being revealed.  To start, look at the event right before our text this morning.  Two disciples were leaving the others, heading to the town of Emmaus several miles away.  They were saddened and disappointed that Jesus had been crucified, dead, and buried.  For them, they didn’t know what to make make of a supposed resurrection that Mary had reported earlier that day and they were heading away from what they thought was the end of a hope never realized.  But while they were walking, Jesus came and joined them.  He was unrecognized by them as they talked and discussed the events that had just unfolded, with Jesus bringing up much of the Scriptures to them.  He talks with them till they reach their destination, after which the two invite Jesus to stay with them overnight and welcome him to their table.  In that fellowship time, Jesus is revealed.  He blesses and breaks the bread, recalling to their minds what he did at the last supper.  They knew, right then and there, that it was Jesus who was with them.  He suddenly vanished and they raced back to the others with faith in their hearts.  When they returned to the others, Jesus came among them and our text picks up from there.

These two events are important because they show us that Jesus continues to reveal himself and instill faith through fellowship and in community.  What does Scripture tell us but that “where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them,” Matthew 18.20.  It is in the gathering of God’s people that we see Christ revealed.  See Jesus as he walks with the broken hearted headed toward Emmaus.  See Jesus enter the anxious room exclaiming “Peace be with you.”  Notice that in their doubt, in their hopelessness, Jesus is there with them, joining them in their strife and being present in their doubt.

 

Jesus understood the importance of community because we were created FOR community.  Even those individuals who were healed of their infirmities and illnesses during Jesus ministry are restored in a way that they were able to be welcomed back into community with others.  No one understood this better than the Lepers of that time.  Cast to the fringes of society, they were excluded from contact and fellowship.  But once Jesus had healed them, they were able to return to their families, to temple life, and even to the work-world.  And so we must understand that God is never far from us, but rather is the one who pursues us, who with persistence desires to restore us into relationship with him and with community.  Only a good and gracious God would reveal himself in a form like us in order to make what was incomplete, complete.  And Jesus does that. Jesus as God-on-foot takes our brokenness and seals the cracks. He welcomes us into the fellowship of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. By being made new and welcomed into the family of God, we are able to experience genuine fellowship with others here and now. Because we are loved, we are now able to love. Community is possible, especially because it is what God made us for. 

 

Now, the Scriptures are easy to read, but they are not always easy to understand.  This is where community comes into play, where fellowship becomes so important.  It is together that we bring experiences that connect us with the story; it is together that our reason breeds understanding of the mystery of faith; it is together that we build and celebrate a rich tradition that enlightens our past and informs our future.  Together, we are the Church, the body of Christ, and it is in this body that the Holy Spirit is pleased to dwell.  Jesus comes to this anxious bunch, having great mercy on them and their unbelief.  He gives them the understanding they need to make sense of the Scriptures, Scriptures that will continue to give eternal life through their teaching and being lived out.  This living out is vital to our community, to our fellowship.

 

But the key to being a fellowship where Christ has been revealed is in v.48, where we are reminded that we are witnesses to these things.  We testify to the work that Christ has done, both before us and also in us today.  As yo
u live out your relationship with Jesus Christ, you are to give witness to the prayers that are answered, to the peace that you receive, to the love that you are able to offer, to the lives that are made better because you have brought Jesus into them.

 

Through the fellowship of God’s people, the Church, God begins to unveil the hidden grace that before we weren’t able to define.  Fellowship has the power to reveal God’s grace at work in our lives before we knew it; it has the power to deepen our faith and create the firm foundation we need in order to stand tall as Children of God; fellowship has the power to send us out when we are ready to be God’s hands and feet in the world, to meet others on the road, enter the rooms of their life when they’re anxious, and teach them the meaning of the life-giving Scriptures. 

 

This is why your involvement is so important; why your presence here is vital to both your own lives and the life of the Church.  The hardest thing that you need to do is also the one thing you must do, and that is to submit to the process.  Know that God wants to give the Church power to live out his mission to the world.  But this will only happen if YOU are involved. God needs vessels to pour his Spirit out upon.  The Spirit of God is to be poured out upon us, the body of Christ, because it is God’s presence.  And as the body of Christ, we are not a group of collective individuals, but rather a people being formed into the likeness of Jesus.    

And so: Where are you today?  Are you along the road, hopeless and afraid that your faith has died?  Are you anxious and with doubt, wondering what you are to do with your life and your experiences?  Or are you ready to witness, to share what God has done and is doing in your life today?  What revelation awaits you?  I know this, that Jesus wants to resurrect into your life today; that he desires to join you on your road, to meet you in your room, to open your mind to understand, and to give you a life of testimony.  Purpose awaits you if you’ll gather together as we have here today and worship God; if you’ll cry out to him and say “help my unbelief,” like the willing father in Mark 9.  Let Jesus take authority in your life.  Let God give you what you need.  And may Christ appear behind the locked door of your hearts and give you peace!  Amen.

_______

 

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