Summary: "Severe Acute Rejection Syndrome" - rejecting the resurrection, and what Jesus does about it.
Luke 24:36-49 A VACCINATION AGAINST SPIRITUAL “SARS”
By now, I’m sure most of you have heard of “SARS” which stands for “severe acute respiratory syndrome.” Somewhere in Southeast Asia, someone came down with this problem called SARS, and from that one person, SARS has been spreading like wildfire. At first, the government in China was in denial that something like this could be happening, but now, no one is in denial. SARS has spread all over the world – Canada is now seeing lots of cases in Toronto, and there are a few even in the United States. Now, no one is in denial that SARS is out there – just watch the news and you will see thousands of Chinese people wearing masks over their face to protect themselves.
Today, I want to talk to you about a different problem that is spreading all over the world, a different kind of “SARS,” spiritual SARS – “severe acute REJECTION syndrome.” Did you catch that? “Severe Acute Rejection Syndrome.” This problem started with a few people on Easter morning, rejecting the fact that Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead. From those few people, this syndrome spread. Today in our country, there are millions of people who are suffering from “spiritual SARS” – severe acute rejection syndrome. Millions of people today reject the fact that Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead on Easter morning.
This “rejection syndrome” is concentrated most heavily on the east and west coasts, and in the larger, “more progressive” cities. Many of those people consider themselves to be too sophisticated to believe in such a preposterous thing, that a man named Jesus actually rose from the dead physically. Now, just because you live here, in a smaller city in the Midwest – don’t think that you are free from spiritual SARS. Many midwestern churches openly teach that Jesus didn’t physically rise from the dead. “That’s not true,” people say. “His teachings live on – that’s what it means when the Bible says that Jesus rose – his teachings live on.” Yes, there are midwestern churches filled with people suffering from spiritual SARS, and if you’re not careful, you’ll catch it too.
Today, we’re going to vaccinate you from severe acute rejection syndrome. Now unfortunately, because you have what is called a “sinful nature,” you will need to come back here every week to get re-vaccinated. But this vaccination is powerful – it works, and it will protect you from catching the “rejection syndrome” that many former Christians are suffering from today.
Our vaccination is the Word of God. Today, we’re going to look at a moment after the resurrection that will strengthen your faith, strengthen your conviction that Jesus physically rose from the dead. Look at verse 36 in our text – on Easter night, Jesus appeared to his disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.” “They were startled and frightened thinking they saw a ghost.” I don’t blame them. They had just seen Jesus brutally killed – there was no doubt in their minds that the Roman soldiers had done their job well – Jesus was really dead. But now he was standing right in front of them, talking to them. Their first reaction was to reject what their eyes were seeing – it must be the ghost of Jesus, come back from the dead.
Look at how Jesus keeps them from falling into the “rejection syndrome.” Verse 38: “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet.” I’m sure Jesus showed them his scars from being crucified. “It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.” I picture the disciples standing around him, slowly reaching out their hands and touching Jesus on the shoulder, looking closely at his hands, seeing the scars, looking into his eyes, trying to figure out what was happening. Jesus was physically standing in front of them, just as alive and human as he was before the crucifixion. Only now, he had those scars.
I want you to do something a little different right now. I want you to take a break from listening to me, and turn your body, and look at the person sitting next to you. Do that right now. Now, I want you to shake that person’s hand. I know, I know, this is not what we normally do during the sermon. But just humor me – I’ll tell you why in a second – shake the person’s hand sitting next to you. How did that feel, shaking that person’s hand? That was a real live hand, wasn’t it. That’s exactly how Jesus felt to those disciples – they reached out and touched the risen Christ. He was real. A real hand. A real foot. Not a ghost. Not a figment of their imaginations. They weren’t seeing things because they were so sad that Jesus died. They physically shook the hand of the living Christ. In our second reading for today, the Apostle John said, “that which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched – this we proclaim.” There was no doubt – no room for spiritual SARS – Jesus was physically alive.