Summary: Luke only offers us two post Resurrection appearances of Jesus - this is one of them - Why?
Story: Malcolm Muggeridge was a Marxist before he found Christ.
During the Cold War he travelled to Russia to write a story about the Communist party and the decline of religion in that atheistic regime.
After conducing a series of interviews with officials in the Kremlin, he attended a Russian Orthodox Easter service.
The church was packed.
At the close of the service the priest said, “Christ is risen”, and the people shouted back, “He is risen indeed!”
Muggeridge looked into their faces and instantly realized that they were right and that Stalin was wrong.
He said it was the reality of their joy that tipped the
scales of his soul toward Christ.
The reality of Christian joy is compelling!
According to an ancient Russian Orthodox tradition, the day before Easter was devoted to telling jokes.
Priests would join the people in telling their best jokes to one another.
The reason was to reflect the joke God pulled on the devil in the Resurrection.
Satan thought he won on Friday, but God had the last laugh on Easter Sunday.
Professor Charlie Moule, the famous NT theologian once said:
"the birth and rapid rise of the Christian Church ... remains an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the church itself - the resurrection."
C.F.D. Moule, The Phenomenon of the New Testament).
Most Sundays we profess our faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead when we say the words of the Creed:
“ I believe ..….in Jesus Christ,
his only Son our Lord who was
Conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead and buried
He descended into Hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead”
(The Apostles Prayer - BCP)
The Resurrection is a major pillar of our faith .
St Paul puts it like this:
“..if Christ has not been raised from the dead, your faith is futile” (I Cor. 15: 17)
Yet, have you ever been surprised how little space all four Gospel writers give the post Resurrection appearances of Jesus?.
St Matthew devotes one Chapter out of 28
St Mark devotes one Chapter out of 16
St. Luke devotes only one chapter out of 24 &
St. John devotes two Chapters out of 21.
St. Luke only records two post Resurrection appearances.
- one of these was Jesus’ appearance to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus (Lk 24:13-35) and
- the other is found in our Gospel reading this morning.
We know from St. Paul, that at least 513 men – not to count the women such as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (as St. Matthew calls her) - saw the risen Lord (see 1 Cor. 15:3-8).
So the question I asked myself as I prepared was
" Why did Luke pick this Resurrection appearance in Lk 24:36-48 to record as one of the two key Resurrection appearances of his Gospel?"
What was so special about it?
To answer that question, I will have to pose another and that is:
What was St. Luke’s aims when he wrote his Gospel?
As you all know, St. Luke was a consummate historian.
He wrote his two volume treatise (Luke-Acts) on the Christian faith with - I would suggest to you - three aims in mind.
1. His first aim is to give a reliable explanation of the origins of Christianity.
That is to say Luke sets out to tell the story of Jesus and its continuation in the life of the church.
2. His second aim, I believe is to show the relationship of Christianity to Judaism.
In other words, St. Luke sets out to show how Jesus was the fulfilment of the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament Scriptures.
3. And finally the Gospel - and its sequel Acts - were written to show how Christianity moved from Judaism to embrace the Gentiles.
And interestingly, the post Resurrection story of our Gospel reading this morning meets all three of these objectives.
1. Firstly we read, in the story of Jesus, of the veracity of the Resurrection.
The resurrected Jesus was seen by the disciples –probably the eleven remaining apostles.
Luke is telling us: Jesus really bodily rose from the dead.
We read of the Resurrected Jesus saying to his petrified disciples
“Look at my hands and feet. It is I myself. Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see that I have….Do you have anything here to eat? They gave him a piece of broiled fish and he took it and ate it in their presence (Lk 24:39, 41 &42).
When we say in the Creed that “on the third day He rose again” we are assenting to our belief in the resurrection of Jesus, as recorded by the Gospel writers.