In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.
As we continue to journey through our Easter Season, the Gospel continues to speak to us about the impact that the Resurrection had upon the disciples. Last week, the Gospel focussed on Thomas and his disbelief, and this week, we continue by looking at the reactions of all the disciples.
Luke’s gospel only has two accounts of Jesus appearing to his disciples, and if we had read back to the beginning of this chapter, we would have heard about the first encounter on the road to Emmaus.
Both our reading today and the previous encounter have an important message to tell us. They speak of the doubt, fear and uncertainty that the disciples had after the crucifixion. And although we can now read about these events with the benefit of hindsight, the emotions and challenges that the disciples faced are ones that we still face today.
None of us have ever been in the physical presence of Christ, and yet our faith allows us to move past this fact and have belief in him. But does that mean that we never have doubts or fears which distract us from our walk with God?
At the crucifixion, the disciples had been shattered by broken dreams of renewal for Israel, lost hopes for a better future, the ow unfulfilled and unrealised expectations that they had, and on top of all of this, the reality of their own failures and betrayals.
When Jesus died, their future died with him. Today the disciple’s pain personifies the plight of humans throughout the ages who have dreamed dreams that have ultimately turned into nightmares, whose hopes have been shattered, and seen bright futures, dissolve before their eyes.
These thoughts, these feelings hold true for all Christians and their significance to us is just as important for all of us who walked the journey through Lent and Holy Week as we faced the pain and desolation of the cross, where we experienced for ourselves the darkness that led to the crucifixion and finality of the cross, and Gods plan.
Of all the things that the human spirit yearns for, the biggest one is hope. Hope that tomorrow will be better than today, that healing will replace pain and that the tears and darkness of the present, will be replaced by a brighter happier future.
This is also the significance of the resurrection and why we celebrate the joys of Easter through these seven weeks!
When ours lives are shattered through the tragedy, heartache, betrayal and pain we endure, or through our own sin and failure, the only hope for any future lies in what God alone can do, and in our response to Him.
The disciples could not even believe the good news brought by the women and so when they saw Christ standing before them they thought he was a ghost, the remnant of the person they had known and loved.
Their hope for the future did not lie in their ability to summon enough faith to believe the unbelievable. They were without hope, too discouraged and afraid to have that much faith.
Christ recognised this fear and doubt, He gave them the opportunity to talk with him, to touch his wounds; he even asked them for food and ate with them. These were all actions that a ghost wouldn’t have been able to accomplish!
Christ wanted them to know that he wasn’t just an apparition, he was flesh and bone, and through his actions he was fulfilling all that had been written about the messiah in the Old Testament.
When they encountered the risen Lord, this was the turning point for them, the moment that faith was restored.
It was Christ who took the initiative to come to them and to open their eyes to the new reality, to the new possibilities that presented themselves because of this reality, and so Christ brought them a hope that went beyond the endings of the past.
But this hope didn’t end with the disciples in that room, because as we celebrate Easter, this in turn calls us to that encounter with the presence of the risen Christ today.
There are many ways, that given the choice, we would want to say how that encounter should happen. But the how is not the important part of the encounter.
We need to focus upon the opportunity we have in these Easter days as a time of renewal and restoration of faith, so that through our renewed belief, we can recognise that the encounters we have can bring healing, wholeness and hope, to us and to anyone who finds themselves lost.
To meet the risen Christ is as much of a possibility now as it was for the disciples, but for those who have lost their way, who are in the middle of despair or hopelessness it’s almost impossible.
It’s with this in mind that we need to remember that it is part of our calling as todays disciples to share with others the promise and hope that we have in Christ, and perhaps even be a guiding light for others in their pain.
In some traditions of the Christian church, there is still a tendency to emphasise the guilt and sinfulness that people have as a method of bringing them to faith, I strongly disagree with this method as it doesn’t give them anywhere near the full picture of the richness of what a life of faith is really all about.
Faith isn't based exclusively on the notion of sack cloth and ashes, the desolation of regret, and being told we are wrong in everything we do or have done.
Having Faith is about working towards understanding all that Christ taught us, that we have a risen Lord who went through the pain of the cross for each and every one of us, and that God our father sent Christ His son to earth to teach us about how to follow him, and through grace know his love and peace in the fullness of our lives.
I doubt that the biggest barrier to God in our world today is Sin; there is a much bigger one, hopelessness, the fact that many today have lost their way, they seek their answers from the world, and because they continue to thirst because their questions go unanswered, the rot of apathy takes hold and they never had the opportunity to hear the full message of salvation.
Christ’s resurrection brings light into the darkness of this world, it illuminates and brightens where nothing else can; and because it continually burns brightly it reminds us that there is a new beginning, which is open to everyone, and that the hope and despair that is felt today, just as the disciples felt on Good Friday and Holy Saturday is not the end.
The new light shines in and through our hearts and lives as we have gone through death, and experienced resurrection; we live as God’s Easter people, those who have the promise of new life in our souls.
It’s our responsibility to exemplify that in our own lives, to share what we have received with others, and maybe, just, maybe, the transformative power of Christ alive in us will be seen by others, and the despair that they feel will be turned into hope.
When people have hope, they have a reason to live life to the full, to turn away from the past and begin to change.
This then in turn allows God’s transforming grace to work within them, and bring them to that fullness of life, which, they may never have had the chance to experience before.
Remember the disciples in that room became the first light bearers, today that awesome responsibility has been passed to us.
The Gospel of Matthew tell us what we have to do with that light is says:
‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.’
Are you ready to shine?