Summary: Joyously Amazed Disbelief describes the too-good-to-be-true experiences of God’s grace that are critical for us to recognize, because in recognizing them we are empowered to share the good news of Christ’s love with others: CLAIM AND PROCLAIM.
Thursday I was down in Albany helping lead a workshop with some folks from the Albany First Methodist Church, and there was a young woman in the group who had a glow on her face the entire day. She was simply beaming. I later discovered that she’s going to be married next month.
Observing the radiant glow on her face last Thursday reminded me of a summer evening in 1973. It was a beautiful, warm night, with a clear sky and brilliant stars all around. Nancy and I were sitting on the hood of my father’s Oldsmobile Delta 88. Some of you are old enough to remember those.
We had been talking for a while, just enjoying each other’s company, and then I heard something come out of her mouth that I simply could not believe. The most beautiful girl I’d ever seen in my life, then or now, said to me: “I love you.”
I was absolutely stunned. This could not be happening. Yes, I audibly heard the syllables come out of her mouth, but I still didn’t believe it. I knew I must be dreaming, it was simply too good to be true.
Now you gotta remember who we’re talking about here. We’re talking about a young man who had grown up as Fat Boy, a young man whom the high school girls had always considered as a kind of surrogate “brother” to come to for advice and counsel, but would never consider dating, a young man who had a face covered with such a bad case of acne that he stills bears the scars today. We’re talking about me! I can be honest, I’ll never be mistaken for a Robert Redford or a Tom Cruise or a Paul Newman.
And yet here the most beautiful girl in the world was telling me that she loved me. It was beyond my comprehension. It was beyond my ability to fathom. It was completely outside the realm of possibility that Nancy O’Toole could love Dan Dunn. It was simply too good to be true.
Last Sunday we celebrated Easter. In the 24th chapter of Luke, we read the story of the 2 women who went to the tomb on resurrection morning and were greeted by the two men dressed in dazzling white who told them that Christ was no longer there, because He was risen. They went back to the Eleven and told them about their experience, but the disciples did not believe them because as the Bible says, “their words seemed to them like nonsense.”
But that’s not all that takes place on resurrection day. The very next passage in this chapter of Luke’s gospel tells the story of the two men who met the Risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus. They carried on a conversation with Him along the road, and when they arrived at Emmaus they had supper together.
While at the supper table, Jesus took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. Then the Bible says “they got up and returned at once to Jerusalem.”
When they got there, they found the Eleven and the others with them still awake and talking about the things that had taken place that day. Then these two disciples told about their own experience with the Risen Christ and how they finally recognized Him when He broke the bread.
It’s at this point in the chapter when we come to our Scripture lesson for today. I invite you to follow along in your Bible or in your order of worship, as read from verses 36-49 of the 24th chapter of the gospel of Luke: Read the passage.
I really had fun looking at this passage this week because I received the gift of a new insight. In years past anytime I’ve looked at this passage I’ve thought to myself how absolutely obtuse and thickheaded the disciples were. Think about it: the women see 2 men dressed in white, see an empty tomb with only the linens lying there. They tell the disciples about this, and then Peter goes to the tomb and checks it out for himself.
Then 2 other followers of Jesus actually walk with Him and talk with Him for several miles on the Emmaus road, they break bread with Him, and they recognize Him for who He is. They return to Jerusalem to tell the others about this amazing encounter, and while they were in the midst of their story, Jesus Himself stood among them, He showed them His hands and His feet, and yet according to verse 41 they STILL did not believe.
I used to think the disciples were obtuse and thickheaded, and maybe they were. But I also think there’s something else going on here. I think they were having an experience similar to the one I had on the hood of Daddy’s Delta 88 in the summer of 1973. I think they were overwhelmed by something so wonderful, so incredible, so beyond comprehension, that they literally COULD not believe it, it was simply too good to be true.