Summary: When the Son comes out, we discover peace, resurrection power and a commission to move beyond our church walls.
Years ago, my two sons attended a spiritual gifts retreat for children. On the way home from the campgrounds, the boys’ mother wanted to know what they had discovered. She asked our younger son, “What’s your spiritual gift, Sam?” Sam stuck out his chest and proudly announced, “Mom, my spiritual gift is SERVICE!” Paul, the older, more sarcastic brother, retorted, “Service? You’ve got to be kidding me, Sam! You don’t serve anyone! You never do your chores, you never help anybody. Service! Give me a break.” Mom said, “So what’s your spiritual gift, Paul?”
Paul replied, “Encouragement!”
Do you need encouragement this morning? The Bible tells the church in Hebrews 3:13 to encourage each other daily so that we might not be hardened.
I can’t think of anything more encouraging than Easter. On Good Friday, as Jesus writhed in agony on the Cross, the Gospels tell us that the sun stopped shining and darkness hung over the land for three hours. But on Easter morning, an angel rolled away the tombstone and the Son came out—the radiant Son of God, the stinger of death in his crucified hand and his pierced feet on the devil’s neck.
Last Sunday, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. with the sound of rain on the roof. I got in my van at 6:30 to go down to Cleburne, TX to perform my Lazarus drama at the Methodist church. It was still raining. It was raining when I got to the church. It was raining after church. It was raining at dinner. It was raining when I got ready for bed. I was beginning to wonder if God had forgotten his promise never to flood the earth again. But the sun came out the next day. The sun always comes out, doesn’t it?
When it does, we breathe a smile of relief. . .we smile. . .we go outdoors and bask in its golden warmth and light. In the Pacific Northwest, where it’s overcast most days, lots of people suffer from light deprivation, which results in mood swings and depression. There’s even a scientific name for this problem: “Seasonal Affective Disorder,“ or S.A.D. People suffering from S.A.D. have to set up special light panels in their homes and get heavy doses of illumination in order to be happy campers. We need light. We can’t survive without it.
We can’t survive without the Son of God, either. Our shadowy hearts, tinted by selfishness and confusion, need His light. In the Gospel story today, Luke tells us what happened when the Son came out. Since Scripture tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, we can be encouraged that the Son still shines today.
FIRST, Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” That greeting must have been like a sunbeam slicing through clouds of fear and despair. The disciples needed peace. They were holed up in a locked room, fearful of the authorities, weeping over their crucified leader—then they thought they had seen a ghost! What’s happening today is even more frightening than ghostly sightings— attacks on our soil, threats of more terrorism, an escalating Mideast crisis. Add to that the daily stress of modern society with taxes, bills, kids, job, hot water heaters that decide to burst on a Friday night when plumbers charge time-and-a-half. (Not that that happened to me recently or anything). You know, all of this is enough to drive a person to Blue Bell ice cream.
But Jesus says, “Peace.” That’s not a throwaway platitude or sweet sentiment. In the NT, the word for peace means “to reconcile or join.” Some missionary Bible translators were working very hard to find a word for peace in a particular tribal language. At last, a native who was working with them found a combination of words that captured the concept—“a heart that sits down.” When the heart sits down with Jesus—when we join with God through his Son—there is peace.
SECONDLY, when the Son comes out, He proves his resurrected reality. The disciples were incredulous, of course. Wouldn’t YOU be? Your beloved friend has died, then he or she reappears in your midst. You would think, Am I having a vision? a hallucination? Was it the enchiladas last night? Luke reports, with the ring of authenticity, that the disciples were filled with joy, amazement and doubt. Christ reassures them that he is real. “Touch me,” he said. “Go ahead and handle me, for a ghost does not have flesh and bone as you see that I have.” He further proves His reality by snacking on a piece of fish! (Ghosts don’t eat fish, by the way—they eat Ghost Toasties and evaporated milk. Hey, I work with kids and do clowning; don’t expect sophisticated humor from me. And after that joke, you’re saying, “Don’t worry, I won’t.”).