Believing the resurrection (April 9, 2023)

A uniform lesson for April 9, 2023.

Uniform Lesson for April 9, 2023
Scripture passage and lesson focus: 
Luke 24:1-12

As we continue to focus on the impact of Christ’s resurrection on his followers, this lesson follows the disciples as they grapple with the empty tomb and the prophetic words interpreted to them by the temporarily disguised Messiah.

What does it take to believe? Can one believe without an experience? Without seeing? There are many things we cannot explain but believe anyway. Imagine this: it took scientists over 150 years to figure out why ice is slippery! Those of us who have slipped on the ice don’t need help believing that. Our experience was enough, thank you very much.

Experience notwithstanding, what does it take to believe the resurrection of Jesus Christ? And when we believe, what difference does it make?

A witness about Christ

There is little more frustrating than coming to the final piece of a puzzle and realizing that it is missing. You’re left scratching your head, maybe searching all over like the woman who lost her coin, hoping to find that missing piece (Luke 15). Conversely, there’s little more satisfying or exhilarating than putting that last puzzle piece in its place. Beholding the full picture is the proverbial icing on the cake. You can finally see how all the individual pieces fit together to tell a complete story.

When the disciples hear from the women that Jesus had risen, many scratch their heads in disbelief; many try to reconstruct the puzzle to properly understand. How does what we know about our experience with Jesus fit in with what the women told us? How does what they told us fit with what some witnessed for themselves at the tomb?

We can ask ourselves how our own experiences with Christ fit in with what these witnesses experienced. How is it that we believe without having seen and witness about Christ’s empty tomb when we have neither physically seen Christ nor his empty tomb? Yet, we witness about Christ.

The witness is Christ

In the text, we find two of the disciples on their way to the village of Emmaus, discussing all the “things that had happened” (v. 14). While they talk, Jesus comes near to them and begins to journey with them, but they are kept from recognizing him. Jesus asks about their conversation and the incredulity of Cleopas’ response is not lost. I wonder if Jesus laughs inside when he replies as if he really didn’t know.

The disciples recount all they can about Jesus to “the stranger,” including the events that led to his death. Yet, their rendering of events leaves out what Scripture prophesied about Jesus and the Messiah’s own prophetic words about himself. Why were they struggling to accept the truth? Why do we struggle to accept the truth? Can truth about Christ be revealed solely by God?

Nevertheless, these disciples invite “the stranger” to where they are staying. They demonstrate hospitality towards “the stranger” and in a turn, “the stranger” demonstrates hospitality towards them when he invites them into a eucharistic experience (v. 30). Then, their eyes are opened, and they recognize Jesus. Just as quickly as they recognize him, he vanishes. They are left with burning in their hearts and a story of their own to share about Christ who is the witness.

A witness for Christ

As the two disciples recount their meeting with the resurrected Jesus to the core 11 disciples, Jesus suddenly appears in the room. The group is terrified, fearing they are seeing a ghost (v. 37). Can you imagine every wide eye? Every heart filled with doubt? “Touch me and see,” Jesus tells them. “For a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (v. 39). Ok, makes a little sense. Tough crowd. This demonstrates the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, but the disciples aren’t completely convinced (v. 41). So, Jesus amps up his demonstration, asking for food and eating in their presence. Ok, makes even more sense. This is another demonstration of the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, but these disciples need a little more. Jesus speaks to them and opens their minds to understand. Ok, now we see. How long does it take us to believe?

Friends, Easter is upon us. The Resurrection Sunday. But then, every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday, isn’t it? Each week, we make proclamations about the risen Lord. If we heed Jesus’ call to be his witnesses this Sunday, perhaps we will be more fervent in our proclamations. We will look to the tomb and find it empty. We will go and tell everyone we meet, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” Our own hearts will burn within us as we bear the prophet’s burden for the world.

Being a witness is not easy. Doubt awaits. Unbelief awaits. Persecution may await. Despite the challenges, Jesus commands his witnesses to go out into all the nations with their mouths filled with his message of repentance and forgiveness of sins. After all, we witness for Christ.

Questions for discussion:

How did you come to believe the resurrection?