Readings: Acts 3:12-19. Psalm 4. 1 John 3:1-7, Luke 24:36b-48.
Place: Episcopal Christ Church Andover in Massachusetts Diocese.
Date: April 22nd. 2012.
Title: Appearance of Jesus to His Disciples.
St Luke’s in his Gospel affirms the actual physical reality of Jesus resurrection body. Both his death and resurrection were prophesized in the O.T. and therefore the resurrection came as a fulfillment of God’s providential plan.
The disciples were frightened and confused even though Jesus had prepared them earlier that he would suffer, be torched, die on the cross and that he would be risen after 3 days. All the time they had spent with him, learning His Word, watching miracles that Jesus performed and all the teaching that they had received from him, the disciples failed to remember that Jesus was going to be resurrected.
They were full of fear even though Mary Magdalene had told them that she had met and spoken to the risen Lord. Their fear was overwhelming even though Peter and the other disciple had seen the empty tomb, and failed to remember what Jesus had said to them earlier.
Life seemed to be closing in on them and were almost going to give up even their ministry because of the death of their Leader and fearing that a number of them would die too, sooner or later, for their connection with Jesus. As human beings, their fears and confusions seemed to be understandable and here are some of the facts:
- They were betrayed by one of their own.
- The crowds had turned against them.
- They knew that Jesus was apprehended and executed, so they may be as well.
- They had denied their relationship to him.
It is in this hopeless situation that Jesus walked and said “ PEACE BE WITH YOU”
The resurrection amazed them, filled them with joy, turned their lives around, but their doubts and disbeliefs were still evident.
In light of what Jesus said, their doubts also included some confusion about the actual physical reality of the resurrection itself.
Therefore when Jesus appealed to them, he proved that it was really him who has been risen from the dead, they saw him physically, he spoke to them and heard his voice, he invited them to touch him and Jesus really wanted them to be very sure that it was him.
He assured them that he was not a spirit without the body, his body was healed and strong and not subject to the death any more, he even proved it by asking them if they had anything to eat and Jesus ate before them.
He had conquered death and wanted to ensure that his disciples whom have deserted him during his crucifixion that he was risen and therefore shouldn’t be fearful anymore.
Sometimes we also experience all kinds of fears such as: incurable illnesses, broken relationships, failures, lack of job, broken marriage, and more other personal fears. While we experience such situations, it is so easy to have fear and forget about the risen Lord who is our hope. We may forget him, but Christ never forget us. He is always with us and he loves us so much.
Through his death and resurrection we also have the promise of our own resurrection at the end of our time, and the reality of reconciliation with God and other people here and now.
Like the first disciples, we also must experience the risen Lord in our lives who gives us the freedom of not fearing death,,, who enables us to stand firm when we face challenges and life trials of this world.
Jesus’ resurrection gives us the hope for our resurrection also. He comes back to reconcile us with God, and to make us his instruments for reconciliation in the world. He comes to break the chains of fear even the fear of death. The Easter message gives hope that the love, power and grace of God manifested in Jesus covers all our fear and doubts.
One day a school teacher asked the kids in his third grade class to name the person whom they considered the greatest human being alive in the world today -- and as you can imagine, they gave many names that they could think of.
Some named their mothers and their fathers because they take care of them, others named the president of the United State of America as he is the president of the greatest country in the world, and many other famous people they have heard including the Pope who represents God in the whole world.
One little boy came up with another answer and said: I think Jesus Christ is the greatest because he loves everybody and he helps everyone without distinction. The teacher who happened to be a Christian smiled and said:
You have tried and I like your answer but it is not very true because remember I asked you to name the greatest living person and not a dead one, of course Jesus lived and died over two thousand years ago! Do you have another name in mind?
The teacher asked: The little boy raised his hand again and said to the teacher …….that’s not right sir!!! Jesus is not dead, he is alive and he lives in me! He is with us right now!!!!!
As you can imagine, the teacher was very much challenged by the 8years old boy as he though Jesus had died.
I think the greatest and important affirmation of the Christians today is not the affirmation that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. It's not the affirmation that he performed incredible miracles or that he was a profound teacher or that he represented God and was his only Son. The most important for the Christians is the affirmation that Jesus Christ is alive and that he actually lives inside the hearts and souls of each and everyone!"
To know that Jesus is alive in my heart today makes a big difference in my life and also gives me a lot of hope as I await for his return or for the end of my time on this planet. That’s the message of Easter and we need to be Easter people.
Christ was risen, Christ is alive today, Christ manifests himself in many ways, and I witness that every day in my own life and even much more, in the lives of the people I serve in Rwanda.
When I look at some of the survivors of the genocide in Rwanda, who lost families, who were beaten and torched and left almost dead, who lost everything and who have nothing at all.
And yet they are still faithful to God, and have been able to forgive those who killed their families, they have forgiven them without any condition, without even requesting them to repent, they did it willingly and happily because Jesus is alive in their hearts. Jesus is reason indeed, he is alive
I want to tell you a story of one of the genocide survivors Called Agnes. Agnes is normally a Hutu woman who had married a Tutsi man, and together they had 5 children. Agnes had a lot of brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, she had really a big Hutu family and they all lived close by. During the genocide against the Tutsis, Of course Agnes was not a target because she was a Hutu, but her husband was a Tutsi.
Since Agnes had an extended Hutu family, she didn’t have any fear that her husband would be killed as she was surrounded by her own siblings and relatives in big numbers. However her Aunt came in and asked her where was her husband, and Agnes said that he went to hide….she continued to ask her where he was hiding, and later on Agnes told her the truth and said that he was in the bed room.
Her Aunt went quickly to inform the militias, who came and took Agnes husband away and killed him along with his 5 children and one daughter survived. After they killed them, they came back in the house, and took all the things in the house, took Agnes away in the bush, raped her and they left her unconscious. These were people who lived side by side with her, who went in the same school with her but they did all these horrible thing to her.
To cut the story short, Agnes was in hospital for more than 9 months and she got HIV/AIDS and later on since she had no home to come to, she went to one of her brothers, and they rejected her and none of her own siblings or uncles or aunts would give her accommodation, and instead they were abusing her for having married to a Tutsi.
She decided to go to her in laws and they almost killed her saying that she killed their son( Agnes husband!) .Later on most of her relatives were arrested for the crime and were in prison for more than a decade. Agnes lived a challenging life and even her 14years old daughter who survived was made pregnant by the militias and she is staying with her and she has AIDS too.
When Agnes participated in our seminars for healing and reconciliation, it took her a long time to process all those wounds to heal as she was still suffering from the aftermath of the genocide. However slowly she managed to heal and the last thing to do in order to heal completely was to forgive her own family for what they did to her.
Time came when Agnes managed to forgive, she went to their homes and forgave all of them including her aunt who betrayed her, Agnes even went to prison to meet those who were still in jails and told them that she has forgiven them and requested them to repent to God so that when Jesus comes back or when they die that she will be with them in heaven eternally.
Some of these guys have come out of prison and are involved in REACH ministries, building homes for the survivors who have no shelters. When I look at how today these genocide offenders live and interact with the survivors in the same village, supporting one another and working together in different projects, Going in the same church, I see Christ alive in their hearts, I see Jesus alive in them, I see Jesus through their coexistence and relationships.
The Easter season comes to set us free. Jesus was risen to break any chain of fear that hold us, therefore let us offer him our own situations, our own struggles, our doubts and losses, he will set us free and give us the power to overcome any trials and life challenge. Let us extend to him the chains of fear that hold us, and he will break them by the power of his resurrection. Amen!