Seed of Faith – WORDS TO THE SKEPTICAL & SCARED By Pastor Dave
Dear Faithful, Fearless, and Fruitful Seed-Sowers,
May the God of all grace and mercy surround you with His grace, mercy and love. May you know that God is with you and His promise is that He will never leave you or forsake you. COUNT ON THIS AS YOU FACE THE FUTURE.
Last week, we heard a word to the troubled in heart as Jesus walked down the Emmaus Road with His disciples. Today we turn to Luke 24 where we will hear a word to the skeptical and scared.
With his news-assignment request approved, the CNN News cameraman quickly used his cell phone to call the local airport to charter a flight. He was told a twin-engine plane would be waiting for him at the airport. Arriving at the airfield, he spotted a plane warming up outside a hanger. He jumped in with his bag, slammed the door shut, and shouted, “Let’s go!” The pilot taxied out, swung the plane into the wind and took off. Once in the air, the cameraman instructed the pilot, “Fly over the valley and make low passes so I can get shots of the fires on the hillsides. “Why?” asked the pilot. “Because I’m a cameraman for CNN,” he responded, “and I need to get some close-up shots. “The pilot was strangely silent for a moment. Finally, he stammered, “So, what you are telling me, is…you’re not my flight instructor?[i]
What a case of mistaken identity!
Have you ever mistaken the identity of someone or something?
The resurrection of Jesus from the dead caused even His followers to mistake His identity. At the tomb, Mary Magdalene thought Jesus was the gardener. The disciples on the road to Emmaus thought Jesus was the only one in Jerusalem who did not know what terrible things had just happened in Jerusalem.
In the Gospel of Luke, we have three different records of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It would be just like our detailed, Dr. Luke to paint a tapestry of three different panels. One panel is the story found in Luke 24:1-12 that we read on Easter Sunday. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women go to tomb early in the morning and find that the stone is rolled away; they see two men glowing like lightening. These two angels say to the women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, He has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee. The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” (Luke 24:5-7) Dr. Luke tells us that the women ran back to tell the disciples the good news. The disciples think the women are talking nonsense. However, we learn that Peter ran to the tomb–only to find it was empty. Peter walked away wondering what in the world had happened. This is the first panel Dr. Luke has painted for us.
The second panel is the story found in Luke 24:13-34. We studied this story last week. This panel is painted with Cleopas and another (Mary his wife, Mary) walking home to Emmaus from Jerusalem. Out of the blue, Jesus started walking alongside them. As they walked and talked, Jesus opened all of the Scriptures to them–beginning with Moses and the prophets and explained to them all that must happen to the Messiah. Even after all of this, they still had a case of mistaken identity of their mystery man who had joined them on their walk. It was not until Jesus broke bread with them that their eyes were opened. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32
What does it take for our hearts to burn within us? What would it take for us to know the real Christ and not to have a case of mistaken identity regarding Him? What would it take for us to pick up and run back the seven miles we just walked in order to tell others that we have seen the risen, living Christ? Why is that we have such a hard time seeing Jesus come alongside us in our lives? Why is that that we mistake His identity time and time again?
Today we turn to the third panel of Luke’s magnificent tapestry of the resurrection story. Today, may our eyes be opened once again to see the risen Christ. May our hearts be strangely warmed as we open up God’s Word and read Luke 24:36-53.
As always, place yourself into our story. Be a part of the living word of God. We are in the Upper Room, gathered together and huddled in fear. Now, let us introduce Dr. Luke’s three panels of resurrection stories and three cases of mistaken identity: Mary Magdalene thought Jesus was the gardener. Cleopas and his companion on the way to Emmaus had no clue who their traveling companion was. Was this mysterious traveler the only one who did not know the things that had happened in Jerusalem? They all had a case of mistaken identity. After Jesus opened up the Scriptures to Cleopas and the other disciple, after Jesus broke bread with them–they immediately ran 7 miles back to Jerusalem to tell all those gathered in the Upper Room that they had just been with the risen Christ.
Can you imagine? It is still Resurrection Day. Jesus’ disciples have run the gamut of emotions for one day! Are you there with me? What a day! Do you think after Cleopas shares his news that they are all talking at the same time? Imagine you are in the midst of a crowd. What is going on after all of these people tell us that Jesus is not dead—his tomb is empty and he is alive—and not just in Jerusalem, He is even alive in Emmaus.
I imagine the group is asking questions, making statements, wondering out loud. Joy, excitement, bewilderment, confusion, fear and skepticism are running rampant in the room. The doors are locked because of their fears and then…suddenly… Jesus walks into the room and says, “Peace be with you.”
Imagine the scene. Huddle together. The doors are locked! We are all afraid and we are hiding. We are hearing the Good News of Jesus being raised from the dead! Jesus is alive? All of our hopes that were dashed are now being rekindled. Dreams that were shattered are being restored! Now imgaine, Jesus walks into the room and says to us, “Peace be with you.” “Eirene hymin” in Greek and “Shalom alakem,” are the common terms of greeting. What a day this has been for anyone inside that Upper Room!
Here is a lesson we can glean from this third panel of the Resurrection Day Tapestry: Jesus wants to bring HIS peace into our fear! Jesus wants to bring HIS peace into our bewilderment! Jesus wants to bring HIS peace into our doubts! Jesus wants to bring HIS peace into our confusion! Jesus wants to bring His peace to all who are skeptical. Jesus wants to bring peace.
Listen! The Good News!
No matter what kind of day we are having, Jesus wants to bring peace into our lives!
What happens next is another profound example of mistaken identity. The disciples are gathered together in the Upper Room. They have heard from Mary Magdalene, Cleopas, and the other disciple that they have seen the risen Christ. Mary thought He was the gardener at first. Cleopas and his companion thought Jesus was this short of being an idiot. They are all wondering what in the world is going on and now Jesus Himself is standing right in front of them. What is their response? They think they are seeing a ghost.
On January 28, 1945, as World War II was groaning to a close, 121 elite Army Rangers liberated over 500 POWs, mostly Americans, from a Japanese prisoner of war camp near Cabanatuan in the Philippines. The prisoners, many of whom were survivors of the infamous Bataan death march, were in awful condition, physically and emotionally. Before the Rangers arrived, the primary Japanese guard unit had left the camp because of Japan’s massive retreat from the Philippines. The new situation was precarious. Japanese troops were still around and, in the camp, but they kept their distance from the prisoners. The men of Cabanatuan did not quite know what to make of their new freedom—if freedom was in fact what it was. And then, without warning, the American Rangers swept upon the camp in furious force. But one of the most interesting facets of the story was the reaction of many of the prisoners. They were so defeated, diseased, and familiar with deceit that many needed to be convinced they were actually free.
They were skeptical and scared.
Was it a trick? A trap? Was this real? One prisoner, Captain Bert Bank, struggling with blindness caused by a vitamin deficiency, could not clearly make out his would-be rescuers. He refused to budge. Finally, a soldier walked up to him, tugged his arm, and said, “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you want to be free?” Bank, from Alabama, recognized the familiar southern accent of his questioner. A smile formed on his lips, and he willingly and thankfully began his journey to freedom. Finally, far away from what had been, for years, the site of an ongoing, horrific assault on their humanity, the newly freed prisoners began their march home.
In the description of one prisoner, contrasting it with the Bataan nightmare years earlier, “It was a long, slow, steady march …but this was a life march, a march of freedom.”[i]
I believe that we are a lot like those prisoners. We have been set free from our captivity and, yet, we stand frozen in our tracks. We have heard of the resurrection of Christ from the tomb, but do we really believe it? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Is Jesus really the promised Messiah? Would Jesus walk into my confusion, bewilderment, doubts, fears, frustrations, hurts, addictions, pain, worries, skepticism, scared heart and messed-up life?
Timothy J. Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism said; “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”[ii]
So, what? What do you believe? Are you a prisoner of skepticism? Are you frozen in fear? Are you scared like the early disciples? Hear these words:
“Peace be with you.” May these words soak and saturate deeply into your heart.
See you Sunday!
God loves you and so do I,