This week’s talk/sermon

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SUNDAY SERVICE
14th April 2024

Talk by Alun Rowlands

Our Gospel reading today brings us an account from Luke on Jesus’ appearance to the disciples. Last week we heard John’s account of Jesus’ two appearances to the disciples in the locked room. The first one being when Thomas wasn’t there and said he wouldn’t believe Jesus had risen from the dead unless he could see the marks in Jesus’ hands and put his fingers in his side. The second is when Jesus challenged Thomas to do exactly that. So, is Luke’s account the same occasion or completely different? Well, there is a basic resemblance, but does it really matter? I’ve said before that differences in the Gospels are a strength rather than a weakness as they help us to bring out the slightly differing perspectives of the writers.  So, in each account, Jesus appeared to the disciples, they were afraid and couldn’t believe what was before their eyes. Jesus had to convince them that he really was raised from the dead, and that it was up to them to continue his mission in the world.

There is a clear major difference, but we need to look at the connecting story in this chapter of Luke that leads up to today’s reading. It’s a story told only by Luke and it’s the one about the encounter between Jesus and two of his followers on the road to Emmaus. Cleopas and an unnamed companion have left Jerusalem and are returning to Emmaus feeling thoroughly dispirited about Jesus’ death on the cross.  We’re told they couldn’t believe what they’d heard about the women discovering the empty tomb, their encounter with angels and Jesus’ resurrection. They encountered a stranger on the road and shared their conversation with him. They couldn’t believe the stranger hadn’t heard what everyone was talking about, the happenings in Jerusalem and the follow on of the supposed empty tomb. But, as this stranger observes, they are foolish and “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared!” (Luke 24:25). Jesus went on to explain to them and put things into context with the Scriptures and eventually in the breaking of the bread they suddenly recognised him. The two disciples hurriedly returned to Jerusalem to excitedly tell their companions what happened to them.

In a similar fashion to the encounter on the Emmaus Road, the Disciples in that locked room do not understand what is happening. They did appear to connect Jesus with their crucified leader, but they thought he was a ghost. They were filled with confusion and doubt. Jesus then showed them his body with all the wounds of the cross. Just as John suggested Thomas demanded in his account. Jesus ate with the disciples just as he had in Emmaus and again, he put everything into context with the Scriptures to show that everything they had seen and learned from his teaching before his crucifixion led them to that very moment. Most importantly Jesus directly told the disciples that they were to carry on the work and be his witnesses. It is in Luke’s Book of Acts, where he paints the picture of what it looked like when the disciples fulfilled their calling as witnesses. For example, today’s first reading describes Peter’s proclamation of what God has done and is doing in Jesus Christ on the back of the miraculous healing of the beggar at the gate of the Temple and the disciples arrest over it.

I said last week how Thomas in the John account is my favourite disciple due to his example of doubting leading to deeper faith and truth. But surely, like him, we all come with our doubts, confusions, fears, and misunderstandings. Hopefully, through our worship and prayer life, we also encounter the risen Christ. In our listening to and personal reading of the scriptures and listening to the preached word we too are offered explanation as we hear the good news of what God has done for each one of us and is still doing. The Holy Spirit is the enabling force from Jesus which can open our hearts and minds, setting our hearts afire. Finally, we should realise the exhortation from Christ to his disciples that day to go out into the world to be his witnesses to the happenings of Easter is for us as well. I said last week the key message is ‘on the third day he rose again from the dead.’ Lets’ make no mistake, it’s our calling to spread this message. And perhaps we can personally connect to John’s account of the encounter with the risen Jesus, and loudly respond just like Thomas did – ‘My Lord and my God!’

God bless. Alun