The following are excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Christopher A. Yim at Neelsville Presbyterian Church in Germantown, Md.:
The account of Jesus appearing to the disciples has both a comic and tragic quality. This dramatic moment is also terribly funny. Here comes Jesus, meeting the disciples right where they are, confused, disappointed, afraid.
They were talking about all of this after the Resurrection, and said to others, “He has risen indeed.” This was their committee meeting, just like we do in the Presbyterian Church. But then Jesus appears again and says, “Peace be with you,” and just the opposite happens. They are startled and terrified, like a scene from the Keystone Cops.
They announced His Resurrection, but when He appeared once more, they could not even believe their eyes. I heard a young child once tell the story of Moses crossing the Red Sea. To make it more believable, he said, “So the Israelites walked around the water and escaped.” When I asked why the change, he said, “So theyd believe it.”
It is hard to believe what God has really done. Jesus went to great lengths to overcome the disciples unbelief. He goes to those same great lengths with us. He began with, “Peace be with you,” declaring the wholeness of God. They dont respond, so He says, “Touch the wounds in my hands and my feet.” They had been with Jesus all these years, and now he has to prove Himself.
What would it take to make you believe? A miracle? A dose of hellfire and brimstone, or scientific proof, which to many people means absolute certainty? With a miracle, you might see one this year, but if you see more, or hear one too many warnings of hellfire, you grow numb. You disbelieve. Science investigates and measures the created order, but what about its certainty? When a tree falls and no one was there, did it really make a sound? We are talking about probability and reasonableness, not absolute certainty. Faith is something beyond all of this.
We can say it is reasonable to believe in the Resurrection based on the Gospel accounts, the reaction of the disciples, but even this we cannot prove with absolute certainty. Jesus takes all these steps to help the disciples overcome their disbelief. Finally, He eats a piece of fish. There is a progression in this passage. Jesus wants to make clear to them that the Resurrection has taken place. He wants to show that God is real, God is reliable, that prophecy is fulfilled.
We come to the question of: Why? Why would Jesus go to these faithless people and make this effort? If you follow the history of Gods call in the Bible, God consistently goes to people with major character flaws.
Abraham palmed off his wife twice as his sister, and so did Isaac. Jacob was a deceiver, Joseph a braggart, David had his problem with Bathsheba, and Solomon all his wives. Enormous flaws. Why does God choose people like that, and people like us? Simply this: It is Gods mission to be carried out, and Gods kingdom that He is building. We are not capable of that, but we may be Gods tools. If you have a wonderful house, you dont praise the hammer. You praise the carpenter.
What does Christ want, coming to us with our disbelief? Martin Luther said we are to be “little Christs,” ambassadors of the Lord. We are the tools of God. Our call is to follow Christ so others may believe. Take the letters in Christs name as your call: “C” is for a commission to raise up a next generation for Christ. “H” is for hope, especially in the Resurrection. “R” is to be resolute, but with the “i” of inspiration from the Holy Spirit and “s” of spiritual, so our firmness of belief comes in love, kindness and even merriment. Finally there is “t” for trust in God. Remember what faith is. It is the openness to the possibility that something is true, and the willingness to stake your life on that possibility.
Next week: a sermon at a Virginia congregation.