A number of years ago I was sitting with some of the high school youth having lunch together before we started an event and as we were eating lunch the kids were chatting with one another and I heard two of them talking about an accident that happened outside of the high school before school started. The youth said that he was driving to school t hat morning and he was sitting at a red light getting ready to turn down the road that led to the high school when a car ran a red light. He said that it looked like, based on the way he was driving, that the kid driving the car ran the red light intentionally because school was about to start. He figured that the kid didn’t want to sit through a red light and end up being late so as he ran the light a car coming from the other direction started driving away from the school and they ended up hitting each other. He went on to say that both the people got out of their cars and started talking and so my youth turned right and headed to school.
It was at this point in the conversation that I interrupted the two youth talking , and I said, “you mean to tell me that you saw the whole accident and you didn’t stay to help report it or check on anyone?”. The youth immediately explained again that both people got out of their cars and seemed to be fine and he didn’t want to be late for school like this other kid was going to be so he made the call to drive to school so that he could get to his classes. I then reminded him that it was his duty as a witness to the accident to stay there and help report what had happened. He simply responded that It was obviously the one kids fault and that they would get it all sorted out all on their own. I tried to hypothesize a situation in which it wasn’t clear and the one kid lied about running a red light and said it was yellow instead and without his information about who’s fault it clearly was then it might not be so obvious.
I don’t know if I got very far with this young man but I did try to impress the importance of staying at the scene of an accident so that you can tell the authorities what it was that you saw happen.
Today we have a story about conversations around a table as well. We start our gospel in the middle of a story which is kind of odd. The conversation ‘they’ were having, was a story the two disciples who were walking to Emmaus and they encountered Jesus and had dinner with him and it wasn’t until they had that meal that their eyes were opened and they realized that it was the risen Jesus. The two disciples then immediately go back from Emmaus where they had just walked to to go back to Jerusalem to tell the 11 disciples that they had just walked, talked, and had dinner with Jesus.
So while this story is being told Jesus then stands right in the midst of the disciples and says ‘peace be w ith you.’ And as we see from having just heard this gospel lesson we see that this text is very similar to the one from John we heard last week, though there are some key differences between the two. The similarities I will briefly mention but the difference I want to focus on is what Jesus says at the end of the lesson.
In both our stories we have Jesus telling the disciples ‘Peace be with you.’ Jesus tries to both show them that it is him but also calm them from their fears since he just appeared to them. Jesus also notices that they had their fears and doubts that it really was him so he shows them his hands and feet to prove that he is not a ghost as they seem to think he is. Although it doesn’t mention his wounds it would seem that Jesus isn’t just showing his flesh but possibly also his wounds from his crucifixion. He also reminds them like we talked about last week that everything that was said in the scriptures has been fulfilled in him and that he did suffer, die and rise again just as he said.
It’s this next part that I want to focus on that is different from our text last week from John. Jesus didn’t just talk with them about the fact that what he said was true but that part of the knowing that he did this just as he said he would is that they need to go out and proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations beginning in Jerusalem. Then Jesus says that they are his witnesses to these things. As I mentioned last week about how Thomas was there the whole time Jesus was alive, so he should have known that Jesus would rise from the dead because Jesus told him he would, so here we see that all the disciples , not just the 11, were there hearing and seeing Jesus both in his resurrection, but also for the years they had followed him.
I think needs to be emphasized or italicized or something because it is a very important verse. I almost think it should have gone before some of the other verses so that the disciples and us, as his disciples in today’s world, can see that as his witnesses it is our job to declare Jesus lived, suffered, died, and on the third day rose again. Because of all that we are to proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins and share that everything written in the law of Moses, the prophets and psalms may be fulfilled through our witnessing and proclaiming Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
Now I don’t always tie the other lessons into my message, but today I think it is vitally important to talk about our first lesson from Acts because it shows how Peter and John act upon the words of Jesus in Luke’s gospel, they live out what it means to be witnesses of Jesus. Peter had just healed a crippled beggar and everyone who saw that this man was able to walk again were astonished Peter then addressed the people. Peter says a couple of things that are truly noteworthy and spot on to our Gospel lesson today. Peter says that Jesus died and was raised from the dead by God. Peter is sharing exactly what Jesus told them to share in our Luke lesson. That Jesus suffered, died, and rose again. Then as soon as he ends that sentence he tells that crowd that he and others are witnesses to that story. Once again Peter uses that encounter with the risen Jesus to show the people that he was there, and fulfilling what Jesus commanded him to do.
Then in we then see Peter fulfill the other part of what Jesus says in Luke’s gospel and that is telling people to repent, turn to God so that their sins may be wiped out, forgiven. Peter and John in our story today live out what Jesus asked them to do. Jesus reminded them that they are his witnesses and at that reminder they went out in the world and proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah and offered repentance and forgiveness of sins.
Peter and the other disciples left the room they were in and they became Apostles, they became witnesses to the risen Jesus. They shared the good news of God as found in Christ Jesus, they baptized people, and the offered repentance for the forgiveness of sins. They did more than just see, they witnessed to the Good News.
I tried my best to explain to that youth that being a witness to a car accident is more than just seeing something happen, but it means taking up the responsibility to stay there and explain what he saw so that the story could be told correctly to the authorities. Being a witness to the resurrection is more than just hearing that Jesus rose from the dead, it’s believing it’s true and through that faith of believing sharing the good news with others. With the news that our sins are forgiven because God’s only son died for the whole world, that we have life everlasting with God in heaven, should we not feel compelled and joyful to be witnesses to the Word of God?
May the life-transforming power of God’s word as given to us through Christ Jesus fill your hearts with so much joy that you can’t help but witness and proclaim to the world that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, and that he has risen from the dead to proclaim forgiveness of sins to all.