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Stubbing Your Toe on the Threshold

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Stubbing Your Toe on the Threshold                         Luke 24:37-43

But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them.

You know, you could leave these verses out, actually, of Luke 24 and it would read just fine.

Listen to it: And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” … verses 37-43 … Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you…” And then Luke continues on with Jesus’ words.

One very important commentator on the Gospel of Luke suggests that verses 37-43 are The Threshold of what follows… Almost that one steps over them to get to what’s really important.

What do verses 37-43 tell us?  Well, maybe most obviously they tell us that the disciples really didn’t expect that Jesus would be alive.  They weren’t ready with the right liturgical response the way we were just a minute ago.  Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” And they respond by freaking out!

Luke says they were “alarmed”—same verb that you find in Exodus 19 when Mt. Sinai is rocking and rolling and the children of Israel are afraid to touch it lest they die.

They were alarmed… same verb Jesus uses earlier in Luke when He says, “Don’t be alarmed when you hear of wars and rumors of wars…”

They didn’t get it.  They weren’t expecting it.  That’s obvious.

But what’s the message of verses 37-43?  As far as I can tell these verses are given over to establishing 2 very closely related facts.  What’s interesting is that we don’t actually need these verses to know the 2 facts but Luke gives them to us because he wants us to know, as he wrote to Theophilus at the beginning of the Gospel, “that you may have certainty about the things that were accomplished among us…” So, here are the 2 facts, closely related:

1.           Jesus isn’t dead anymore!—fact 1… and fact 2

2.           He has a real, physical body.

It’s a little obvious. “It is I myself,” He says. “Handle me; check out my hands and feet and even do you have anything to eat?”  Two facts. Jesus isn’t dead anymore and He has a real, physical body. 

Now comes the question: Why bother with these facts? Why bother emphasizing them? There are good reasons, and here they are in order.

Why is it important that Jesus isn’t dead anymore?  Answer: Because if Jesus stays dead the bad guys win!  Because the bad guys killed Jesus.  He was perfectly innocent. Perfectly righteous. The only person who never deserved to suffer at all much less to suffer injustice or evil the way He did.  Jesus was so perfect that as they were killing Him He prayed that the Father would forgive His executors. 

If Jesus stays dead the bad guys win. And there’s a whole crowd of bad guys who made the death of Jesus happen.  There are the soldiers that drove the nails into His hands and feet.  Pilate gave the order.  A strong majority of the Sanhedrin condemned Him.  And Judas betrayed Him. 

And then, of course, there was Peter who abandoned Him.  And I was there, with all the sin that I bring to the table.  And so were you. The bad guys killed Jesus.

If Jesus stays dead the enemy wins.  Because death is sin’s right hand man.  The only people that die, or deserve to die are sinners.  That’s the way it works.  That’s the way it’s been for a long time.  That’s why I am infected with death. And so are you. 

And think of it.  Jesus didn’t deserve to die.  But He did die.  So will He be defeated?  Will sin finally win?  Really, after all is said and done, will sin, your sin and mine have the last word?  The last accusing, condemning word spoken over the dead body of Jesus? 

No.  No.  It’s important.  And so Luke wants us to have certainty.  Jesus said, “Hey guys get a grip.  Why are you troubled?  Look, hands, the same hands.  And look, feet, the same feet.  Come on over.  Come on over.  I’m not a ghost.  I was dead and it looked like the bad guys had won.  It looked like your sin was stronger than God’s plan.  But I’m not dead anymore.  And death does not have the last word.  And your sins don’t have the last word, either.”

Remember that Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them.”  Remember that Jesus is the God who casts down the mighty from their thrones and exalts them of low degree.  And now, mighty death for the first time has been cast down.  Death has been reversed and the lowly have been lifted up. 

He’s not dead anymore.  And here’s the second fact.  It’s obviously related.  Jesus has a real, physical body. 

It’s amazing.  If you read all the NT information about it you have to come to the conclusion that in some incredible way His body is more real, more physical than my body or yours. 

But why is this important—for Jesus to have a real, physical body?  Answer—it’s because bodies matter to God. 

I’m happy to tell you that God thinks that the Greek philosopher, Plato, was wrong.  Matter matters.  Bodies matter.  Creation is good.  Human beings, you and I, are not just immortal souls temporarily inhabiting some kind of shell. 

God made us to have bodies.  No, not just to have bodies but to be embodied.  That’s what it means to be human.  To be fully human.  That’s why what we do with our bodies matters so much.  It’s with our bodies that we serve God or oppose Him. 

And the One who’s going to beat sin and death for us had a body.  He gave His body into death.  By His body He saved us.  By His stripes—His physical stripes—you are healed. 

But to win the victory that first Easter, Jesus’ body had to be real.  Real enough to have hands and feet.  Real enough to grab and touch.  Real enough to eat a piece of roasted fish…  Because God loves you… all of you… and all of me.

And He knows, He knows how grievously we have sinned with our bodies.  Our tongues saying things that we ought not to say.  Our hands reaching out to grab things that we ought not to have.  Our feet taking us away from our duty and to places where we should not go. 

He knows the creation has fallen so low, but still, still He loves it.  Still He loves you.  So much that He came down into it.  He became part of it—part of the creation. 

And He rose in His body because He loves everything that He has made and He’s come to recover His creation.  God in Jesus has redeemed the world.  He will redeem the world ultimately in some unthinkable incomprehensible way.  The whole world. 

And He’s come to recover you.  Your body and your soul.  And He did it with His body.  He did it with His flesh and blood body. 

And now your flesh and blood body is joined to Him by real water and a promise.  And it’s nourished by Him with real bread and real wine—food today, here, don’t miss it. 

He rose in His body, born of the virgin.  Made low for a time, and subject to death and sin’s punishment for you, but now raised to life—a real, physical body.  And He isn’t dead anymore.  And He’ll never die again. 

Jesus’ body is the guarantee that one day He will renew the creation and raise us up with astonishing grace and unthinkable power. 

What God has done by raising His Son from the dead is so huge that we cannot capture it.  We cannot grasp at all.

And so, we’ll have to stop right here because your bodies have something important to do right now.  Holy things to do.  It’s time to do holy things with your body, like hold cups of coffee as we talk to each other and encourage one another.  And walk with your real feet to your cars to go home or to lunch and on to the rest of your lives serving the Risen Christ with your body. 

I have some really good news for you.  Jesus isn’t dead anymore… and He has a real, physical body.  Amen

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