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Dead Guys Don't Eat Fish

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Sermon: “Dead Guys Don’t Eat Fish”

Emmanuel United Methodist Church

April 26, 2009

Rev. Aaron B. Kesson

Luke 24:36-48



            A Minneapolis couple decided to go to Florida to thaw out during an icy winter. They planned to stay at the same hotel where they spent their honeymoon 20 years earlier. Due to their hectic schedules, the husband left Minnesota and flew to Florida on Thursday; his wife was to fly down the following day.

The husband checked into the hotel and sat down at the computer in his room to send his wife an e-mail. However, he accidentally left out one letter in her e-mail address, and without realizing his error, sent the e-mail to an erroneous address.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Houston, a widow had just returned home from her husband’s funeral. He was a minister who was called home to glory following a heart attack. The widow decided to check her e-mail, expecting messages from relatives and friends. After reading the first message, she screamed and fainted.

The widow’s son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen, which read:

To: My Loving Wife

Subject: I’ve Arrived

Date: October 16, 2007

I know you are surprised to hear from me. They have computers here now and you are allowed to send e-mails to your loved ones. I’ve just arrived and have been checked in. I see that everything has been prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing you then! Hope your journey is as uneventful as mine was.

P.S. It sure is hot down here![1]


            We get a chuckle out of this fictional story, yet at the same time we can relate with the widow as she reads this email she believes is from her deceased husband.  How might we respond in a situation where a relative or good friend is reported to have been raised from the dead?  The disciples’ response in Luke 24:37, of being started and of fear speaks to one possibility.  Yet, when they realize the One whom they are seeing is really not a spirit, but Jesus Himself, they believe and begin to share with Him.  Let’s explore how our faith can be strengthened through our encounter with the risen Lord.

Body of Sermon

Jesus’ greeting in verse 36 is one of peace, yet the disciples are anything but peaceful after hearing this greeting.  As a matter of fact, they are downright terrified.  They are unprepared to see this figure as their rabbi they had seen just three days prior being tortured and humiliated on a cross.  Yet, if we recall the interactions Jesus had with His disciples previously, He had made mention of this death that He would indeed suffer, and also let them know that He would be resurrected again in three days.  But, even after having been present while Jesus spoke these words, the disciples remained completely unprepared for this experience.  As a matter of fact, not only were the disciples fearful of this appearance, but they believed this appearance to be an apparition, or a spirit.  They automatically think of the mediums that were associated with calling up the dead and speaking with them.  Nowhere in their wildest dreams had the disciples ever imagined having experienced Jesus alive and present with them.

This account parallels the experience that had occurred just prior to this section in Luke, known as the Emmaus road experience where two disciples who were walking to Emmaus and talking about the events surrounding the news of resurrection, encounter the risen Lord, yet do not immediately recognize Him to be the Lord.  But, something very important occurs in this Emmaus road experience that is key to helping us understand our current text for this morning.  You see, it was in the breaking of bread that the events finally made some sense to the disciples in the Emmaus account.  If you recall further, the disciples travelled with Jesus into the village where He then stayed with them for the evening and having broke bread with them (v.30), had opened their eyes to the Scriptures and they became more aware of His very real presence (v.31). 

Coming back to our current text, we see that even though Jesus had spoken words to comfort the disciples, and then proceeded to show them His hands and side, they still had some disbelief (v.41).  But, look at what happens in the second half of verse 41-43:
“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.”[2] (ESV).

If there is one thing that comes to mind while reading this passage, it has to be simply “dead guys don’t eat fish”, yet Jesus did.  As we read further, we see that again, just as He had done with the disciples on the Emmaus road experience, Jesus opens the understanding of the disciples’ minds through the reading of Scripture (v.45).  It is at this point that Jesus reminds them of the prophecies that foretell the suffering and resurrection of the Christ, and then proceeds to speak of the reasons for such events to occur, "and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." (Luke 24:47, ESV).  You see, Jesus explains to His disciples that not only has He fulfilled Scripture, but that their job is really just beginning.  The disciples can now be empowered to go forth and do as Jesus commands them, having seen firsthand the power of His resurrection.  And, as we read on even further, we see that Jesus is reminding the disciples of a promise made by the Father in verse 49.  This promise is that of the presence of the Holy Spirit.  If the disciples are going to be witnesses throughout the world, sharing what has happened with everyone, they are going to need the strength and power of the Holy Spirit.

Concluding Remarks

So, how does all of this tie in to our lives today?  Is the experience of the resurrection still valid for us, even 2,000 years later?  Or, was this an event for the people and times in which it occurred?  The truth is, for us as Christians, the event of the resurrection reminds us that our faith is not simply a “philosophy” or a “good idea”, or even that our faith is simply “doing good”, but the event of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is to remind us of the fact that Jesus Christ died for our sins and is the atonement for our sins, so that we might be blameless before God.  But, the resurrection also means that you and I can experience God’s power and presence in ways never even imagined.  My thought is simply this, if Jesus can be raised from the dead in three days, and the Bible promises me that I am more than a conqueror in Jesus Christ, that if I pray for healing, He will provide healing, then why not claim His presence and joy in my life?  This again goes back to the fact that our faith is not simply a “philosophy” or a set of “good ideas”, but is founded upon the ultimate truth that Jesus is alive!

In his book 90 Minutes in Heaven (Grand Rapids, Mich. Revell, 2004), Don Piper tells the story of the day a car wreck claimed his life.  On a cold and rainy Wednesday morning in January 1989, Piper was driving home from a pastors convention in the Houston area, when an 18-wheeler crossed the center lane, hitting his Ford Escort head-on. The impact, which crushed his car, was calculated at 110 miles per hour according to the accident report. Piper writes, “Someone examined me, found no pulse, and declared that I had been killed instantly …. In one powerful, overwhelming second, I died” (20). A full 90 minutes after the collision occurred EMTs checked for a pulse again and found none. Arrangements were made to have his body moved to a mortuary. Then a pastor arrived at the scene. Inexplicably, he felt moved to pray for the dead man, so he climbed into the wreckage and held Piper’s hand. As he prayed and sang, Piper miraculously came back to life, to the shock and disbelief of the pastor and EMTs alike. And that was only half the story. Piper returned to tell of his experience in heaven.

Let me ask you this question this morning, do you want to experience the risen Lord in your life?  Are you willing to put all of your trust in Him, believing that His resurrection power has overcome sin and the grave?  Friends, Jesus has revealed Himself to us through His death and resurrection, and is awaiting our response to His invitation.  Will we respond with doubt and fear, or will we respond with joy and acclamation, ready to proclaim that Jesus is alive and well! 

Friends, believe in the power of the resurrection!  Amen.


[1] As cited in

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

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