Eucharist – 3rd Sunday of Easter – 18th April
LUKE 24 v36-48u
Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost 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. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.
When I was a kid, there was a farmer’s field near our primary school, and inside the field was a deserted old barn house. Rumours went around the neighbourhood that the barn was haunted by an old man that used to live there, and that every night he would appear at the top window and walk slowly down the disused staircase towards the front of the house. One night, after school, my friends and I walked home past the old barn house and one of my friends said, ‘let’s walk over and see if we can see the ghost – I dare you!’ So, daring each other on, we walked down to the barn house to see if we could see this strange haunted figure. Creeping up slowly to the house, we suddenly heard a loud crack, like someone chopping wood. We turned around and there was a tall scary-looking man behind us! He looked pretty rough round the edges with cuts and grazes on his arms and tattoos everywhere, and he stared menacing at us as if to say, ‘WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON MY LAND!!!’ He scared the living daylights out of us, especially as he had two equally menacing-looking dogs with him. Understandably, my friends and I ran a mile! ‘I don’t ever want to go back there again, he was well scary’ said one of my friends, ‘way more scary than actually seeing the ghost!’
In our gospel passage, Jesus’ followers are in the Upper Room when the Risen Jesus appears in front of them. They’re naturally scared, thinking that this was a ghost in front of them! But actually, what scared them even more, was the gradual realisation that this Jesus wasn’t a ghost at all, but the real deal – their real, flesh-and-blood friend Jesus now stood right in front of them! And just like the scary farmer outside the haunted barn, this Jesus looked a bit rough and ready! OK, Jesus didn’t have tattoos and he wasn’t accompanied by a couple of Rottweilers like the scary farmer, but still, he did look a little roughed up; he didn’t have cuts and grazes but rather, wounds in his hands and side. He shows his wounds to his friends, still bearing the marks of the nails and spear that pierced him on the cross.
If God is perfect, then surely Jesus would have been raised to look perfect too? Or so you would think? But actually – NO – God raises Jesus looking imperfect, with an imperfect, still wounded, body! Not a pristine Jesus, but the real Jesus! I wonder, if Jesus had been raised clean, pristine and perfect, then maybe he would only be able to help those people who are clean, pristine and perfect themselves. Perhaps by being raised wounded, Jesus can now heal and help wounded people, people just like you and me. As it says in the book of Isaiah, ‘by his wounds we are healed’ (Isaiah 53:5).
And so still today, this rough and ready looking Jesus, Jesus bearing the scars of the cross, still reaches out to rough-and-ready folk like us (and rough-and-ready folk like the scary farmer). The wounded Jesus still reaches out to people who have been wounded by life, and through his wounds, he heals and restores us.
And what if our own wounds can actually bring healing to others? Perhaps it’s those of us who have been wounded – those who have known pain, disappointment, suffering and the harsh realities of life – who are best equipped to reach out to others in their pain and grief? So those people who have known illness and come through it can best reach out to touch and bless people going through the same troubles themselves; people who have known bereavement are best equipped to reach and touch those who are grieving; and those who have known rejection best equipped to reach out and comfort those who feel rejected and abandoned by society. I was reading the other day about Michael J. Fox (I’m sure you’ll remember the classic Back to the Future films). Michael was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease some years ago, but in recent years, has set up a foundation for Parkinson’s research, traveling around the world giving talks to help and comfort others with the same condition. Taking his wounded-ness and turning it round for the help and healing of other people who are suffering.
My old pastor once said, ‘those pains, those hurts, those scars and inconsistencies that you feel in your life; don’t try to hide them, don’t try to mask them, they are your gift to the world’. And so I pray that God will take us – including those of us who are a bit rough round the edges, and those of us with past pains, hurts and wounds – and somehow use us to be agents of healing to those around us, and to be channels of God’s love into our hurting and wounded world, transforming lives in the name of our Risen God!
Have a good week!
PS – Oh, according to some friends, the scary farmer is still there years later! Perhaps he was the ghost after all!