Jesus is showing us his hands and feet. Do we see?

(I preached the following sermon on Sunday, April 18, 2021 in response to Luke 24:36b-48. You can find a recorded version of the sermon as well as the entire service at www.ststephenlc.org).

This past week, three things caught my attention.  The first one was the shooting of Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man who was killed in Indianapolis and the protests that rose up as a result.  It’s a sad situation all around.  Sad for Daunte’s family.  Sad for the officer who pulled the trigger.  And sad for the community.  He’s just another in a long line of black and brown men and women who have been killed unjustly.  And unfortunately, he won’t be the last.  Are we willing to look at race in America?  Can we even acknowledge that we have a problem?  Or is it too painful?  Are we too worried about how it might impact us?  Do we even know how to begin a conversation?  For so long it’s just been easier to pretend these things don’t impact us and to ignore them.  How does that align with what Jesus is about?

Second, we had yet another mass shooting that caught the media’s attention.  In fact, it was one of nine mass shootings that took place between last Sunday and this past Friday.  In this case nine people died at the hands of a 19-year-old who went on a shooting spree.  His mother had notified the FBI previously that he was dangerous, but that didn’t stop him from obtaining a weapon and using it.  It’s a sad situation for all.  Sad for the families of the victims. Sad for the family of the shooter.  Sad for the community.  And it’s just another in a long line of people dying at the hands of a gunman unjustly.  And unfortunately, this won’t be the last time either.  Are we willing to look at gun violence in America?  Or is that off limits for some reason?  Are we too caught up in abstract partisan arguments and bumper sticker statements to actually even agree on the fact that we have a problem in our nation?  For too long, it’s just been easier to settle for the fact that we live in a nation where mass shootings happen often.  How does that align with what Jesus is about?

And lastly, I received some stats about homelessness in our county.  Did you know that there are 190 people who are on a waiting list to receive some help.  190.  56 of those are families with children.  62 have been identified as having a disabling condition, meaning they can’t work.  These folks are doing whatever they can to survive – sleeping in their vehicles, or tents, or crashing at someone’s house if they are lucky.  Maybe even occasionally living in a cheap motel if they have enough money.  It’s a sad situation for everyone.  Sad for the families and individuals who are experiencing homelessness.  Sad for the workers who are overly stressed to the limit to try to help, but not having options to offer.  Sad for our community.  And unfortunately, that line isn’t going to get any shorter any time soon.  Are we willing to look at the homelessness and poverty that exists right around us?  Or is it too painful to look directly into someone’s eyes and see their humanity?  Do we just want the problem to go away and not be in our backyard?  How does this align with what Jesus is about?

Matin Luther wrote the Heidelberg Disputation in 1518, about a year after famously nailing the 95 these to the door of Wittenberg castle church.  One of the most famous parts of the disputation is thesis 21 in which Luther wrote – “A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.  

Luther would clarify what he meant by explaining it this way, “This is clear: He who does not know Christ does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore, he prefers works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and, in general, good to evil.”

As Carl Trueman, professor of Church history and historical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia said, “The “theologians of glory,” therefore, are those who build their theology in the light of what they expect God to be like—and, surprise, surprise, they make God to look something like themselves. The “theologians of the cross,” however, are those who build their theology in the light of God’s own revelation of himself in Christ hanging on the cross.”

Today we meet a very real Jesus, not a ghost.  He is very present with the disciples.  Not in a way they expect though.  He is there, in the flesh – with wounds in his hands and feet.  He tells them to look at those same hands and feet – inviting them to see the holes in his body.  To see the reality of violence and the effects of death done to him, not to shy away from it.  To see the fullness of who he is in the cross.  To look at the reality of the world and its ways, not to shy away.  

Jesus opens their minds to understanding the scriptures, to understanding who Jesus really is – the Messiah, the suffering servant who saves people.  He opens them to be theologians of the cross.  He opens them to understanding repentance and forgiveness and the real impact that it has on lives and communities.  This is to be proclaimed to all nations.  All nations – not just those people like us, and those we like and get along with, but our enemies too.  Jesus opens their minds to understanding what the Image of God is all about, to what Shalom wholeness is all about, to what peacemaking is all about.

He tells them they are witnesses of these things.  Witnesses who go and tell what they see.  Witnesses share the whole truth, not just the glorious parts.

And Jesus makes them a promise – that he is sending them the Spirit.  This promise will be fulfilled at Pentecost.  They will be clothed with power from on high.

None of this is what is expected or obvious.  Jesus is showing his power that comes as a result of the cross.

As Carl Trueman puts it, “The implications of this position are revolutionary. For a start, Luther is demanding that the entire theological vocabulary be revised in light of the cross. Take for example the word power. When theologians of glory read about divine power in the Bible, or use the term in their own theology, they assume that it is analogous to human power. They suppose that they can arrive at an understanding of divine power by magnifying to an infinite degree the most powerful thing of which they can think. In light of the cross, however, this understanding of divine power is the very opposite of what divine power is all about. Divine power is revealed in the weakness of the cross, for it is in his apparent defeat at the hands of evil powers and corrupt earthly authorities that Jesus shows his divine power in the conquest of death and of all the powers of evil. So when a Christian talks about divine power, or even about church or Christian power, it is to be conceived of in terms of the cross—power hidden in the form of weakness.”

Beginning with what happens at the triumphant entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday through Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection, this is what it’s all about – The cross exposes who Jesus is.  And it exposes all the worldly powers for what they truly are also. 

Throughout holy week, everyone abandoned him – even his closest followers.  It is only a few women who follow along, but at a distance.  Everyone else goes into hiding.  Even after the death, we’re told that the disciples we in fear.  The people who spent the most time with him and were closest to him didn’t have the fortitude to stick with him and defend him.  They ran and hid.  In what ways do we run and hide when following Jesus is difficult and dangerous?  In what ways to do fear speaking up because of how others may react to us and treat us? 

Throughout holy week the religious leaders plotted to have Jesus killed and removed because he was a troublemaker and people were listening to him, rather than them.  They are exposed as more interested in maintaining abusive power over people, keeping their positions and keeping the money flowing in.  They were supposed to serve the poor among them.  The cross exposes them.  In what ways do we defend systems that we think benefit ourselves, but are actually quite destructive to others and ourselves?  In what ways do we seek the comfort of privilege to disregard the plight of others?

Throughout holy week the political and governmental leaders show earthly displays of power and might through violent means meant to control and keep people in line through pain, suffering, shame, and death.  The crucifixion exposes Rome and all empires like Rome as being brutal and worshipping the idols of power and control.  And it exposes the fear that the entire system is based on.  In what ways do we put more faith in earthly displays of violent power instead of divine power?  In what ways do we put our faith in politicians and partisan labels and confuse these things with what it means to follow Jesus and advance the kingdom of God?

Throughout holy week the cross exposes Jesus as unwilling to cooperate with all of these ways or to respond in kind.  When we encounter Jesus today, we are reminded that he doesn’t set out to get revenge for what happened to him.  He doesn’t round up his followers and give them some kind of powers or weapons to go out and punish anyone who inflicted pain on him.  He doesn’t even speak badly about those who caused him pain, suffering, and death.  Instead he offers peace.  Why wouldn’t he?  He defeated death.  

In showing his hands and feet and the holes from the crucifixion, he is exposing the disciples to the reality of such pain and suffering in the world.  He’s telling them to face it, to touch it, to be with those who suffer, not avoid them because it is uncomfortable.  To face it because in facing such things, we are seeing Jesus more fully.  We’re looking at the world through the lens of the cross. 

We have a choice in how we go forward.  We can live in fear, closing ourselves off from the world, pretending that racism, gun violence, homelessness, poverty, along with so many other wounds in the world don’t affect us.  We can convince ourselves that it’s none of our business, that it’s someone else’s problem, and that someone else will deal with those things.  We can come up with simplistic excuses as to why people deserve bad things happening to them.  We can choose the theology of glory that ignores the hiddenness of Christ on the cross. 

Or we can respond to Jesus’ invitation to see the reality of the suffering and death in the world.  To be theologians of the cross.  To call these things what they are. When Jesus shows us his hands and feet, we look.  When he invites us to touch the holes in his hands and feet, we touch them.  They are real.

Jesus didn’t just show himself to the disciples those many years ago.  He keeps showing up in unexpected ways.  We see him when we look through the lens of the cross.  This week, he showed up as a 20-year old black man named Daunte Wright.  Do you see the hole in hands and side?  You are invited to touch the wound of racism.  To know that Jesus is here when we are frightened in how to go forward.   

Jesus showed up as the nine people killed in a warehouse in Indianapolis.  Do you see the wounds in their bodies?  You are invited to touch the wound of gun violence.  To know that Jesus is here when don’t know what to do.  

Jesus showed up as one of the 190 people in this county who are homeless and on a waiting list.  Do you see the wounds?  You are invited to touch the wound of homelessness and poverty.  To know that Jesus is here to help us see clearly the image of God in our midst.  

Jesus shows us and asks us the same question he asked the disciples – “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”  Jesus is showing us his hands and feet.  See the wounds.?  Touch them.  Jesus is here with us, right now.  He is present.  He doesn’t want us to look away, but to truly see him.  To see these things in the world. To touch them. To call them what they are. To be witnesses to all of these things.  Thanks be to God.  Amen. 

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