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Sermon for April 19, 2015

Luke 24:36-39 (Third Sunday after Easter—Series B)

“Too Good to Be True”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

April 19, 2015

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is the Gospel lesson recorded in Luke 24:

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 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.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them. 44 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 and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

 

          No doubt most of you are familiar with the warning, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”  My cell phone rang the other day and I was greeted with, “Congratulations, you have won a free trip to the Bahamas.”  Click!  My reaction, “Sure I did.  I’m glad you called with an impersonal recorded message to share this fabulous news with me!”  How much would this “free trip” have cost me?  Too good to be true, just like many scams out there today.  

          With this “too good to be true” theme in mind, step into our Gospel text today.  Again, it is Easter evening, the evening of the first day of the week when the women went to the tomb with the spices they had bought and found the body of Jesus “not here.”  You are with the disciples in the upper room, the doors locked for fear of the Jews.  Just a few minutes ago Cleopas and his unnamed traveling companion returned from the village of Emmaus with news too good to be true.  They had walked along the road with the Risen Jesus!  They hadn’t recognized Him until He took bread and blessed and broke it.  Their eyes were opened and then they recognized Jesus, just as He vanished from their sight.  That same hour they returned to Jerusalem and found the eleven together in the upper room and told what had happened on the road, how their hearts burned within them as He opened the Scriptures to them and how He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread. 

          While they were talking about these things, Jesus Himself stood in their midst!  As we heard in last Sunday’s Gospel, the Lord greeted them, “Peace be with you,” and He showed them His hands and His feet.  The initial reaction of the disciples was one of fear because they thought that they saw a spirit.  Jesus offers irrefutable evidence that He is no spirit.  He is flesh and bone.  His hands and His feet bear the marks of the nails.  This is indeed the very same Jesus who was crucified, died, and was buried, now risen and alive who was standing before them.  Even with this hard evidence the disciples still disbelieved.  Luke, however, tells us that the reason for this skepticism was “from the joy.”  What they were experiencing was too good to be true!  Just as you and I doubt the truth of things that seem to be too good, so did the disciples.  Yet the disciples do so with the evidence of the truth right in front of them!  Something greater than material evidence must be needed.  And Jesus provides it.

          Jesus opened their minds for the purpose of understanding the Scriptures.  Eyes and minds must be opened and faith created by God in order to understand the “too good to be true” mystery of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.  The natural faculties of sinful humans are unable to perceive that Jesus is the Christ and that He has accomplished our salvation through His sacrificial death and resurrection from that death.  By nature human eyes are blind to the reality of Jesus’ presence even when He stands directly in sight.  By nature human ears are deaf to His words even when He speaks them audibly. 

Spiritually blind and deaf—that is what you and I are by nature, too!  As St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:14, as natural born sinners we “do not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness.”  We are “not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”  So if we are spiritually blind and deaf to the things of God, to the Word of God, to the works of God done for us by Jesus Christ, we cannot and will not “get it.”  These things will only be to us “too good to be true” and therefore, not to be trusted.  In this condition Jesus cannot be for us anything more than a great teacher, a moral leader, or a generically “good person” who did a lot of “good things.”  He can never be Christ, Savior, or Lord because that would just be too good to be true. 

          To enable us to see that some things are too good not to be true, Jesus Himself must heal our spiritual blindness and deafness.  He Himself, by the work of God the Holy Spirit, opens our minds by healing the blindness and deafness of our sin through His blood-bought forgiveness.  Jesus takes the “mud” of His Word and places it on our sinful eyes and then washes us in the pool of Baptism so that we might see with eyes of faith the hands and the feet of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus.  He opens our minds by the power of the Holy Spirit who calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes us holy so that we are able to confess with the Scriptures that it was necessary for Jesus to fulfill all the writings in the Law of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms concerning Jesus Himself.  As Jesus did for the disciples on the road to Emmaus, He opened up the Word to them, that everything in what we call the Old Testament points to the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who was made flesh and dwelt among us as Savior and Lord. 

Too good to be true?  No!  Too good not to be true!  The death and resurrection of Jesus was for us sinners, to purchase and win our forgiveness.  It was for our spiritual healing—to give sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf—so that we should be able to see and hear by faith the Good News that Jesus died for us on the cross, shed His holy, precious blood for us, to save us from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil.  As the Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel, repentance and forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to each of us in the name of Jesus.  In Holy Baptism, united with Christ in His death and resurrection, we daily die to sin and rise again in the new life of faith and trust in Jesus as our Savior through whose suffering and resurrection we stand forgiven.  In the Words of Holy Absolution Jesus, through His called pastors, speaks to us His Word of forgiveness.  In the reading and preaching of the Word of the Gospel, again we receive the forgiveness of sins.  Then, we come together as the people healed of the blindness and deafness of sin to eat and drink of the Savior’s very Body and Blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. 

Too good to be true?  No!  Not to the eyes that see with faith and trust in Jesus’ Word of Promise.  By the power of the Holy Spirit, we receive the gifts of Christ’s cross and resurrection—forgiveness, life, and salvation—through these Means of Grace.  We trust the promise of God by grace through faith and can be certain that, because our Lord Jesus is living, all of God’s promises are “Yes” in Him.  We do indeed have forgiveness of sins and life everlasting.  Of that there can be no doubt because Christ has died and Christ is risen indeed! 

But there’s one more very important piece in our text that we dare not forget.  Those who are brought from the blindness of sin to the sight of faith, from the death of sin to the eternal life granted by the forgiveness of sins, are now witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  We, as disciples of the Lord are witnesses of the salvation and new life that Christ won for the world.  You and I are commissioned by Him to tell others this very news that is too good not to be true! 

We, as believers in Jesus Christ, His Church on earth, are an extension of Jesus’ work into all the nations.  Far too often the people of the nations hear the message of the Bible as “too good to be true.”  The people of the world hear “free gift” of forgiveness and eternal life and say, “What’s the catch?  What’s it going to cost me?” much in the same way you and I respond to the recorded message about a free trip to the Bahamas.  But unlike the scams of this world, the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins is true and trustworthy because it is the message from God Himself who became flesh, suffered and died for the sins of the nations, and rose again guaranteeing forgiveness and life for everyone. 

We in the Church, by virtue of our Baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus, have accepted HIS mission to the nations to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name.  But this mission is not ours to accomplish alone, for only God can open eyes and ears to hear the Gospel and see by faith Jesus the Savior.  In Baptism, you and I have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father whom He sent in power upon the chosen disciples on the Day of Pentecost.  We have dwelling in us, like a temple, God the Spirit who clothes us in power to proclaim the Good News of forgiveness and salvation in Christ alone which is by grace alone through faith alone.  You and I have the power of the Spirit to announce to the nations this message that is seemingly too good to be true which is nevertheless 100% true. 

And the proof is Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, who lives and reigns to all eternity.  The proof is in the hands and the feet of the Crucified One who is alive and can never die again.  Jesus accomplished salvation for the nations with His death.  He won forgiveness of sins for the whole world and eternal life for everyone.  And, joy of all joys! He gives to you and me, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the mission of proclaiming that Word of Promise so that the Holy Spirit might open the eyes and minds of many and create saving faith in Jesus Christ within them so that they hear and understand and confess Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. 

God grant to you all, by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, the strength, the willingness, and the joy of sharing the “too good not to be true” message of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting with anyone you are able.  The Lord use you to proclaim repentance and forgiveness in Jesus’ name in your community.  As you do, pray in the name of Jesus that the Holy Spirit would find rich soil in which to plant the seeds of faith in the hearts of those who hear the Gospel, create in them the eyes of faith, and bring to them through the Word and the Sacraments forgiveness, life, and salvation in Christ.  Amen. 


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