"Oh, What Our Joy!"
Third Sunday of Easter
St. Luke 24:36-49
April 30, 2006
IN NOMINE JESU
Christ is risen! CHRIST IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
Oh, what their joy and their glory must be, the risen Lord the blest disciples see! They saw their risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. "He was seen by Cephas [Peter], then by the Twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once…by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by [Paul] also, as by one born out of due time" (1 Cor. 15:5-6a, 7-8). Paul notes that, by the time he wrote his First Epistle to the Corinthians, "some have fallen asleep" (1 Cor. 15:6b); that is to say, some of them have died. They died having seen their risen Lord in the flesh. "Oh, what their joy and their glory must be, Those endless Sabbaths the blessed ones see! Crowns for the valiant, to weary ones rest; God shall be all, and in all ever blest" (HS 838:1), as the medieval theologian Peter Abelard penned in this great hymn. They have since all died, either in peace or by the shedding of blood, but, regardless of how they died, they remain truly blessed, for they beheld the risen Lord, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among then, and they beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Now they behold Him in all of His glory in heaven, where they may see His face and not be destroyed, for there is no death in heaven. They died the first death, and by faith are they spared from the second death.
The disciples along the Emmaus road returned to Jerusalem to tell the Eleven that they had seen the Lord, for they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread. Their eyes had been restrained, and their hearts had burned within them. The Lord kept His identity hidden from them until He broke bread with them. They beheld the Lord in this sacrament-like act, even as He fed the 5,000, even as He celebrated the Passover with His disciples, instituting His Supper as the New Testament in His blood, given and shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. Even today we behold our risen Lord in the breaking of the bread, the term Scripture uses for the Lord's Supper.
From Emmaus back to Jerusalem they went—just a few miles' journey. The Eleven marveled at the news. As they discussed these things, the risen Lord Himself appeared among them and gave them His peace, that peace which the world cannot give. Yet they were not at peace; "they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit" (v. 37). Their doors were locked for fear of the unbelieving Jews. He showed them His hands and His feet, where the nails had been driven just a few days before, the first Good Friday. This was too good to be true, for "they still did not believe for joy, and marveled" (v. 41a). Who is this risen Lord, that He would deign to stand in the midst of them that evening? Who is He, that He would deign to stand in the midst of us this day? He asked them, and He asks us, "Why are your troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?" (v. 38). Why do you let your sins remain on your minds and in your hearts? Why do you doubt God's forgiveness? Why do you think your sins are too great for Him to forgive? Why do you still doubt the power of cross? Why do your hearts remain hard and your eyes closed to the marks of the nails in his hands and feet and the mark of the spear in His side? Why are you reluctant to let go of your sins and truly believe the words of Holy Absolution, the forgiveness Christ won on the cross and has given you in Holy Baptism, which is lived daily in the forgiveness of sins? Why do you spurn the blessings He seeks to give through His Word and Sacraments? The devil tore at the disciples' hearts, just as he tears at yours and mine. The old evil foe cannot stand the fact that he has been defeated once and for all time, and he still seeks skirmishes with the children of God, seeking to seduce us into sin, and "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (1 Jn. 3:4), and lawlessness is our separation from God, forsaking Him who would not forsake us but gave His only-begotten Son for the life of the world, for you and for me.
Our risen Lord says, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me. …Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day" (vv. 44, 46). Thus it was necessary for the forgiveness of our sins that the Christ suffered and died. Thus it was necessary for our promised inheritance of eternal life that the Christ rose again the third day. Thus it was necessary that our risen Lord ascend into the heavens to prepare a place for us there, that we would be with Him in heavenly bliss into all eternity. Even as He is there, preparing a place for us in His Father's heavenly mansions, so He has come down to us, preparing us to be received unto Himself. As the blessed Apostle and Evangelist St. John writes in our Epistle, "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! "(1 Jn. 3:1), the name He gave us at our Baptism, calling us children of the heavenly Father, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, heirs of the promise of eternal life, the promise that the saints before us now enjoy in the fullness of its beauty, even the saints who beheld the risen Christ in the flesh, even us who behold the risen Christ in His body and blood.
Our Lord said to His disciples in our text, "Behold My hands and feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and blood as you see I have" (v. 39). To us He says this day, "Behold My body and blood, that it is I Myself. Taste and see that the Lord is good, for a spirit does not have body and blood as you taste that I have and that I give for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sins, for the life of the world." The Psalmist writes, "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing" (Ps. 34:8-10). Through this Eucharistic Feast our Lord feeds and strengthens us for our pilgrimage in this strange land, to prepare us to received to our heavenly home, where we will dine at the eternal feast with Him in His glory and with all the angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven, those saints who have gone before us, including those physical eyewitnesses to our Lord's resurrection, a truth we will sing in our Distribution Hymn: "One body we, one body who partake, One Church united in communion blest, One Name we bear, one bread of life we break, With all Thy saints on earth and saints at rest" (HS 856:3). Oh, what our joy and our glory must be, our resurrected Lord we taste and see, thanks be to God!
Christ is risen! CHRIST IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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