Easter 3b

Preached: April 19, 2015

Jesus Cures Our Doubts
Luke 24:36-45

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus is Luke 24:

While they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace to you.” Startled and becoming fearful, they began to think that they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you shaken, and why are doubts rising in your heart? See my hands and my feet. It’s me. Touch me and see, since a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” After saying this, he showed them his hands and feet.

Since out of joy and amazement they were not yet believing, he said to them, “Do you have something here to eat? They gave him a portion of broiled fish. He took it and ate it in front of them.

He said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you while still with you: It is necessary that what is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and Psalms be fulfilled.” Then he opened their mind to understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:36-45)

This is the Word of our Lord.

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

He was so sure as he picked the lottery numbers, but not one ended up matching. The players were so confident going into the game, but the final score left them all disappointed. He purchased the land positive that the price would skyrocket, but the market collapsed.

One of the sad ironies of our fallen hearts is how confident we can feel about things that are so uncertain. One team will lose no matter how confident both teams are beforehand. Past performance of rising prices does not promise future gains. And gambling ruins so many lives because of that false confidence that my luck is about to change. I’m due for a win.

Think of how many other things people put their confidence in. They have confidence in their diet plan or the latest prescription. They have confidence in the support of family and friends. They have confidence in their own competency and skill. A certain level of confidence in these areas can be good and healthy. God can bless us with good medical care, faithful friends, and useful skills. But we live in an age where the greater danger is overconfidence in all these things and many others.

You see, an even sadder irony of our fallen hearts is that even though we tend to be overconfident about so many uncertain things, we fail to have confidence in the One who alone is certain, true, and unchanging. Instead of confidence in his promises, doubt grips our hearts, infecting us. These doubts breed worries, fears, hopelessness, despondency, and despair. Our choices and decisions are driven by these rather than flowing from confidence in Jesus.

Jesus cures our doubts. He replaces them with confidence in his promises. How different that is from the confidence our fallen hearts latch on to! Come into the words of the text here. Through these the Holy Spirit opens our minds to understand and our hearts to believe and not doubt. How wonderfully Jesus cures our doubts!

Go back to that first Easter night. The disciples are gathered behind locked doors. Do you sense their fears and worries? Doubt rather than confidence fills the room. And yet there is eager chatter going on. Despite the doubts, all is not hopeless. Amazing reports have been reaching them. Early that morning some of the women brought back news that the tomb was empty and angels had said Jesus had risen. Later that day Simon Peter himself saw Jesus. And just a few moments ago two who had set out for Emmaus earlier had come racing back. Jesus had walked with them and opened the Scriptures to them, although they did not recognize him until the evening meal. How their hearts burned within them as he had explained how the Scriptures testified about Christ’s suffering and glory! Yes, they were hidden behind locked doors, but even now doubt was giving way as they said to each other, “It is true! The Lord has risen” (Luke 24:34 NIV84).

Then Jesus himself appears. Right there, standing among them. There he is! “Peace be with you” (Luke 24:36 NIV11), he says.

How would you have felt? Startled, frightened, thinking he was a ghost—that’s how the disciples felt. Yet hadn’t they been saying that Jesus had risen? Why would this surprise them so? But the disciples’ response teaches us a lot about ourselves. We too confess: “It is true! The Lord has risen.” But how far has that penetrated our inner being? How many things startle and frighten us as if our risen Lord weren’t really ruling over all things and were still dead in a tomb? How many of our worries are driven by doubt: How am I going to make it through? Will this really work out for good? Everything just seems to go from bad to worse!

But Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” But how can I be at peace? Don’t you know what I’m going through, the family problems, the financial burdens, the health issues? What about my future, my hopes, my schooling, my job, my family? There’s so much I want but don’t have, so many dreams that disappoint. Don’t you know the memories that plague me and the uncertainties that trouble me? What kind of world will this be for my children and my grandchildren? Just listen to the evening news! How can I be at peace?

“Peace be with you.” Jesus’ words are not just a greeting, saying, “Hi, there. How are you doing?” It’s not a wish. He didn’t say, “I hope that maybe you could have peace somewhere down the road.” It’s not a distant promise. He didn’t say, “Someday you will have peace.” The Greek that the Holy Spirit gave Luke to write simply says, “Peace to you.” It’s a promise that states a present reality. “I bring you peace right here and now. Believe it. Peace to you.”

“Peace to you,” Jesus says, “for I have reconciled you to God through my death. I have ended the warfare by paying for your sins in full on the cross. See I have risen. Your sin is forgiven. Believe that in me you are God’s own dear child with open access to the treasure houses of his blessings. Peace to you,” Jesus says to you and me.

Yes, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, enjoy the bounty of that peace that God lavishes on you his child. He provides you and me with what we need each day and protects us in this evil world. Be at peace, confident of your heavenly Father’s mercy that gives you what is good. He leads us through this dark world strengthening us to resist temptation and follow our Shepherd. Be at peace, confident of your Shepherd’s love that cares for you. He keeps you in the one true faith until he delivers you out of this world of sorrow into the kingdom of glory. Be at peace, confident of the Holy Spirit’s grace that calls and sanctifies you through the Gospel in word and Sacraments. Peace to you, because Jesus lives.

But like those disciples, I don’t always feel at peace. I still struggle with fear and insecurity, with worries and doubts. But notice how Jesus works to cure the disciples’ doubts and yours and mine as well.

He invites them to look at his hands and feet which the nails had pierced. “Touch me and see” (Luke 24:39 NIV11), he says to them. He’s no ghost. He truly and really has risen from the dead. His body has left the tomb. It’s the same Jesus who was nailed to the cross, the same body that carried our sins. Yes, it’s the same body, but now glorified. He truly is alive. My Jesus lives! My sins are all paid for! And when this just seemed too good to be true so that joy and amazement kept them from fully believing, Jesus went even further to assure them. He asked for some food, not because he was hungry, but rather to cure them of doubt. A ghost does not eat. But Jesus did, for he had risen from the dead. He opened their minds to see that all this had been God’s plan recorded in the Scriptures. Moses and the prophets and the entire Old Testament had foretold all these things. Don’t doubt, rather believe.

So also Jesus cures our doubts by taking us back to his word of promise. Yes, he has risen! We not only have the Old Testament testimony from Moses and the prophets, but we also have the New Testament eye-witness reports from the Apostles. So sure were they that Jesus had risen that they risked their lives to spread that Good News. Many of them were put to death for it. That’s how confident they were that Jesus had risen. They were at peace even in the face of gruesome execution, because Jesus had risen. Nothing could separate them from his love. They too would rise and be with him. Believe the testimony of the Prophets and the Apostles. Believe their testimony which the Holy Spirit gave them to record. Believe the Scriptures.

And even as Jesus went beyond words to cure the disciples’ doubts, so also Jesus has given us not only his written word but also his Sacrament. In the Lord’s Supper Jesus makes that same body, which the disciple’s physically touched—he makes his same body present in a way beyond our understanding, but in a way just as true and real as the disciples experienced. For you see, when the Gospel sounds to good to be true and my joy and amazement questions that God would forgive even me and welcome even me as his child—when that joy and amazement casts doubt on how such good news could be true, then Jesus comes to me in his Supper and says, “Here is my body given for you, yes, even you. Here is my blood shed for you, yew even you. For you are the one eating and drinking. Yes, believe and do not doubt. I have done this even for you. Your sins are forgiven. For I have risen from the dead.” He cures our doubts.

So dear friends, say with the hymn writer, “Jesus is my confidence!” No matter what worries and fears you face, run to your risen Savior and say, “Jesus is my confidence!” Boldly and confidently let others know this Good News, for Jesus came to save them as well. Pray that they too will say, “Jesus is my confidence!” Each day as doubts reassert themselves, go back to the Scriptures again and again to continually renew your strength to keep on saying, “Jesus is my confidence!” Come often to his Supper. Yes, our risen Savior cures our doubts, so that our words and actions throughout life and even in death itself shout out, “Jesus is my confidence!” Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313

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