Third Sunday of Easter

Third Sunday of Easter

Gospel: Luke 24:36b-48 

A reading from the Gospel of Luke.
Glory to you, O Lord.

Jesus himself stood among [the disciples] 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.”

The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, O Christ.

Now let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you O Lord, our strength and Redeemer


Tonight/Today we hear another one of Jesus’ Come & See resurrection stories, this time in Luke. The risen Jesus appears to his disciples, first Mary at the tomb; then two of them on the journey to a village called Emmaus; and then to the 11 back in Jerusalem. When Jesus appears it’s a frightening scene, so much so that they can only conclude that he’s a ghost. Naturally they are overcome by fear. However, this is no haunted sightseeing excursion. 

Jesus is among them, and to calm their fears he offers them his hands and feet as evidence. Why not just remind them of a story or an inside joke they had shared? Because his hands and feet bear the scars of crucifixion. For his followers, Jesus’ scars are a certificate of authenticity.

What does it mean for Jesus to be known by his scars? I’d bet most of us have scars, and every one of them has a story to tell. 

  • On my left wrist there is a 2” scar that tells the story of an my first suicide attempt at the age of 6 that my grandmother helped me cover up by putting my hand through a pane glass window. 
  • On my left knee I have a scar by my knee that I got when I fell on a stick playing football in front of the high school too close to the Buckeye Tree and got tackled on a branch.
  • And on my neck is the scar from my last suicide attempt in 2013. 

Sometimes people ask me about my scars and I’ll tell them the story of how it got there, but it’s really more than that. I’m telling them about my story, about moments that shaped me and left their mark on my life.


I’ll get back to scars in a bit, but first let’s look at some all of our texts for this weekend. In Acts 3:12-19, where Peter’s talk about a different kind of scar…the scars of our past actions. We see Peter’s uncanny ability to “preach on a dime” on display. Just another day at the Temple, another healing—and with a crowd sufficiently interested, he tells them about Jesus. We get that this is still a primarily Jewish crowd (as you might expect in Jerusalem and at the Temple) as Peter goes all the way back to the classic description of God at work—“the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors.” This is a new way for an old God to work, but Peter wants to leave no doubt.

John’s words in 1John 3:1-7, talks about the forgiveness our scars are evidence of, among folks who worry about “sinning” while being “saved.” We need to understand a little bit about Greek sentence construction here—another situation where English doesn’t quite get the sense. The issue in v. 6 is “abiding” in Christ; staying with, walking with, remaining with Jesus on the way is a constant process—and one that is never exactly finished. It would be true that if we could actually abide right beside Jesus all the time, our propensity for distraction and denial would be almost completely curbed. But, then, Peter and the others DID abide with Christ—literally—and still found ways to both be distracted and deny. So, I think it’s more about getting back in the saddle after getting off course.

In Luke’s gospel, another Jesus’ come & see moment happens on the beach. And who doesn’t like a meal on the beach? This little relational tidbit doesn’t get near the play that scenes like Thomas’ expression of skepticism about the nail prints in Jesus’ hands, or Peter’s chances to answer Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?” does. But, the good stuff is in the details. Just as Christ broke the bread with the disciples in Emmaus (an communion moment if ever there was one), here—with just a piece of fish—Christ demonstrates himself to be truly present with his followers.


But focusing on our gospel reading we find Jesus with another “come & see” resurrection appearance to the disciples. Jesus says, “Peace be with you,” and the disciples are terrified because they think they are seeing a ghost. If I was them, I would be terrified too! After all, wasn’t he crucified just a few days ago? Jesus responds to their fear with a question, asking, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”  

Often times we tend to hear Jesus’ questions about doubt as words of judgement. We hear that doubt is wrong and that we should just have more faith. But what if, instead of words of judgement, we were to hear Jesus’ words as encouragement? What if we hear Jesus’ words as written in love? 

What if we hear Jesus’ words in a way that a parent might encourage their child when they are teaching them how to ride a bike? Catching their child when they fall, and saying, “Little one, why are you afraid and why did you doubt? I’ve got you. I will always be here to catch you when you fall. I will always be here to help you. Look at my hands and my feet. I am with you always.” We can get scars riding a bike also, I know I have more than I can name. But God is there to help the scars heal.

And then Jesus sits down by a campfire and offers the disciples something to eat. Jesus welcomes the disciples to join him around the campfire. Jesus doesn’t say, “Well you can only come to the campfire if you have enough faith and as long as you don’t have any doubts.”  

Instead, Jesus invites them to “come & see”; Jesus welcomes the disciples to join him around the campfire just as they are—doubts and all. The same goes for us as well. Jesus encourages and empowers us as we learn how to ride our bikes of faith. On our journey, Jesus will be there to encourage our doubts because they will help us to practice and grow in our faith. And then when it is time to take a break, Jesus will invite us again to sit around a campfire to eat food and to share stories.  


And that’s where our scars come back into play. Jesus’ scars also tell a story. 

  • They paint a vivid picture of a human being committed to a vision of God and God’s kingdom that is just and generous, with an embrace wide enough for anyone and everyone. 
  • They tell a story of resisting the dehumanizing forces of empire by insisting on a God who sees everyone as valuable, a God who has numbered every hair on our heads. 
  • Jesus’ scars tell a story of refusing violence in favor of peacemaking and returning love in the face of hatred.  

The truth is the scars by which Jesus’ disciples know him encapsulate the very essence of the life he lived that led to them in the first place.

All my life I have heard Christians talk about the “resurrected body” and how it will be brand-new. How they will be free of any of the things that bug, pain, or frustrate us, which is a wonderful hope. Yet I have always wondered why the gospels never depict Jesus as being free of his scars. No doubt they are reminders of immense suffering and agony. They even could be seen as the souvenirs of a failed mission; that’s surely what Good Friday felt like. Yet the risen Jesus embraces his scars and uses them to comfort his disciples and confirm his identity, and more, his story.

“If we do not transform our pain,” says Richard Rohr, “we will most assuredly transmit it.” The risen Christ allows his pain to be transformed and, as a result, allows healing and hope to flow from his wounds to his disciples and beyond. And so can we.