"God of the Living"
Old Testament Reading- Psalm 21:1-7
New Testament Reading- Luke 24:36-48
By Henry J. Rafferty CLP -April 18, 2021
Many images come into our minds when we hear the name Jesus Christ. Many more images are conjured up in the minds of many people across the millennia and by those of different faiths. Many think of Him as a prophet or a good teacher. Others may use the word enlightened and still others blasphemer or just a figment of imagination conceived by those who would create power and wealth through religion. Jesus often asked His disciples, “Who do the people say I am,” and “Who do you say I am?” So I ask, how about you? Who do you say He is? Maybe you don’t know quite yet and that would be ok too. We all decide at different times and in different ways. None is better than another. Some believe their whole lives, others may believe on the last seconds of their lives, but Christ is there for us all. So again, I ask you, who do you say He is?
I can only speak for myself, and since, as they say, I have the floor and you are all eager to listen I will tell my belief. The words of Simon Peter flash through my mind as I mirror his thoughts and beliefs so long ago when Jesus asked him, “Who do you say that I am?” I, like Peter say, “Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Now some would say, “Is that it?” To which I would say, “What more is there!” That is a monumental statement, first to claim that Jesus is the Messiah, the Anointed One of God, the prophesied king and savior and second the Son of the living God. Jesus follows up when He says to Peter in Matthew 16:17-18, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” It was not what Peter had seen Jesus do and say that made him believe in what Jesus was, but it was revealed to him by God. That is hard to understand, but it is what happens to us all, that “A Ha” moment. I remember when I had it and it was life changing. I would say that I always believed, and that was an accurate statement, but when I really searched for God, Jesus showed me the way. I poured myself into the Gospels, reading them over and over, then suddenly I got it, Jesus was revealed to me not just as an incredibly good man, but God Himself. Jesus tells us that those who know Him, know the Father and those who know the Father, know Him. It is hard to explain, like trying to tell someone what it is like to fall in love when they haven’t experienced it. Really believing in what Jesus is and what that means to us though is the quality in which Jesus renames Simon as Peter, or Petros, which means “rock” or “stone” in Greek. Peter had that quality, that rock steady belief and it was that kind of faith on which Jesus would build His church.
So, here we are the church, no, not the building, I mean yes, we do call a house of worship a church building, but really the church is us, you and I, the people. It comes from the Greek word ekklesia, which is comprised of two parts, “ek,” meaning “out of”, and “kaleo”, meaning “to call.” Together they mean “to call out”, but call out of what? Jesus tells us in His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane right before His arrest and it reads, “After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
"Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Jesus calls us out of the world, so that we may believe in Him and to put our complete trust in Him. That is Christ’s Church, that is the body of believers that is the real Church. We are members of the body of that Church.
In our Gospel lesson today, Jesus appears out of nowhere in the midst of His disciples and in their unbelief, they think that He is a ghost, returned from the grave, but Jesus is no ghost. He has them touch Him to feel His body and He eats to show that He is alive and well. Jesus does this to quell their unbelief and to dispel any rumors that His resurrection was a hoax. This body of believers must see the facts of Jesus death and resurrection if they are to successfully continue Jesus’ mission to spread the Gospel and to become His church.
The other thing that our Scripture lesson gives us today is the fulfillment of prophecy that the Messiah would rise from the dead on the third day. This is the key to it all. Everything that we have talked about today: death, resurrection, life, living, belief, and church all hang on this one thing, that Jesus was returned to life. Jesus is often referred to as the second Adam. The first Adam being the first human that was given life, only to lose it through the introduction of sin in the world due to rebellion against God. Jesus is called the second Adam, meaning that God comes as a human being and dies a human death only to defeat it by being raised back to life again. The first Adam giving us life in the worldly sense and the second Adam, Jesus, giving us life eternal by conquering death. Jesus is also giving us an example of what it will be like for us someday too. That we will be like Him, not dead, but alive. The Bible tells us that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Jesus is our hope and for those of us who really believe, Jesus is more than hope, it is our belief that Jesus is alive and will come again and gather us to Himself where we will be raised to life anew, not as a ghost, but as a living being, able to be touched and to touch, able to eat, and able to exist forever in the radiance and love of The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God. Amen.