Have you mastered the truth of Easter yet? I will confess that I clearly haven’t.
I’m not talking about mastering the logistical, factual details of the day’s events. I’ve known that quite well ever since I sat and listened on my mother’s lap. But I’m talking about mastering the “what does this mean?” for my heart and life of the reality that I have a risen Savior.
Sadly, I give evidence every day that I haven’t mastered that. It shows up on all too many evenings when I allow fatigue to color the disappointments of the day with the gray of cynicism, discouragement or even despair. It shows up in the morning when I look at the phalanx of tasks waiting for me in life and ministry and feel overwhelmed before I’ve even started. It shows up when I look at the health of the congregation of which I’m a part or ponder the future of our church body and begin to worry as if everything was resting in frail human hands like mine.
The facts of Easter I know, but the glorious “what does this mean?” of those Easter realities have so much more yet to teach me. How desperately I still need the patient teaching of the risen Lord to open my naturally dull mind to understand the comfort and power of what happened on Easter!
Such is the state of the disciples in the gospel for Easter 3 (Luke 24:36-49). The facts of what had dawned that Easter Day were now becoming clear to them. The Emmaus disciples had just run back to Jerusalem, powered by their hearts’ afterburners, to report on the surprising identity of an unknown traveler who suddenly proved himself to be their risen Lord! And their fellow disciples greeted them with an emphatic “He is risen indeed!” (34) as they report an appearance to Peter.
But they hadn’t yet mastered the “what does this mean” of this dawning Easter reality. That becomes abundantly evident when suddenly in their midst stands the one about whom they are talking. He greets them with what is far beyond a routine “Shalom!” (36), but they are clearly not ready to process the peace his resurrection has given. Stunned and startled, they’re sure an unknown apparition is appearing to terrify them.
But then, as is characteristic of every post-Easter appearance, Jesus patiently seeks to turn troubled disciples from frenzied fear to fervent faith. He holds before them proof positive that he isn’t a nameless spirit sent to terrify them but their dear both-body-and-spirit Lord come to comfort them! He shows them his hands and side – still bearing the unmistakable marks of his crucifixion. And as if that is not enough – as fearful confusion became too-good-to-be-true wonderment – he orders a bite from the dollar menu and, very un-ghostlike, consumes the appetizer right before their marveling eyes.
But having overcome their initial shock and awe, it is what he patiently did next that was most important. “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (44). “My dear brothers!” he was saying, “Isn’t this exactly what I taught you from Scripture when we were together?”
Then he patiently preached the late service sermon heard at the early service by the two from Emmaus. He showed them yet again what was the beating heart of “the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms”: his crucifixion and resurrection on the third day. He told them the glorious “what does this mean?” of this accomplished reality: repentance leading to the saving knowledge of the forgiveness of sins would now be heralded to the nations.
So the risen Lord patiently came to his still all-too-confused disciples. So he opened the Scriptures yet again. So by that patient teaching he opened their minds to understand the “what does this mean” of Easter!
So too he still comes patiently to us, not to judge us in our un-Easter-like fears and doubts, but to comfort and strengthen and encourage us. He comes in Word and sacrament to calm our hearts by reminding us yet again that all God’s eternal planning of our salvation has been fulfilled at a bloody cross and an empty tomb. He comes through that Word to show us his hands and feet that bear the marks of our forgiveness. He comes through his Supper to feed us on his body and blood to assure us that forgiveness and peace is not some vague, ethereal abstraction but a concrete, completed reality for each of us and for all our sins (yes, even for our lingering fears and doubts!). He comes to speak peace to our hearts by assuring us that nothing will stop him, through the witness of his empowered church, from proclaiming throughout this world repentance leading to the forgiveness of sins. He comes to help us see that his saving purpose – for our lives, for our families, and for his church – is written indelibly on every page of Scripture.
During these seven weeks of Easter – and beyond – pray that the risen Savior patiently continues to open your mind to understand! Pray whenever fear and worry, doubt and discouragement, confusion and distraction come calling. Call for the patient risen Jesus to do what is clearly his delight: to teach us the glorious “what does this mean?” of our living and enduring Easter hope!
Risen Lord, keep patiently opening my mind to understand! Amen.