Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Grilled Fish and Blessings (Luke 24:36-53)

First United Methodist Church

Glen Rose, Texas

May 6, 2012


Series: After Words

 “Broiled Fish And Blessings”

(Luke 24:36-53)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn

INTRODUCTION:

     What do you say after something like that? The poor guy was surprised alright, it just wasn’t what he expected. And that’s exactly how the disciples felt right after the Resurrection. The resurrection itself wasn’t really what they expected. The fact that Risen Christ just kept popping up and showing up all over the place certainly wasn’t expected. Scripture says they were startled and afraid. I would be too if Jesus suddenly popped up out of nowhere like Spock and Kirk beaming down.

     And that was sort of the effect but without all the special effects. While they're talking about all the resurrection stories, suddenly, right in their midst, stands the one they were talking about. They were startled and they were afraid, and who wouldn't be in that situation.

PRAYER

     This morning we continue with our readings concerning the Words Jesus spoke to the Disciples during the days following the Resurrection. This passage actually breaks in at the end of the story of Cleopas and his friend encountering the risen Christ on the Road to Emmaus. It breaks in right as Cleopas is describing the event.

Luke 24:35-53 (NRSV)

[36] While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, "Peace be with you."  

[37] They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.  

[38] He said to them, "Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?  

[39] 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."  

[40] And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.  

[41] While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?"  

[42] They gave him a piece of broiled fish,  

[43] and he took it and ate in their presence.  

[44] 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."  

[45] Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,  

[46] 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,  

[47] and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  

[48] You are witnesses of these things.  

[49] And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."  

[50] Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them.  

[51] While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.  

[52] And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy;  

[53] and they were continually in the temple blessing God.  

I. FROM DOUBT TO WONDER:

     A. Before we pick up the story, have you heard, nutritionists have discovered that if you eat two servings or 8 oz of boiled, baked or broiled fish a week it can reduce the risk of heart attacks in men by as much as 40%. It's a good thing these guys were fishermen and ate at least two portions of fish a week, because what happened was a real shocker. They all had to have good hearts to survive.

     The doors were locked. The place was electric with excitement, as Cleopas described the encounter on the road to Emmaus with Jesus and how he revealed himself in the scriptures and the breaking of bread. While Cleopas was talking, all of sudden, Jesus was standing there, smiling.

     Saying they were startled and afraid was an understatement. I probably would have jumped right out my sandals. You could have heard my knees knocking and teeth chattering for miles.

     Even though Jesus greeted them with the words: "Peace be with you!" when he popped in like that, it startled and terrified them. I don't care who you are: if you had seen someone die and be buried and then have that same person suddenly appear in your midst out of nowhere it would have startled and terrified you, too. Let me give you an example.

     B. A couple of years ago I read a great story about a judge in Yugoslavia who had an unfortunate accident. He was electrocuted when he reached up to turn on the light while standing in the bathtub. His wife found his body on the bathroom floor. She called for help. Friends, neighbors, police, everybody and their brother showed up. He was pronounced dead and taken to the funeral home. The local radio picked up the story and broadcast it everywhere.

     Well, in the middle of the night, the judge came to. He realized he was in the funeral home and he rushed over to alert the night watchman, who promptly ran off, terrified.

     His first thought then, was to phone his wife and reassure her. But he didn't get any further than, "Darling, it's me," when she screamed and fainted. He tried calling a couple of the neighbors but they all thought it was some sort of sick joke.

     He even went so far as to go to the homes of a couple of friends but they all thought he was a ghost. Finally, he called a friend in the next town who hadn't heard about his death. This friend was able to convince his family and his other friends that the Judge was really alive. (1)

     Jesus had to convince the disciples that He wasn't a ghost. He had to dispel their doubts and their fears. So, he showed them his hands and feet. He invited them to touch him and see that he was real. And he even ate broiled fish with them. All to prove that he was alive. You see, you can’t touch a ghost because there is nothing there. And ghosts don’t need to eat. It worked. Still startled and maybe a bit in shock, it worked. The Disciples moved from doubt to wonder.

II. FROM WONDER TO WORSHIP:

     A. Verse 41 puts the transition in wonderful terms. It says: "While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering." They were filled with wonder and disbelieving joy. Haven't you ever felt like that? Haven't you ever felt that something was too good to be true?

     That has to be how Sweepstakes winners feel when someone from Publishers Clearing House or one of the other sweepstakes representatives show up at their door. They have to be filled with disbelieving joy, this is just too good to be true; they feel like they'll wake up and the dream will be over.

          Years ago, when our oldest son was in High School, he played in the Band. So, like all good High School parents we were at every game. The band was holding a drawing and each of the kids was supposed to sell 20 tickets. Well, Paul wasn't much of a salesman and only sold about 8, so we bought the rest and forgot about it

     The community had a Volunteer Fire Department and one of the things the preachers in the area did was rotate being the Chaplain on duty. They didn't have a pager then, so they would call. I was on duty and left a message that I would be at the game that night. At half time, we were sitting with a bunch of Church members talking and not really paying attention. I’d heard sirens a few minutes before and wasn't too surprised when I heard my name called and was asked to report to the Press Box.

     When I got there, I was shocked and filled with disbelieving joy. Because when I walked in, they all started congratulating me. And then they handed me a VCR. I must have really looked confused because one of the guys said, "You don't know what this is do you?" I shook my head "No!" They all started laughing. That was when they told me that my name had been called because I had won the drawing. I was dumbfounded, I wasn't expecting to win at all. I was expecting something completely different.

     B. The disciples felt like that, too. They had never experienced anything like this before. They weren't expecting it and didn't know how to react. They didn't know what to do. Whether to flee in terror or to jump for joy. But once Jesus spoke, showed them his hands and ate with them, their whole attitude changed. They moved from doubt to wonder.

     They were filled with an overpowering sense of awe at the mystery and joy of it all. How could God do such a thing? It was too good to be true but they realized that it WAS TRUE. Jesus really was standing there with them, munching on fish.

     Then they moved from wonder to worship. It wasn't fear that moved them, it was the joy of all the remembered promises being fulfilled. It was the joy of reunion. It was the joy of the resurrection that filled them. Jesus wasn't just some upstart itinerant preacher proclaiming Good News. That Good News had been fulfilled right before their very eyes. He was the Messiah. They moved from doubt to wonder and then from wonder to worship.

III. FROM WORSHIP TO WITNESS:

     A. But just as Jesus wouldn't leave them in their doubt and fear, and didn't leave them in that state of awe and wonder. He didn't want them stay in that state of worship, either. You can see the flow of this passage. Jesus moved them from doubt to wonder, from wonder to worship and then He moves them, and hopefully us, from worship to witness.

     He opened the Scripture to them so that they could see how the prophecies of his coming had been fulfilled. He reminded them of what they had heard and seen and what they had been through together. He said, "You are witnesses of these things." And then he commissioned them to proclaim "repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem."

     He eased their fears, filled them with wonder, drew them closer in worship, and then commissioned them for ministry. They moved from doubt to wonder, from wonder to worship and then from worship to witness. He moves us from worship to witness as well.

     A couple of weeks ago, Mary and I have went to watch our grandson Nate play soccer. He’s in Up Words Soccer which plays at Crossroads Fellowship Church in Grand Prairie. As we were leaving the game, we noticed a sign we’ve seen at several other churches too, which we both really like. It stated: “You are now entering the mission field.”

     And that is so true. That’s our purpose as a church and as individual Christians, to bear witness to Christ; to witness to his presence in our lives and in the world today.

     B. Do you know what most people judge us by? Do you know what most people, especially the younger generation, look at most when they are considering a Church home? Not the Narthex and how clean it is. Not the nursery. Not how friendly people are. Not how they have been welcomed. Not the programs for their families. All of those are very important and they do play a big part in someone's choosing a Church. The single most signifcant factor in choosing a Church is US, and how we live our faith: "Do we really live by what we claim to believe?" Are WE faithful or are we going through the motions. Does our faith make a difference in our lives?

     That's some pretty heavy stuff isn't it? But that's what we're judged on. And that's what it's all about. Living what we say we believe.

     B. And we're called to live that love every day. One member of a church was speaking with the Pastor. That member was speaking rather disparagingly of a certain person who had recently joined their Church. They said the newcomer was just an "every day sort of Christian." The shrewd old minister caught up on the word "everyday" with real enthusiasm and he said: "An every day sort of Christian, is he? I wish I had known that before I accepted him into the Church and gave him the right hand of fellowship. I would have given him both hands."

     You see, the trouble is that there aren't enough EVERY DAY sort of Christians. There are too many every-other-day Christians; or every-Sunday sort of Christians who haven't really fallen in love with God and their fellow Christians. We're called to fall in love with God and make that the all-encompassing motive behind all that we do.

     If you remember, Wesley's Signet Ring had his initials and three words on it. Look at the front of your bulletin. Those are the three words. Believe, Love, Obey. Our mission statement is all about believing, loving, and obeying as we sek to become and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

     We do that in how we treat one another, how we live, he we react in anger. And how we care for those whose lives are suddenly thrown into chaos and turmoil by bad decisions or circumstances. Do we support them through prayer and acts of kindness or do we sit in our groups and gossip about the situation and push them even further into their anger, hurt and depression? How would Jesus respond?

     Our lives really only have one purpose, to glorify God. We glorify God when we lift each other up instead putting each other down. We glorify God when we live like Christ.

     We glorify God through our worship and study as we seek to become better disciples. We glorify God by carrying out the commission Christ gave to all disciples, that of making more disciples by inviting and leading others into this wonder filled, awe inspiring relationship with God.

CONCLUSION:

     When we do that, we make a difference. We're called to lead others from doubt to wonder, from wonder to worship and from worship to witness.

     God loves us so much that God sent that love gift wrapped in human flesh. God sent His own Son to live with us and die for us, so that we might know God's love. A love so deep that we are no longer called servants; now we are called forgiven; now we are called disciples; now we are called friends.  And a friend is someone who knows you as you are, understands where you've been, accepts who you've become and out of their love for you still gently invites you to grow.

     That kind of love made a difference in my life. It changed me and the way I think about things and do things. That love filled all the holes in my life, the holes in my heart and soul and even a few in my head. I don't always do it right, but now through God's love for me as expressed in the forgiveness offered through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I can love God, I can be a blessing. We all can.

     You see, that’s what the startling entrance and the broiled fish were all about. Jesus chose the disciples to make them a blessing to the world. He has done the same thing for us.

     We don't have to get it right all the time. We don't have to be perfect. All we have to do is faithfully follow Christ and live what we say we believe to the best of our ability. When we do we move from worship to witness and fulfill, in part, our great commission. Then we become a blessing

     Let Jesus move you from doubt to wonder, from wonder to worship and then from worship to witness so you can be a blessing for others.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

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Bibliography

1.   Bruce Larson, LIVING BEYOND OUR FEARS (New York: Harper & Row, 1990).

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Other References Consulted

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