The Risen One Appears

15 April 2018 – Third Sunday of Easter

Not a ghost. Not a phantom of the imagination. Not a delusion held by a community. If not those things, what is the Resurrection of Jesus? When the community experienced his appearing in their midst, something happened. The community –– in the many manifestations through which the Risen One made himself known (individuals, crowds, rooms full of scared disciples, fishers catching nothing) –– saw that their rabbi, the healer, the fearless opposer of injustice was yet in their midst and they worshipped and witnessed to him even through their disbelieving.

Do we not do the same? Are we not witnesses to miracles that show us victims rising from death every day?

Where there is hope, there is Resurrection. Where there is vision, the people arise. Let us rejoice and tell the story so that, just as Jesus appeared in that room and ate some fish, making his presence palpable, our words about him will make his presence known in this time and place. Preach the gospel! –– Melinda Quivik

Luke 24:36b-48

The earliest Christians were sensitive to avoiding the impression that the resurrection of Jesus was a strictly spiritual affair. The tomb must have been empty since Jesus physically rose from death. And, while the postresurrection narratives attribute extradimensional powers to Jesus—he walks easily into closed rooms and appears in many places—they were especially concerned to maintain the physicality of the resurrection. Not merely resuscitated, Jesus would eat and drink, walk and speak with his followers after the resurrection. Not merely a phantasm, Jesus could touch and be touched.

These stories from Luke preserve this emphasis on Jesus' physicality after the resurrection. Along the road to Emmaus Jesus converts the dejected disciples through scripture and sacrament. His ongoing presence is revealed to them through broken bread and opened word.

In the Upper Room Jesus converts the fearful twelve by offering them his body for close examination. He then proclaims a new interpretation of the law and the prophets as uniquely applicable to him, to his preaching, and to his life, death, and glorification.

In preaching on the resurrection of Jesus it is important to stress that the resurrection events are not solely concerned with a change in Jesus. They are also concerned to help us see how the first Christians were changed by his resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection reaches out through time and place and is no longer a first-century happening only. Otherwise, the church would be nothing but a fan club for Jesus—“Bully for him how God raised him up on the third day”—with minimal impact upon us! Rather, as I frequently tell my students, if the resurrection were merely a historical event, it would remain locked up in first-century Palestine and would have no impact on us.

Far more important, then, is to note how the disciples changed, how their interpretation of the past changed, and how their expectations for the future changed. When will we allow our hearts to “burn within us” while he reinterprets scripture for us? When will we recognize him in the breaking of bread? When will we touch his hands and side, glorified body in touch with glorified body? –– Jeffrey VanderWilt (Homily Service 39, no. 5, Easter Sunday)

Acts 3:12-19

Can we “hear” the harsh words of Peter toward the Israelites without being aware of the violent history of Christian anti-Semitism? How can we hear these as words directed to us rather than to “those faithless Jews,” since there was no religious division between Jews and Christians at this time in the history? –– L. Edwards Phillips (Homily Service 39, no. 5 (Easter 2)

1 John 3:1-7

Human population is divided between the children of light and the children of darkness. If Jewish cosmology had divided the world into the chosen and the gentiles, Johannine cosmology would divide the world between children of God and children of the devil. Those who are children of God do not sin, though they are still incomplete, as their full nature has not yet been revealed. The children of darkness reveal themselves by their sin and the Johannine community is warned to avoid deception. –– Jeffrey VanderWilt (Homily Service 39, no. 5, Easter Sunday)


L. Edward Phillips is an associate professor of worship and liturgical theology at Candler School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia.

Melinda A. Quivik, an ELCA pastor and former professor liturgy and homiletics, is the Editor-in-Chief of Liturgy.

Jeffery VanderWilt, author of Communion with Non-Catholic Christians (Collegville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2003) teaches at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Southern California.

Homily Service 39, no. 5 (2006): 46-64.

David Turnbloom