Are you able to see Jesus?

Sermon for 9/30/07

Luke 24: 13-43; John 20:11-18; Matthew 25: 34-43
In these three different stories, we see instances where people encountered Jesus without being aware, or able to see, that it was him. How often might we have similar experiences, where we encounter Jesus unawares. And what can we learn from these experiencs that will help us to be more open to experiencing and seeing Jesus when we do encounter Him?
In Luke 24, we see two disciples walking back home on Sunday, after the sabbath, after Jesus has died. They remained in Jerusalem for the sabbath as their home was too great a distance to walk on a holy day of rest. As they walk along they reflect on the past week’s events, and how close they came to having their hopes and dreams realized. And suddenly, all hope gone, a stranger appears on the way. This is the first lesson for us, that Jesus just appears on the way. While we are going about our lives, He just shows up. They do not recognize him, because they are too preocupied with their own pain to realize notice what God is doing in their lives. When they finally do recognize him in the ritual of Communion, then they reflect back and remember that their hearts burned as they heard Jesus explain the scriptures to them. Hearing the scriptures was important, but not until combined with an experience of Grace in the Eucharist did their eyes become open to see Christ in their midst – and as soon as they apprehended Him He was gone! They did not need Jesus to linger with them – they received all they needed from Him.
In the text from John, Mary Magdalene encounters Jesus at the empty tomb – again, she is lost in her grief and hopelessness, unable to recognize Christ right in front of her. And yet, even in her sorrow she desires to serve Jesus as best she knows how, willing to risk speaking with this man she suppose to be the gardener. She comes to know Him only when Jesus finally calls her by name. The seeing was not enough, nor hearing His voice – only when He called her by name could she see Jesus.
The Matthew 25 text is a story of judgement, where the righteous King will separate the nations one from another – sheep and goats – based on their history of serving people in need. Neither group realized that they had encountered Jesus in the other, when they had the opportunity to serve. The mundane experiences with people in need were really encounters with the Holy One. Showing love through physical care is revealed as a loving encounter with Jesus.
So, are you able to see Jesus? Here we have learned that Jesus comes to us particularly during times of struggle – both ours and others’. When we are too posessed by the physical reality of the moment, we risk missing the far greater spiritual reality of Christ’s presence. But when we serve, we see Christ. When we worship, having heard the word about Jesus, we see Jesus. Show humility and courage in living out our love, Jesus calls us by name, restoring our hope.
And in the stories from John and Luke, we see that an encounter with Jesus will lead directly to the ability and desire to tell others about Jesus and His revealed presence in our lives. We are here to encounter Jesus, and having seen him, to go and tell others, that they might see him as well.

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