notre dame montreal


Sermon for Easter 3

Easter 3 The Reverend Dr Sam Cappleman

The challenge of faith

It must have been a bewildering time for the disciples when Jesus appears to them in Jerusalem.

Two of them have just encountered Jesus on the Emmaus road when He has revealed himself to them in the breaking of the bread.  At first they did not recognise Him until he blessed the bread a broke it.

Then they did and they immediately rushed to Jerusalem to tell the others what had happened.

And while they were still talking about it, probably trying to work out if it really happened and if so what it meant, Jesus suddenly appears from nowhere and stood with them.

These were the same disciples who had one by one deserted Jesus when the going got a tough, even though He had warned them what would happen and now he appears right in front of them.

You can imagine that, whilst they were overjoyed to see Him, they were probably a bit scared and apprehensive as to what He might want to say to them.

Easy to imagine too, on a human level, they were getting their excuses ready as to why they did what they did, trying to justify their actions.

But Jesus doesn’t say, ‘What happened, where did you all go?’  He simply says, ‘Peace be with you’.

And whilst they may have been relieved at this you can imagine them thinking, yes but there’s got to be a ‘But…’, He’s got to say more than that.

But no ‘But…’ comes.  Jesus does continue to speak with them but simply explains what’s happening with no sense of retribution at all.

There is no condemnation, no judgement, just an invitation to check Him out, check it’s really Him by looking at His hands and His feet, and when they’d done that He asks for something to eat as if to verify His physical presence with them, this is no ghost appearance, this is the real thing.

 And yet, in their joy, there must still have been those who thought, there has to be a ‘but…’ coming.  But there isn’t

And then they realise that there won’t be one.  Jesus won’t be saying anything along those lines because they suddenly realise, without Jesus having to say any words, that they are forgiven and what they are experiencing is the forgiveness that Jesus spoke about whilst He was with them.

Jesus opens their minds to a depth of understanding they’ve never had before because now they are experiencing what true forgiveness is like.  Experiencing the full weight and implications of God’s grace and mercy.

They are witnesses to the resurrection but they are witnesses to forgiveness too.  It’s an experience that will stay with them forever and inspire and motivate them to share this reality with others.

What we see in the disciples’ encounter with Jesus is a reflection and model of life itself, our lives.

There are times when, for whatever reason and in whatever circumstance, we know we have fallen short of God’s standard, our own standards, and we are ashamed, perhaps even hoping no-one will find out.

The good news is, because of what Jesus did that first Easter, in dying and rising to life, our sins, whatever they might be, can be forgiven.  No matter how big or how small.

And even though there might be shame and embarrassment for what we’ve done, in Jesus there is forgiveness, which in turn leads to restoration.  Just as it did for the disciples.  Shame then forgiveness then restoration through the grace of God.

As the disciples encounter Jesus, their shame is turned to joy.  They may fall down again, but they will get up.  They know now that is how forgiveness works.  Not a carte blanche to do whatever they want, but a relationship with the God who is forgiveness itself.

Not only does Jesus forgive them, he then gives them a task to do.  A visible sign and demonstration that they are forgiven and are one with Him.  They are witnesses to all that has happened.

As they rejoice in God’s forgiveness, so they want others to experience that same forgiveness and love.

Proclaim the love of the Christ who is risen.

Meeting the risen Christ was an experience they would never forget.

Their encounter is a model for us.

The disciples encounter with Jesus serves to demonstrate how we should be with others who might have let us down.

So often it’s easy to be bitter, disappointed and resentful, sometimes with good reason.  Jesus certainly had reason to be disappointed with the disciples.  How could they possible share the good news of the Kingdom if they failed at the first real test?

Sometimes when we are let down we find it so difficult to leg go and forgive those who have wronged us.  We might even want to get even. 

Sometimes we find it so difficult just so say the equivalent of Jesus’, peace be with you.

We so often want to add in a ‘but…’, a condition they need to fulfil in order that we can forgive them.  Sometimes it’s as if we want them to suffer a little bit too, know what it feels like.

Jesus simply says ‘Peace be with you’

When we fall and feel ashamed, we want to be forgiven and know the restoration of relationships that forgiveness brings, but we can find it harder to forgive those who have wronged us in some way.

Jesus encounter with the disciples gives us a model and example to follow.  We know that the forgiveness the disciples experienced was truly life changing, no if buts or maybes..

Our forgiveness of others in the same way may be life changing for them, but perhaps also ourselves as we let go of long held resentments and hurt and exchange them for the live giving love and forgiveness God offers to all.