A Sermon for Series A 3rd Sunday in Easter 2017 “A Case of Mistaken Identity”

 

First Lesson  Acts 2:14a, 36-41

Second Lesson  1 Peter 1:17-25

Gospel Lesson  Luke 24:13-35

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the gospel lesson just read.  [Luke 24:13-35]

Following the third article of the Apostles Creed we learn to say: What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.  How true that is; for us, and even for the people who had the advantage of seeing him face to face.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, his disciples shouted, “Blessed be the King who comes in the name of the Lord.”  They thought he’d been sent by God to be their earthly king.  The people of the city who asked, “Who is this?” came to see the man who’d raised Lazarus from the dead.  They thought he was a miracle worker … but nothing more.  Throughout the week, the religious leaders stirred the people up; turning them against him by questioning who he really was.  Nobody recognized him for who he really was.

You would’ve thought if someone came back from the dead people would get it; but now, after the resurrection, even now, no one recognized who he was.  The chief priests had gone to Pilate and secured a guard for his tomb because they feared his disciples would steal his body away and claim he rose again.  They’d rejected the Son of God and delivered him up to be crucified; but even now, after the resurrection when they should’ve been hiding in fear for their lives, they didn’t get it.  They still disbelieved, and they still didn’t recognize who he really was.

You would’ve thought Christ’s resurrection would’ve convinced Cleopas and his friend of who he was; but they call him Jesus of Nazareth … a mere man.  Oh, a respected man, a man they looked up.  They were even convinced that he was the one who’d come to redeem Israel; to redeem them from the Romans, to redeem them from all those nasty social problems that plagued the people, the deaf and blind beggars, incurable illnesses like leprosy, even demonic possession; to redeem them from the corrupt religious leaders who got rich at the expense of the poor.

But in the end … they thought he was just a man.  They were looking for the Messiah; but the Messiah they were looking for couldn’t be a man who’d been rejected by the people and crucified.  The Messiah they were looking for would restore the true Israel to its rightful place among the nations of the world.  He’d restore the economy.  He’d bring healthcare to the poor.  He’d give food to the hungry.  He’d be a politically powerful, charismatic figure who’d lead the people in their fight against injustice.  That’s what it meant to redeem Israel.

The irony of it all is that he did redeem Israel and all the world.  He redeemed them despite their rejection, despite their stubborn insistence that he be something that he was not; despite their insistence that he fit their idea of what the Messiah would be.  He redeemed them with his own precious body and blood; and because they were looking for a different kind of Messiah, this incredible act of redemption made it all the more impossible for them to see who he truly was.

We cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, or come to Him.  It takes the Holy Spirit.  It takes God’s holy Word.  People around the world are still looking for their own idea of Messiah.  One who’ll restore their country to its rightful place among the nations of the world; one who’ll restore the economy and bring healthcare to the poor.  One who’ll give food to the hungry; one who’ll be a politically powerful, charismatic figure leading the people in their fight against injustice.  That’s what they see the Messiah as being.

What kind of Messiah are you looking for?  I know, you say it’s Jesus.  You say it’s him, you confess to the world it’s him.  You even stand up and say you follow him; shucks, you even call yourself a Christian.  That’s what you say; but what do you do?

If he’s really our Messiah, and we really follow him, doesn’t that mean we should submit to his will?  But, do you really submit to him?  Do you really tell him that he’s in charge of your life and you know it and accept it, even want it, to be that way?  The disciples may have gotten it wrong; they may have been looking for a different kind of Messiah, but they certainly submitted to Jesus.  They even laid their clothes down in the road as he passed by on a donkey in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem; a sign that everything they had was under his direction and control.

Do we give everything we have to Christ Jesus?  Do we submit our lives to him; or do we hang on to what’s ours, holding it close; hanging on because we’re convinced that we live in a land of scarcity and if we submit to him we might run out of the things we need most?  Do we use the talents he’s given us to bring glory to him and to enlarge his kingdom; or do we clutch them to ourselves?  And what about our time?  Do we hold our time close; fretting that we’re already overworked and we don’t have time to contribute to the kingdom of God?

We don’t really submit to him, because even though we say he’s the Messiah, we don’t really recognize who he is.  We think he’s this good friend, this nice guy, our buddy Jesus.  And because he’s just our buddy we don’t take him all that seriously.  We end up treating him like some kind of super man…. but just a man … just Jesus of Nazareth; someone we pray to in our need … but forget to thank when we’re blessed; someone we expect to pave the way for us in the manner that we’re accustomed to, and when we chose to follow our own rocky way, we blame him for not smoothing that over for us too.

We don’t recognize him for who he truly is; but thanks be to God, he knows us all too well.  He knows our minds tend to conjure up Messiahs to fit our own desires.  He knows that our sinful nature dreams up all sorts of Messiahs for us to follow.  He know we need direction, and so Jesus tells us who he is, in the same way he told Cleopas and his friend.

Jesus sends us his Holy Spirit, and through his holy word, he tells us.  All of Scripture is about him.  He was there in the beginning, creating the world.  He was there, leading the Israelites out of Egypt and throughout their journey in the desert.  He was there with the judges and the kings; in times of triumph and in times of disappointment, and he was there with the prophets calling his people back when they strayed from him.

He tells us that he fulfills all Scripture; all Scripture.  He was there as the Father made his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and in him all these promises were fulfilled.  He was there with the prophets as they spoke, and he fulfilled every prophecy they proclaimed.

He is who Holy Scripture says he is: true God, begotten of his Father before all worlds; true man born of the Virgin Mary.  He is the One who always was, is now, and will be forever.  And most importantly, he’s our Savior, the One who came from heaven to earth to rescue us.  His name even says it; Jesus, which means: he will save his people from their sins.

Jesus; our Jesus, our God, our Savior; the One made known to us by God’s Holy Spirit through his holy Word.  The One made known to us by God’s Holy Spirit in the blessed waters of Holy Baptism.  The One made known to us by God’s Holy Spirit today in the breaking of the bread.

He’s not our buddy.  He’s not just some nice guy.  No case of mistaken identity here.  He’s the Son of the Most High, the Son of the Living God; all knowing and all powerful … the One Peter said has ransomed you from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver and gold, but with his precious blood.

That’s who he really is.  That’s what it means to be the Messiah, your Messiah; the One who redeemed you, the One who’s forgiven all your sins and made you his own; the One who’s defeated death by his own death and glorious resurrection; which is why we joyously say: HE IS RISEN!  [He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!]

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle