“The Blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:1-2:2
Last Sunday we talked about Thomas, or Doubting Thomas, as he is known. It’s a label he has had ever since that day, and will never shake.
Today we heard about another visit by the risen Lord to the disciples. Jesus stood among them and startled them again. He said, “Peace be with you,” or more likely, “Shalom,” and the were terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. I’m sure they were still trying to process the whole thing from the last time he appeared to them.
Maybe they had started to think it was a dream, or that they were hallucinating. I imagine that I would have thought the same thing. To us who have heard and taught about the resurrection of Jesus so many times, it may start to sound like it’s not a big deal. We celebrate it every year, like clockwork, so it is just normal.
Imagine, if you will, that you were there with the disciples when he first appeared to them. Wouldn’t you be scared? I know I would be terrified, too!
There had never before been a story of anyone rising from the dead the way Jesus did.
Everyone had witnessed his death by crucifixion. They had seen him taken down from the cross, and put in the tomb. His physical body was dead. He had given up his Spirit, meaning his soul had left his body. This happens when brain activity ceases.
On the third day he rose again, as we profess our Creed. He was raised in his physical body. Not only did he have the marks of his crucifixion, the holes in his hands, but also the wound in his side where he had been speared by a soldier.
In the appearance story we heard last week, Jesus had stood among them, meaning he had appeared among them, having been unseen by the disciples before then. He spoke to them, and invited Thomas to put his fingers in the nail holes, and his hand in his side. The story does not say that Thomas did this, but he was convinced of the reality of the resurrection.
The story we heard today goes on to prove that the resurrection of Jesus body was true, because he asked them for something to eat. They gave him some broiled fish and he ate it right there in front of them.
The first letter of St. John corroborates this when he wrote, “what we have looked at and touched with our hands,” He very forcefully declares that he was an eye-witness of these things.
St. Ignatius, who was a disciple of St. John, and was the second bishop of Antioch, wrote several letters, or epistles, to various churches, too. In his letter to the Smyrneans, he wrote that Jesus had a real, physical body after his resurrection, and that only unbelievers say he did not have a real body.
This is a very important component of Christianity. Jesus did not appear to the disciples like a ghost, or a spirit.
He did appear to them suddenly, in the room with them, but he did not come in the door. He simply appeared. And when he was through talking to them, he disappeared.
How was this possible? He was not a magician like Houdini, whose ability to disappear was a trick. He was not an illusionist, that could make them think he appeared and disappeared.
His resurrected body was not like our physical bodies. In some respects it was, because he could eat food, but not like our bodies because he was not bound by space and time. This is what we call his glorified body.
Three of his closest disciples, Peter, James, and John, got to see a preview of Jesus in his glorified body in the event we call the Transfiguration, in which Jesus body became radiant and glorified.
Matthew wrote: “[Jesus] was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light.”
This is such an important event that it appeared the three synoptic gospels, those of Matthew (17:2), Mark (9:2-3), and Luke (9:28-36).
It is this radiant, glorified body that we eat and drink in the Holy Eucharist. St. Irenaeus wrote that, “at the invocation of God’s Word, the bread and the wine consist of two realities, the earthly and the heavenly; so also our bodies, when they receive the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, having the hope of the resurrection to eternity.”
The invocation of God’s Word happens at the altar when I hold my hands over the bread and the wine and I say the words,
“We pray you, gracious God, to send your Holy Spirit upon
these gifts that they may be the Sacrament of the Body of
Christ and his Blood of the new Covenant.”
And I make the sign of the cross over each to invoke God’s blessing up them.
And when I hold up the Body of Christ in the host, and the Blood of Christ in the cup, Jesus is present among us, just as he was among his disciples, so that we can say, just as Thomas said, “My Lord and my God.”
St. John tells us, “The Blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” There is an old Baptist hymns that says, “There’s power in the blood.” That power is the forgiveness of sin. It is by his blood that it is possible for us to become righteous in his sight.
When you taste the wine, be assured that it is the blood of Jesus that is cleansing you from sin, and know that the Spirit of Christ is becoming a part of you more and more, enabling you to do his will, and walk in the light as he himself is in the light. Amen.