John 21:24-25 & 1 John 1:1-3
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
April 11, 2021
The celebration of Easter is over.
And the reality of Easter?
In his Gospel and his letters, John related the telling experiences he’d had of the ongoing reality of Easter. He reported what he had heard with his own ears, seen with his own eyes and touched with his own hands. He bore witness out of his own personal experience that Jesus who died was still around to transform and uplift the lives of those open and receptive to His continued presence. John shared his firsthand experiences of the resurrected Jesus to encourage his readers to hope that they might have such experiences themselves and be put on a new trajectory that leads to their becoming better and better versions of themselves and more and more potent servants of God within their families, circles of friendship and communities.
Many of us have in one way or another experienced the impact of a living Jesus. While not all of us would claim to have directly encountered Him in His resurrected reality, many of us have experienced His influence upon us for good. Maybe He’s not made us better than anybody else, but He has made us better than we used to be – and given us dreams of becoming still better agents of His love, justice and grace.
Most often, the resurrected Jesus indirectly improves us by means of other people.
Mark Galli tells of his once having a furious argument with his wife Barb. In the course of their back-and-forth bickering, Mark grew more and more agitated. Finally, he lost his temper, yelled in anger and slugged the dining room wall.
His fist struck right where there was a stud. And he broke a knuckle.
Mark yelled again, this time in pain.
And a deathly silence fell upon the dining room.
While Mark came from a family in which nothing got done until someone yelled, Barb came from a family in which yelling brought everything to a standstill. In the midst of his physical agony, Mark felt the emotional agony of having failed as a husband. He had scared and hurt his dear wife, and was deeply ashamed of himself. He knew he deserved every second of silent treatment she’d give him for however long she needed to give it.
Dropping to his knees, Mark held his throbbing right hand close to his torso to minimize the pain and tried to sweep up with his left hand the debris of sheetrock strewn over the floor. A gentle touch on his arm startled him. He looked up and there was Barb. She apologized and he apologized. And then she threw her arms around her beast of a husband. And he felt that in her kind, lingering, unmerited embrace a Jesus, who has lingered on earth, was embracing him with unwarranted love.
It was not a direct experience of Jesus, but it was a deeply real one, mediated through his wife who herself had received such grace from Jesus that she had enough to pass on to bless her broken and agonizing husband.
Mark realized that Barb had every right to condemn his behavior and to cut him off from her. He knew he’d earned a dressing down and incurred a great debt of guilt. But Jesus had enabled Barb to grow past her upbringing, so that, when she might have made Mark pay by means of coldness and distancing, she instead hugged her anguished sinner of a husband to her heart and helped heal him. Through Barb, Mark experienced God’s grace, and Mark swears her undeserved goodness of heart was a vital part of the Lord’s remaking him into a truer agent of grace to Barb, neighbors, co-workers and strangers.
As much as we might like it otherwise, the resurrected Jesus rarely makes any of us all that much different overnight. But He always puts those who submit to His leadership on the way forward, headed in the right direction.
Therefore, we all, like Mark, and like John, have telling experiences to tell to others of how Jesus makes people better, people like us whom He takes as He finds us and then takes into a higher level of character development and conduct improvement.
Maybe we don’t think our experiences of the transforming impact of Jesus are all that impressive, but perhaps, by their un-impressiveness, they are all the more valuable and affecting for those who’d be happy to make just one little step of forward progress.
If the resurrected Jesus has given you, say, some peace in the face of financial danger or deadly disease, some liberation from bad habits and detrimental default settings, or some softening of your heart to care about those you once despised, you have a telling experience to tell to others of what Jesus can do.
We are here to tell to others our telling experiences of the resurrected Jesus. By so doing, we can open some eyes to see Him, some ears to hear from Him, and some hands to feel His healing touch. Let us pray.