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"Grounded in blood and bone"

Let me say it again, he took on blood and bone in the incarnation and he remains formed of blood and bone after the resurrection.


[i] “Automat” by Edward Hopper
[i] “Automat” by Edward Hopper

Luke 24:36b-48

April 14, 2024

Dr. Todd R. Wright


Luke spills a lot of ink telling the saga of the resurrection:


First, the women go to the tomb to anoint the body, see the stone rolled away and peer inside.


The place is empty, and they are perplexed, until two angels proclaim Jesus risen!


They remembered his words – that he must be handed over, crucified, and raised on the third day – and told the eleven, but their words were dismissed as an idle tale.  


Resurrection is hard to swallow!


Next, Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus to two of Jesus’ followers. They don’t recognize him.


His death has shattered their hopes. And yet they are pondering the women’s words.


They feel something when the stranger breaks open the scriptures.


When he blesses and breaks and shares the bread, their eyes are opened! Then he vanished!


They turned right around and traveled the 7 miles back to Jerusalem as fast as they could.


Resurrection is news that must be shared!


Third, Luke tells us that the two told the eleven what they had witnessed.


And while they were talking – explaining, speculating, arguing – Jesus appeared!


He greeted them with a word of peace and offered his hands and feet as proof of who he is.


But they struggled to comprehend, torn between joy and disbelief.


Resurrection tests the limits of what we understand is possible!


Why is that? Why is resurrection so hard to process?


 

Denise Levertov explores that question as only a poet can:


She wonders if there are some – she calls them “literalists of the imagination”[ii] – for whom miracles are not only possible, but essential.


She compares them to a certain type of plant that grows high above the earth, subsisting on air and rain and debris blown by the wind, rather than sinking its roots into the dark earth, like most.


These people, she writes, “subsist on the light, on the half of metaphor that’s not grounded in dust, grit, heavy, carnal, clay …”


She is not one of those people. She admits it.


She can’t “open to symbol’s power unless convinced of its ground, its roots in bone and blood.”


She is like the eleven, like the scientist or engineer or detective seeking to understand the facts.


“We must feel the pulse in the wound to believe that ‘with God all things are possible,’”


she says, “taste bread at Emmaus that warm hands broke and blessed.”


 

It would be tempting to divide those two types of people described by Levertov as believers and those incapable of fully embracing the resurrection.


But Luke will have none of it.


Listen to the words he uses to describe the eleven, the ones who have refused to believe the words of the women and the two fresh back from Emmaus:


When confronted with the risen Jesus, they were “startled; terrified.”


They were “frightened; doubting.”


They were “disbelieving and still wondering.”


They are still gathering data, still processing, still puzzling.


Someone back from the dead does not fit what they’ve been taught about the world:

where dead is dead – whether that dead thing is the crop dying from drought, or a fish gasping in the hull of the boat; the parent dying old and full of years, the spouse sick with something no doctor can cure, or the child gone before its time. Dead is dead.


As Cynthia Lindner puts it, “the disciples seem resigned to Jesus’ death. The women prepare their spices and tend the body; the followers of Jesus expect to learn to live with their losses, as sufferers of violence have always done.”[iii]


You’d think Jesus would be disappointed that they hadn’t been listening all the times he told them he must die and be raised again, frustrated at their lack of faith, and ready to go find a more promising batch of followers.


Instead, Jesus wishes them peace, shows them his hands and feet, and asks for something to eat – all to give them the data they needed, the time they needed, to see that he really is their risen Lord, despite the seeming absurdity of it!


 

It is as if he is saying that his relationship with them is grounded in blood and bone. It is real!


Luke began his gospel by telling the story of how the Holy Spirit would overshadow Mary, and she would have a child and name him Jesus.


But do not think that the birth was some ethereal thing. God took on flesh and blood as part of the incarnation. The baby was born – wriggling and wet, squirming and squalling, and they “wrapped [him] in bands of cloth” so he might calm and sleep, safe and secure in his mother’s arms.


Let me say it again, he took on blood and bone in the incarnation and he remains formed of blood and bone after the resurrection.


Or, as Rick Morley puts it, “He doesn’t shed his skin at the first chance. He holds onto it. [H]e holds onto that which makes us, us.”[iv]


 

Did you ever wonder why?


I mean God could have healed the scars. I would assume that the God who healed lepers and blind folk, restored withered limbs and stopped an exhausting flow of blood, could have smoothed the skin torn by whips and pierced by nails.


So why do the scars remain?


Well, as I said earlier, the scars showed that this really was the same man who had been nailed to the cross. They also demonstrated that he was a person, not a ghost, or a hallucination.


But I think those scars do more: they make the case that this is a Savior who suffers for us.


He is not above it all. He is not distant. He is not immune.


He is subject to the human condition.


Or as Shakespeare has one of his characters say: “I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? Fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer … If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?”[v]


 

I think there is one other reason for the scars. Not only do they speak of the kind of savior he is, I think they speak to the kind of followers we are called to be:


We will not pretend to be unscarred by the world, as if we were perfect, shiny people.


We will not shy away from others who bear scars, as if they are damaged goods, unworthy of our time or our love.


And we will not avoid ministry that might require us to suffer, as if that were beneath us, or more than anyone, even our Lord, should expect of us.


Jesus was made of blood and bone. He had scars. So do his foll


[i] “Automat” by Edward Hopper
[ii] Here and following, from “On Belief in the Physical Resurrection of Jesus”
[iii] From “Heirs of the resurrection” in the Christian Century, 4/21/09
[iv] From “Not cast offs”, his reflection on the text, 4/12/12
[v] From The Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1

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