The Renegade Gospel: Touch and See
Luke 24:1-12; 36-49
Rev. Sandy Johnson
April 1, 2018
Our scripture this morning, I think this is my favorite story in all of the scriptures. Maybe it’s your favorite too. Our whole faith hangs on this one episode, the execution, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ’s birth was important, it set the stage for God’s miracle in the world; but it is the resurrection that finalizes the deal. It is the resurrection that connects us with one another and most importantly with God, through his son Jesus Christ.
There is no other story like it. In grief and sadness, the women go to the tomb to tend to their lost friend. They were grieving not only his death, but also the loss of the dream, the loss of what they thought was the Messiah. I would say that to call them devastated would be an understatement.
Yet, here they were, walking to the tomb to honor their dead Rabbi. And he was gone! The tomb was empty. While they tried to wrap their head around what could have happened to Jesus, two angels appeared and scared the pants right off of them. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
They remembered that Jesus had predicted his death several times, but could it be he was speaking literally when he said he would rise again on the third day? He spoke so often in parable that it was hard to know sometimes what was parable, and what was literal.
Quickly they ran back to where the disciples were hiding, and they told them what they saw. No one could believe their tale, what the women were saying was crazy talk. So, Peter ran back to the tomb, on the off chance they were telling the truth, he needed to touch and see for himself.
This renegade gospel movement that we have been talking about for the past 40 days, culminated in this astonishingly, impossible event. Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and appeared to more than 500 people over the course of weeks, but some still doubted. They needed evidence, they need to touch and see for themselves.
Having the belief to embrace the resurrection story doesn’t require an abundance of faith. “Jesus reminded the disciples that “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you” (Luke 17:6).
So, it’s not about how much faith you have, but how much of what you have, that you commit to action. The Resurrection defines the new possible – just as Jesus taught, “Everything is possible for one who believes” (Mark 9:23).
“Resurrection faith begins with a renewed way of thinking. Before we can be raised to a new level of life, we have to die to our old ways of thinking. We have to have create new life pictures! This means releasing past assumptions, feelings and practices.” We must stop holding onto the past.
It reminds me of a raccoon. Have you ever seen a raccoon reach it’s paw down into a jar or small hole to pick up a shiny object at the bottom? They stick their little paw in and take a hold of the object, but their hand is too big to come out of the jar. You’ve seen this haven’t you? They get stuck, too afraid to let go and too afraid to lose their treasure. We can’t move forward in our relationship with Jesus Christ until we let go of our past. Until we embrace God’s forgiveness that is guaranteed to us as a result of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
You see, “resurrection thinking affects every area of our lives. From our relationships, to the way we think about the stewardship of time and financial resources, we must die to old patterns of thinking and be raised to the new. And what is our new reality? Things that are impossible for human beings are possible for God. Ask yourself: “What can God do through me if I am willing to risk acting on the mustard seed faith that I have?” The impossible is the new possible!
“People who defy conventional wisdom are often the ones who contribute the most to human advancement.” Think if space travel that was once thought impossible, or the 4-minute mile. “For the impossible to become possible, we must first believe it is possible; we must believe it before we can achieve it. To be raised to a new way of thinking, we have to die to an old way of thinking.”
We must open our hands and surrender our way to God’s ways. God can’t share blessings if you are holding tight onto old things. Surrender comes when we embrace resurrection thinking. “We experience God’s presence and healing power in proportion to the level of faith we already have and act upon. The Epistle of James is one of my favorite sections of the bible, partly because James has so much to say about our faith and our actions:
Verse 1:22 he says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
And then in 2:14-17, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by actions, is dead. (2:14-17). 
It sort of reminds me of the response we have heard following the recent mass shootings. Lots of people have sent their “thoughts and prayers,” but it will take more than thoughts and prayers to change our society so that people can be safe at an outdoor concert, where children can be assured that they will not die when they go to school, and Churches don’t have to have someone stationed at the sanctuary door, guarding it against someone who is focused on harming others.
“Throughout the New Testament, faith is activated through the commitment of physical movement. The messenger told the women at the tomb to go and tell the disciples and Peter (Mark 16:7). When the women shared their discovery with the disciples, Peter didn’t sit back crossing his arms waiting to be convinced; he ran to the tomb to see for himself (John 20:4). Faith is movement! Faith is Action! Faith is always moving toward a desired outcome.”
But not everyone can hear the story and exhibit blind faith, some have doubt, some get stuck with their hand in the jar, unable to let go. “In the Luke passage, Jesus’ further response was inviting his startled friends to “touch me and see” (Luke 24:39). He knew their doubt, their confusion. He knew they were struggling to believe.
“Scientist Francis Collins shared in a PBS interview that there will never be scientific proof of God’s existence. Science explores the natural, and God is outside the natural. So there is going to be no substitute for making a decision to believe, and that decision will never be ungirded by absolute data-driven proof. You cannot sit idly by waiting for scientific proof. Jesus tells us, “Touch me and see.” Intentional participation in Jesus’ life and mission precedes our growing faith!”
“Once we encounter the resurrected, rebel Jesus, he gives us new eyes to see. An encounter with the resurrected Jesus, doesn’t just transform the way we see ourselves; it causes us to see others in a new light as well. The poor are no longer lazy, ignorant, or simply unlucky; they are the people God loves, so much so that more than two thousand scriptures are dedicated to justice for the vulnerable and poor, the widow and orphan.
“God teaches us to love ourselves and to love others as ourselves; the resurrected Jesus reveals that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive, and that ultimately the measure of our lives will be based on whatever we do for the least and the lost. Jesus even redefines enemy, not as someone to hate, but as someone worth praying for, an individual of sacred worth and God given potential. Just like we did yesterday when we prayed for the vandal who defaced our signs.
Our encounters with the resurrected Jesus gives us new eyes and a new resurrection worldview. When we respond to Jesus by touching and seeing, then we can understand that with the rebel Jesus, the impossible becomes possible” and we are able to move into action, opening our own hands up in complete surrender.” 
Let us pray:
Lord, by no means do we fully comprehend who you are. But we recommit today to give our life to you…not just in words, but more importantly in action. With all our imperfections, we receive your love and forgiveness, and will share it with others. We pledge our love to the rebel Jesus and commit ourselves to the renegade gospel. Not our will, but your will be done. In Jesus name. Amen.
 This sermon series is inspired by the book of the same name by Mike Slaughter.
 Luke 24:5
 Slaughter, Mike. Renegade Gospel. Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN. 2014. Page 123-24
 Ibid, 124
 Ibid, 125
 Ibid, 126-27
 Ibid, 127
 Ibid, 133-34
 Ibid, 135-36