Sermon Seeds: Witnesses of These Things

Sunday, April 14, 2024
Third Sunday of Easter | Year B
(Liturgical Color: White)

Lectionary Citations
Acts 3:12-19 • Psalm 4 • 1 John 3:1-7 • Luke 24:36b-48

Focus Scripture: Luke 24:36b-48
Focus Theme: Witnesses of These Things
Series: Waiting for the Feast (Click here for the series overview.)

By Cheryl A. Lindsay

If you see something, say something.

That expression is normally associated with criminal activity. Someone has been robbed, hurt, or worse, and the perpetrator of the offense has managed to elude identification and association with the crime. Investigators have no more clues to pursue, and those who were likely witnesses of the activity claim to have no knowledge or insight to offer.

But if that expression is commendable in the worst of times, how much more impactful is it in the best. I’m always struck by the comments on a feel good news story or clip on social media. In addition to accolades, expressions of gratitude, and well wishes, there will be a plethora of responses bemoaning the lack of good news like that being shared. They will literally say we don’t hear enough of this as they respond to a good news story. Sometimes, I wonder what their algorithm looks like. Mine is full of people singing and dancing, cooking fun food that at least looks good, and young ones laughing. I’m constantly sharing the inspiring and encouraging memes that find their way on my social media feeds. When I see negative thoughts or actions, I may shake my head, but I don’t declare it the norm. I am a witness to the good in the world even as I know that evil exists in no short supply. The truth is, I search for good so I find it. And… when I observe it, I acknowledge it.

The reality is that filters that allow us to confront only what pleases us or confirms our current beliefs are not helpful. Aversion to good news isn’t good either. Avoidance of joyful things is no more commendable than the reluctance to experience discomforting things. When we consider the events of the passion, crucifixion, and resurrection, we may fixate on one or two while glossing over another. But those events relate to one another in the form of a progression. Each step is necessary and important in relation to the others. Many worshippers go from the glory of Palm Sunday to the glory of Easter Sunday without the pause of the Last Supper and the disruption of the cross. Experienced preachers warn neophytes preaching a service of Seven Last Words on Good Friday not to rush to resurrection. The full story needs to be told. We need to hear, experience, and remember all these things.

The twenty fourth chapter of Luke is full of appearances of the resurrected Christ. In his transformed body, Jesus reveals himself to those who knew him and journeyed with him in his ministry and (some) in his misery. The climatic events have happened and now it is time to resolve the story of the life and ministry of Jesus before moving to the Acts of the Apostles:

In the Gospel of Luke, the disciples, who are granted to know the “mysteries of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:10), nevertheless repeatedly fail to understand the necessity of Jesus’s passion.! ^is failure is finally reversed in the conclusion of the narrative when the disciples receive illumination, which enables them to understand Jesus’s suffering as a fulfillment of the Scriptures:
Joshua Mann

Sometimes, a story does not make sense as it unfolds. Complex narratives with layers of meaning may need to be revisited time and time again to unpack the clues, metaphors, and relationships the story explores. As a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Multiverse, I can point to a plethora of social media content creators who dissect every second of those works to provide insights and revelations, which they call “Easter eggs,” to help other viewers understand the nuance embedded in these stories.

I can only imagine the monumental task of compiling a gospel account. Determining which miracles to include, what dialogue conveyed the tone and intent of significant encounters, and whose part in the story garnered attention were just a portion of the challenging choices presented to the gospel writers. In addition, as each was sharing their version of the story, they considered the audience receiving it at least for the first time as well as all time.

A concluding scene in two parts brings closure to the Gospel narrative, even as it prepares for future developments beyond the story. First, Jesus interrupts conversation at a gathering of his followers (vv.33-35) and ushers them, one more time, from fear and doubt toward confident, perceptive faith, informed by a rereading of recent events in the light of Scripture and of Scripture in the light of recent events, and previewing their future role (vv. 36-49).
John T. Carroll

It’s important to remember that for Luke, this is not the end of the story he tells as the Acts of the Apostles was separated from the gospel later. For Luke, it’s one story, and this passage falls not at the end, but in the middle. It’s not meant to be a conclusion but a transition. All that comes before it and all that comes after it hinges on the audience accepting the veracity of the resurrection. Jesus’ entire life leads to it, and the empowered ministry of his disciples depends upon it. The literary task is to dispel myths and solidify the essential claims.

The method at work in Lk. 24 is an attempt to disorient the reader in order to reconfigure the traditions known to the author and reader in light of the disciples’ extraordinary experience of the resurrected Jesus. After all, Luke can only describe Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances with the vocabulary and literary models he has at his disposal. But what if these are deemed inadequate for his purpose, and no one type of apparition is thought sufficient to represent what the disciples had experienced? In this case Luke would be left with insufficient language and models. If, however, all possible models are incorporated, thereby displaying the breadth and magnitude of Jesus’ resurrected presence, while at the same time the limitations of each model are highlighted, then the author is able to work within the parameters of the literary and cultural expectations of the audience to express a phenomenon that surpasses those expectations.
Deborah Thompson Prince

When you observe everything, be a witness to all of these things.

For the gospel writer who gives equal treatment to the ministry of the disciples following the conclusion of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, it is reasonable to compile and consider as many signs, teachings, and encounters as possible in framing this transitional and illuminating moment. From the beginning, Luke has been clear, this work is a testimony of faith to inspire and engender faith in those who will hear and read this account. As he transitions to the narrative of the first believers, their transformed lives, and their continuation of the ministry, the audience receives further examples to follow. Having witnessed, one may believe. Having believed, one may follow. Having followed, one may proclaim, demonstrate, and live in faith. It’s a progression worth replicating

We are witnesses of these things.

Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent
The 33rd General Synod adopted a Resolution to Recognize the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024). As part of its implementation, Sermon and Weekly Seeds offers Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent related to the season or overall theme for additional consideration in sermon preparation and for individual and congregational study.
“Songs for the People”
By Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Let me make the songs for the people,
Songs for the old and young;
Songs to stir like a battle-cry
Wherever they are sung.

Not for the clashing of sabres,
For carnage nor for strife;
But songs to thrill the hearts of men
With more abundant life.

Let me make the songs for the weary,
Amid life’s fever and fret,
Till hearts shall relax their tension,
And careworn brows forget.

Let me sing for little children,
Before their footsteps stray,
Sweet anthems of love and duty,
To float o’er life’s highway.

I would sing for the poor and aged,
When shadows dim their sight;
Of the bright and restful mansions,
Where there shall be no night.

Our world, so worn and weary,
Needs music, pure and strong,
To hush the jangle and discords
Of sorrow, pain, and wrong.

Music to soothe all its sorrow,
Till war and crime shall cease;
And the hearts of men grown tender
Girdle the world with peace.

For Further Reflection
“As Emmanuel, Cardinal Suhard says, “To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.” ― Madeleine L’Engle
“Sometimes I feel proud of myself, not because of any success I’ve achieved, but because I’m aware of all the difficulties that I have suffered or went through.
I’m an eyewitness at all the fear, weakness, frustration, failure, depression, refraction and bad luck moments that I’ve been through alone and which affected significantly but never was able to beat me for so long.
This is why I’m proud, because I’m here now stronger that yesterday, I’m still able to stand and continue on my way, still following up my dreams, still trying my best to build better future for me and my family and I will never ever give up!” ― Shadi Kamal Kandil
“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” ― elie wiesel

Works Cited
Carroll, John T. Luke. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012.
Mann, Joshua. “What Is Opened in Luke 24:45: The Mind or the Scriptures?” Journal of Biblical Literature 135, no. 4 (2016): 799–806.
Prince, Deborah Thompson. “The ’ Ghost’ of Jesus: Luke 24 in Light of Ancient Narratives of Post-Mortem Apparitions.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 29, no. 3 (March 2007): 287–301.

Suggested Congregational Response to the Reflection
Invite the congregation to witness to all the things that they observe God doing in the present. (This could also be done in lieu of a traditional sermon.)

Worship Ways Liturgical Resources

The Rev. Dr. Cheryl A. Lindsay, Minister for Worship and Theology (, also serves a local church pastor, public theologian, and worship scholar-practitioner with a particular interest in the proclamation of the word in gathered communities. You’re invited to share your reflections on this text in the comments on our Facebook page:

A Bible study version of this reflection is at Weekly Seeds.