04/18/21 – Our Bodies, Our Faith


April 18, 2021
3rd Sunday of Easter
Acts 3:12-19; Ps.4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48
Rev. Denise Clark-Jones



No matter what your age, you will have noticed that your body changes in ways that you cannot control. From conception, our bodies differentiate into parts that become more mature. From about the age of 22-25, our bodies begin to break down. No matter what we do, the effects of aging and good health have genetic determinants that cannot be changed by our attempts to retain the appearance, strength of the general health of youth. This pandemic has reminded us that our bodies are, mortal, limited, vulnerable, and, in the face of some external threats – defenseless. In our gospel reading for today, Luke stresses the point that Jesus’ resurrection was a resurrection of his physical body.

From the Greek philosophers came the idea that human beings have a soul and a body. The belief was that the soul is the real person contained in a physical form, but separate from the body. This is not the Hebraic conception found in the Old Testament, nor is it the perspective of the New Testament authors. The biblical understanding is that a whole person is given life with the breath of God. There are no divisible parts of the person – a person is a whole being. The Hebrew word for breath, ruach, is the same as the word for spirit. If a person has breath, they are alive. If a person does not have breath, they are dead. For the Hebrew people, anything that diminishes life is a form of death. We see this same understanding in the New Testament.

The author of both the gospel of Luke and Acts, which I will refer to as Luke for simplicity, begins with the start of Jesus’ life. In the first chapter, an angel appears to Mary informing her she is pregnant with God’s Son. In Luke, we have an account of Jesus’ birth. This baby is the incarnation of God’s Word for the sake of humanity. As John put it most eloquently: “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) In Jesus Christ, God became embodied to be fully present with us.

Luke uses food to help explain who Jesus if for us. Food is essential to life. In Luke’s gospel, it seems as if, in every account of Jesus’ ministry, he is either going to a meal, eating a meal, or leaving someplace after a meal. Jesus had a body that had to be nourished with real food. He got into trouble not following the rules for eating in his society. In both Jewish law and societal norms, there were strict rules about with whom one could and could not share a meal. New Testament scholar N.T. Wright writes: “When Jesus wanted fully to explain what his forthcoming death was all about. He didn’t give a theory. He didn’t even give them a set of scriptural texts. He gave them a meal.” 1

Our gospel passage from Luke comes at the end of a much longer passage, which tells the tale of a pair of Jesus’ followers leaving Jerusalem after the crucifixion and traveling to the village of Emmaus. They have heard rumors of Jesus’ resurrection. They, Cleopas and an unnamed companion meet Jesus on the way but do not recognize him. The point at which Cleopas and his traveling companion realize this man, who has been walking with them to Emmaus, is the risen Jesus is when he accepted their invitation to eat with them. By eating food, the risen Jesus demonstrates that he is made of flesh. If one can’t eat, one doesn’t live. Luke uses Eucharistic imagery. “30When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” By the time Luke’s gospel was written, the ritual of the Eucharist was well established in Christian worship.

We know from the book of Acts that a distinguishing mark of the Christian community was that they ate together. Whether they were Jews or Gentiles, rich or poor, slaves or free, they shared a table. In the earliest congregations, they ate a full meal together and, at some point, gave special prayers of thanksgiving for the bread and wine as Jesus did with his disciples at the Last Supper. Their shared meal was not as much about Jesus’ death as his fellowship, which was made tangible for them by their remembrance and physical re-enactment.

We pick up the post-Resurrection story today at the point which Cleopas and his companion go back to Jerusalem to find the eleven remaining disciples and testify to their experience encountering the risen Christ. So, we are back in that room where we heard, last Sunday, the gospel of John’s account of Jesus appearing to the eleven. Luke begins this part of the story with Jesus entering the room. His first words to the eleven are “peace be with you.” Seeing they are frightened, he assures them he is not a ghost by showing them the scars from the nails on his hands and feet and spear on his side. He says: Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” (Luke 24:39) He did suffer the pain of his crucifixion death, like any human body, but his wounded body proclaims his resurrection – an act of God. Then he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” (41) Based on the biblical account, it would have been 4 days since he ate his last meal – of course, he was hungry! They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43and he took it and ate in their presence.” (42) Again, he eats. The fish the disciples gave him reminds the audience of how Jesus, miraculously fed a crowd of 5000 with a few loaves of bread and two fish. He preached to the crowd, but he also understood that feeding their physical bodies was crucial to the message.

Did you ever wonder, when God did the incredible act of raising Jesus from death to life, why God did not just go all the way and restore his body to its pre-crucifixion, unscarred state? Dr. Maria Theresa Davila, who teaches Christian Ethics at Andover Newton Theological Seminary, has noted this paradox and explained the gospel writers tell us that the bodily scars of Good Friday caused by Jesus’ brutal, torturous death cannot be dismissed. Davila has observed that this salient detail addresses the early Christian community’s challenge of spreading the Good News of the Gospel in the Roman Empire, in which there were “many ways people were excluded from free and full standings as human beings.” 2

Peter’s speech, in our reading from Acts, follows a healing story. Peter and John encountered a man, lame from birth, who had been placed outside the gates of the temple to beg for alms. In Jesus’ name, they healed the man’s legs so that he could not just walk, but leap for joy as he entered the temple to join the rest of the community in worshiping and praising God. With the gift of the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ disciples were able to heal bodies as Jesus did. In her commentary on this passage, Dr. Davila observes that in our society we too practice “exclusions that are often based on the marks with which we brand others, and which keep them outside the gates.” We diminish others’ full humanity on the basis of age, gender, physical abilities, and especially external physical features. From the time when white colonists encountered the native people of North America, through the enslavement of black people taken prisoner from their African homeland to the waves of immigrants coming to America in hopes of a better life, exclusions have diminished the personhood of people whose skin color and physical features differed from the group that had empowered itself by making the laws and the social rules that put up barriers to their inclusion.

1 John addresses conflicts within the early church by stressing that we are all children of God because God loves us. Our full personhood is not based on any human-devised rating system, but on God’s love freely given to all. The mission of the Church is to love as Christ loves. We are witnesses to that love in our observable behaviors. Our shared humanity, as children of God and disciples of Christ, is bodily acted out in our sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist. In the late Rachel Held Evans book, “Searching for Sunday,” she tells a story of a black couple visiting an all-white Episcopal congregation in North Carolina in the 1940s. The woman had invited the man she had been dating to join her at morning services. Her young man waited in the pews while the congregation went forward to receive communion, anxious because he noticed that everyone in the congregation was drinking from the same chalice. He had never seen black people and white people drink from the same water fountain, much less the same cup. His eye stayed on his girlfriend as, after receiving the bread, she waited for the cup. Finally, the priest lowered it to her lips and said, as he had to the others, “The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.’ The man decided that any church where black and white drank from the same cup had discovered something powerful, something he wanted to be a part of.” 3 That couple had a child who became the current bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church, Michael Curry. You might recognize him as the officiant at the wedding of Prince Harry and the biracial American actress, Meghan Markle, who gave a memorable sermon on the power of love.

“The Word became flesh and dwelled among us.” Rev. Vicky Kemper, in a devotional based on Luke 24, brings Christ’s bodily presence into the present. She explains: “He is the single mother waiting in line at the soup kitchen, the innocent man wasting away behind bars, the bullied trans kid desperate for acceptance. The Risen Christ is the refugee family swimming against the tide, the exhausted parent trying to do it all, the addict struggling to get clean, the unhoused person begging for spare change.” 4

The bible tells us love is stronger than death. It was Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances that turned a small political, social and religious movement – a mere blip on the radar screen of history, into the Christian church. As the Church we are Christ’s body in the world; and, not just the mouth, not just the mind, but the whole body, hands, feet, and all. Luke makes it clear that Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection. The Easter event was a world-changing moment in time, which set into motion a new way of being in the world. Let us show the world what being Easter people looks like – in the flesh.

Amen. May it be so!


  1. T. Wright, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters (New York: Harper One) 2011, 180.
  2. Ronald J. Allen, Dale P. Andrews, Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm ed. Preaching God’s Transforming Justice: A Lectionary Commentary, Year B. (Louisville, KY, Westminster John Knox Press) Theresa Davila, Third Sunday of Easter, 207.
  3. Rachel Held Evans. Searching for Sunday. (Nashville, TN, Nelson Books) 2015, 150-151.
  4. Vicki Kemper, “The Hungry Christ.” Still speaking Daily Devotional – United Church of Christ. April 18, 2021. https://www.ucc.org/what-we believe/worship/daily-devotional/.




© Rev. Denise Clark-Jones, 2021, All Rights Reserved
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