Vital Signs
Luke 24:36-48

by | Apr 16, 2024

PRAYER:  Jesus our Lord and savior, remind us today of the calling that you’ve placed on all of our hearts to be your disciples, to share your love, and to demonstrate healing and hope.    And once reminded, revitalize this church that we may declare your praises in all that  we do, in all that we are.  May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, my rock and my redeemer.

Our gospel reading this morning comes toward the end of the book of Luke in chapter 24.  As it begins in verse 36 with the words, “While they were talking about this…”, I want to just fill in the blanks for a moment as to what “this” is that they were talking about.

Starting in verse 13, we read a story that is probably very familiar to all of us.  It is commonly known as “the Walk to Emmaus”.  Two disciples were walking the 7 or so miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus on the morning of the resurrection.  They were clearly downtrodden, and they walked along talking about what had happened over the previous week.  Jesus himself started walking alongside them, but they were kept from recognizing him.

They walked for miles talking as Jesus interpreted the scriptures to them explaining why all the things that had happened to Jesus were prophesied about.  And in all that time, they are kept from recognizing Jesus until – when they finally arrive at their destination.  They finally recognize him when Jesus makes the familiar action of breaking the bread.

As soon as they recognize Jesus, he disappears from their sight and the two disciples get up and immediately go back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples what happened.  They told all of them what had happened on the road and how he had been made known to them in the familiar act of breaking the bread.

And that’s where we pick up today: “While they were talking about this…”  And that’s when Jesus shows up in the upper room.

In the disciples’ defense, you have to imagine that they were pretty baffled by all of this going on.  Seeing someone resurrected from the dead was not exactly something that they had any experience in.  BUT in that culture, there were many who believed in ghosts or in that sort of apparition.  The people of that day would have heard plenty of ghost-type stories but they would never have heard anything even close to a resurrection story.

Close to once a week for the last 15 months or so, I have gone with Anna to one doctor appointment or another.  Just about every single appointment we go to, there is a pattern that happens.  The nurse or PA will take Anna’s temperature, check her oxygen level and pulse, her blood pressure.  Some may draw a little blood while others might check her weight or height.  They are, of course, checking her vital signs.

When Jesus shows up in that upper room, it seems as though he’s telling the people gathered there to check his vitals and see that he is alive.  He tells his disciples to look at his hands and feet.  “Touch me,” he says, “for a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones like you see I have!”  And then when they still don’t seem to believe him, he asks for something to eat because obviously ghosts don’t eat or drink either.  Even after checking his vital signs, it would still seem difficult to explain how Jesus is able to vanish from their sight in one place and then appear elsewhere.

Regardless, Jesus is providing some vital signs to demonstrate to his disciples that his is truly alive.  And I think that, for us, the resurrection is a chance for us to take our own vital signs as a church, as disciples of Jesus Christ.  And perhaps the best, most important vital sign of all is whether or not anyone has noticed the difference since Easter.

When Jesus came out of the grave that first Easter and then became an alive presence with his disciples, it made them different people.  Some accused them of being drunk; later many were nicknamed “Fools for Christ.” Others said they were crazy.  They were so excited about his not being killed forever that they just had to share that risen Savior.  They couldn’t NOT talk about it.

Verse 48 of our reading today says: “You are witnesses of these things.”  And so, when additional disciples were selected, they were always selected to be ‘‘witnesses to the resurrection.”

If we are witnesses to the resurrection, the question we must ask ourselves is, “Has my life changed any in the last couple of weeks?”  Would it be safe to say that if Christ is alive and with you, he’d be noticed by others?  He’d be obvious to other people who see the way you make up your priorities and live out your Christian faith.  It may be the best vital sign of all – whether anyone has noticed the difference since Easter.

One of the vital signs that is checked to see if a person is alive is respiration. That is, we check to see if breath is going in and out of the body.  On Easter morning, the news of the resurrection took our breath away.  Is our respiration… is our breathing different, refreshed, quickened by the presence of Jesus in our lives?  Or would we say the respiration hasn’t been quite as exhilarating or as obvious as it was on Easter morning for the Body of Christ?

The 19th century theologian Edwin Hatch wrote, “Breathe on me breath of God, Fill me with life anew, that I may love all that you love, and do what you would do. Breathe on me, breath of God, until my heart is pure, until with you I will one will to do and to endure”.

Another vital sign is the heartbeat or pulse. This has to do with the blood racing through the body.  One of other signs of the “live Christ” with the disciples was in the way they got together and communed.  It began as a celebration of his real presence. He was known to them by the way he broke bread.

Every time we offer the bread and cup, we are testifying that Jesus is here with us.  We pray in the Communion liturgy that God pour out the Spirit on us gathered here that we may be for the world, the body and blood of Christ.  The risen Christ creates in us that pulse and heartbeat which says that he is alive here and that we are for the world the body blood of Christ.

When John the Baptist’s disciples went to Jesus to see if he was the real deal, Jesus told them, “Go back home and tell John what you see.”  In other words, what are the vital signs that you are observing?  What they saw was that the blind were healed and the lame walked.  People are helped in whatever situation they are in; this is called Social Ministry.  The signs that they saw was God’s hands in the community.  That is the risen Easter Christ alive through this congregation of believers.  And it’s one of the great vital signs of the church.  When people are fed, clothed, comforted, and have their dignity restored, the vital sign says that Christ is indeed alive here.

If we have ignored the appeals for world hunger and for justice, if our congregation is not moved by the poor, whether they live in our community or elsewhere, if we have no concern for those who have no power in our society, the vital sign is insufficient.  That might just as well mean that Christ did not come out of the grave for us at all, and he is still in the tomb, and we gather this day to put flowers around that tomb and simply sing sentimental hymns to his memory.

Medical professionals have another vital sign which they call response.  It checks out with persons how they respond to stimuli, whether they can talk to us and answer questions, whether they say “ouch” when we pinch them, and just how much they respond to what they see and hear around them.

Reliable reports state that up to 500 million people are suffering extreme hunger in our world.  According to United Nations’ statistics, “The single most devastating indictment of our current world civilization is the continued existence of stark, pervasive poverty of more than two-thirds of the world’s population.”  If Christ is really alive, if our vital signs are telling people that Christ is alive, then we should be pouring out our resources to break the insidious chain of hunger.   Certainly this response would be a vital sign that could be used to test if Jesus really came back from the dead on Easter morning and lives with us now.

Jesus told us that to have him with us meant a new set of priorities.  He told us in Matthew 6 not to save treasures for ourselves here on earth where thieves can break in and steal.  He alerted us to the fact that our heart will always be where our riches are.  So, if Jesus is really alive with us, then our priorities in all aspects of our life should reflect it.   Certainly a sign of vitality is found in how we respond to Christ’s calling in our lives, and how we are engaged in being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.  Jesus told his disciples to check his hands and his feet.  Perhaps we need to check ours.

  1. J. Gossip said: being Christlike “is not a hobby for one’s leisure moments, taken up at intervals when we have nothing much to do, and put down and forgotten when our life grows full and interesting.”

Love is a beautiful thing.  The God of Easter is a God of love and God wants one of the signs of a congregation of Christ’s followers to be an accepting and beautiful love that is not sentimental but is carried out in actions and justice.

I want to encourage us all to – as a church community – check our vital signs for life in the Savior.  Let us collectively check our pulse and determine a course of action to revitalize this church as a beacon of God’s love in our community and in our world.  Let us commit to the new life that is found in Jesus Christ, with a pulse that beats for God, with respiration that breathes in the possibilities found in God and breathes out the love that Jesus demonstrated for us time and again.   Let us check our response… how deeply we respond to life’s challenges with mercy, with compassion in all circumstance.

Let us be a story that is told to future generations of a church that may very well have been on life support, but was revived, revitalized, and resurrected to new life.  We will hear the word of Jesus “You are witnesses of these things.”


To God be the glory.