Journeying through the Revised Common Lectionary
Readings, Commentary, and Discussion Questions for April 15, 2018
Third Sunday of Easter
First Reading: Acts 3:12-19
12 When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14 But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.
17 “And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.”
Worth Noting: This speech comes immediately after Peter cures a man crippled from birth. Luke portrays the conversion process as proceeding from powerful speeches. Is that your experience? To Francis of Assisi is attributed the statement “Preach always; if necessary use words.” Which is the more powerful form of testimony?
1 Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
You gave me room when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
2 How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?
How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?
3 But know that the LORD has set apart the faithful for himself;
the LORD hears when I call to him.
4 When you are disturbed, do not sin;
ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the LORD.
6 There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
Let the light of your face shine on us, O LORD!”
7 You have put gladness in my heart
more than when their grain and wine abound.
8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for you alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety.
Worth Noting: The LORD commands right sacrifices. What right sacrifices do we offer?
Second Reading: 1 John 3:1-7
1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
4 Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.
Worth Noting: Here are mysteries we may never fully grasp but can contemplate forever with profit, for what could be better than being a child of God? “To be like God,” says the author. Is not the child like the parent? Is there something about our DNA that will be changed when God is revealed?
Gospel: Luke 24:36-48
36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, Have you anything here to eat?”
42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”
45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them,
“Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.”
Worth Noting: The Gospel of Luke is filled with stories of Jesus eating (Luke 5:30; 7:36; 14:1; 15:2), here with his disciples. In an important sense, all of these meals are Eucharists, thanksgivings for the presence of Jesus. Do we eat all of our meals with a sense of Thanksgiving?
CONNECTING WITH THE SCRIPTURES
Entering into the Scriptures
Around the time that Luke wrote, a notion began to develop that Jesus of Nazareth was not really human, and so did not really die – it just seemed that way. Any resurrection, then, would be simply the same spirit reappearing. Luke 24:37b may be giving voice to this belief – “they thought they were seeing a ghost or spirit.” Countering this, Luke insists on the physicality of Jesus’ resurrection. Luke and the Fourth Gospel both recount how Jesus displayed his wounds and urged the disciples to touch them, to prove he really had a body (Luke 24:39-40; John 20:27). Luke goes further, giving an account of Jesus eating fish (Luke 24: 42-43). Having Jesus eat was significant since in first century popular culture, spirits were known to not be able to eat anything – the food would just fall on the ground or something. Describing Jesus doing so lends heavy credence to his bodily appearance.
One more thing about this Gospel. Did you notice what Jesus tells his disciples to preach? There is nothing about Jesus’ famous teachings – the Beatitudes or Lord’s prayer, for instance – and nothing of his miracles. The disciples are to proclaim the Paschal Mystery, Christ’s Passion and Resurrection and then repentance and forgiveness of sins. In the first part, Luke closely followed Paul’s preaching about Jesus. Paul concentrated on Jesus’ death and resurrection, with no reports of his miracles and the barest minimum of his teachings. Preaching repentance continues the proclamation of John the Baptist and Jesus (Luke 1:77; 3:3; 5:32). Jesus’ offer of forgiveness was repeated many times (Luke 5:20; 7:48) but perhaps never so powerfully as in the story of the Good Thief, Jesus’ last act before his death (Luke 23:40-43).
Disbelieving Joy (or Joyful Disbelief)
The post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus provoked strong, mixed feelings. We might paraphrase Luke 24:41, by saying “the disciples disbelieved from joy.” They met Jesus on Easter evening, after a series of spectacular events: Women breathlessly announced the Empty Tomb (Luke 24:1-10); Jesus walked, talked, and ate with two disciples on the rode to Emmaus (verses 13-32); Peter witnessed the Empty Tomb (verse12) and saw Jesus (verse 34). Would it be possible after all of these events that the disciples would disbelieve?
Long-suffering Chicago baseball fans well understand their reaction. Their White Sox went 88 seasons (1917 to 2005) between World Series wins while the other team in Chicago took even longer (1908-2016). When it finally happened, fans were delirious with joy AND stood around saying “I can’t believe it! I just don’t believe it! Did they really do it?” A fan’s identity had changed, from hapless loser to world champion, disturbing the universe in which she lived. How could that not engender many feelings?
In a similar way, the disciples had gone from chastened, fearful followers of a failed, crucified man to the vanguard of a whole new movement, led by the first to rise from the dead. The future was not obvious, but it would not include the family fishing boat.
Sometimes we find it difficult to imagine Jesus experiencing a real human body: sweating, falling ill, suffering sore feet and knees, and glowing from a good meal. Do you find such experiences demeaning for the Son of God? Do you find they elevate the human experience?
When have you experienced great, disbelieving joy? Falling in love? At birth of a child? Do we not trust such joy to be real?
Let’s pretend: A dear friend has asked you to tell them what the Gospel is all about in just thirty seconds. (Jesus did it in two verses: Luke 24:46-47.) What would you say? Would forgiveness be part of that message?