Easter 3, Year B – The Disciples become witnesses and are commissioned

Title:Easter 3, Year B – The Disciples become witnesses and are commissioned

 Easter 3 (full size gallery)

We were outside again for services as COVID rates for Caroline County caused the county to move into the “red status”. The decision was made to move the services outside. The consolation was that it was a beautiful spring morning, temperate and very sunny. The outside venue fit the Gospel which talked about a fish meal and we saw osprey diving for fish in the Rappahannock. The choir was acapella with Brad sick. They sang “That Easter day with joy was bright. “We have a selection from that on video along with the opening, the Eucharistic Prayer, and the final blessing.

We had 19 in person and 9 on Zoom the largest number online with two people in two different states.

The sermon was about the confusions we face in our world. Scripture is an entryway into God. Here are some key points:

1. “Luke is the gospel writer who reminds us that turning to scripture when we are confused is a great idea! ” The sermon goes into suggested order of reading the Gospels.

2. “Scripture tells us who God is, who Jesus is, who the Holy Spirit is, and who we are. Scripture is the story of God’s love for all from the very beginning.

3. “Scripture teaches us about forgiveness, reconciliation, God’s love for us, and our love for one another as beloved children of God! Knowing scripture helps us to speak proficiently in God’s language of love as we share the Good News.

4. “Jesus himself stands among us today, for he said that when two or three of us are gathered together in his name, there he will be in the midst of us. And just as he did on that day of resurrection, as he came to the disciples, if we will listen, we can hear him speak to us even now through scripture, as he opens our minds to his word and his love, and sets our confusions aside and gives us his peace.”


Today’s scriptures proclaim that Jesus is risen and present with us. In Acts, Peter preaches about the power of God in Jesus and calls his listeners to respond with repentance and conversion. 1 John assures us that Jesus intercedes for us, removing our sin and calling us to the obedience of love. In today’s gospel, Jesus invites the disciples to touch his risen body and to understand the meaning of the scriptures.

The book of the Acts of the Apostles recounts the early growth of the Christian Church. One of the major features of Acts is Luke’s use of speeches by principal figures to provide reflection upon and analysis of events. These speeches demonstrate the basic preaching pattern of the apostolic Church to different audiences as the Church moves from the Jewish to the Gentile world.

Today’s reading is taken from the second of these discourses, Peter’s temple sermon. Set in the context of a healing (3:1-10), it shows that Jesus’ ministry continues in the apostles. The sermon begins with the basic proclamation about Jesus’ death and resurrection. This kernel is then fleshed out in a longer section identifying Jesus with various Old Testament figures.

The Epistle from John takes up the theme of Christians and sin, in the context of their adoption as “children of God” (v. 1). This special relationship to God was formerly extended to Israel as a people and especially to the king as Israel’s representative. In Hebrew idiom, “to be the child of” meant to exhibit the characteristics of one’s father. Christians are truly God’s children now, yet they are still in the process of growing into resemblance to God by imitating Christ in their behavior.

The Gospel is from Luke.

Before Luke describes the meeting of Jesus and the disciples the evening of that first day, he is the only one who tells the story of an encounter between Jesus and two dispirited disciples.

By showing the marks of the crucifixion, the risen Christ identifies himself as the earthly Jesus. He shows himself to be “really real,” not a vision or a ghost. The account displays the Hebrew understanding of the person as particular and embodied, in contrast to the Greek sense of the person as merely the “soul.”

As in the Emmaus story, the disciples recognize Jesus in the context of a meal and in the exposition of the scriptures. The Hebrew scriptures are divided into three parts: the law, the prophets and the writings (the first book being the Psalms).

To the earlier statement that the scriptures told of the suffering and resurrection of the Messiah (24:25-27) is added that the scriptures also point toward the mission “to all nations” (v. 47). The accomplishment of Jesus’ mission to Israel means the beginning of his followers’ mission to the Gentiles.

Unlike with the Emmaus story, in this second, parallel narrative, Jesus directly tells the disciples that they are to be witnesses. Here, also, is a significant difference with John’s account. There is no infusion of the Spirit. Luke makes a significant separation between what happened in that room at the end of the “first day of the week” and what was to happen in an upper room fifty days hence. The Spirit will come, but for now the disciples are given the content of their message. They are to tell of repentance and forgiveness that will come in Jesus’ name.

Reflection

They still don’t get it, even after the stone was rolled away, the cloths folded, the corpse vanished, the angel appeared and various testimonies given. Even then they think he’s a ghost. Their reaction is panic and fright.

And Jesus reaches out to them, exactly where they are. No scolding. No abstract theology. Jesus communicates on the only plane that will work. They might be spooked if he touched them. So he invites them to touch him. Drawing them out further, he asks for something to eat.

Nothing could better confirm Jesus’ identity and cement his bond with his friends than the sharing of fish. That is, after all, how it all began: an interruption when they were casting their nets, an invitation to a totally different kind of fishing. He who had no need of nourishment satisfies their hunger, that unspoken yearning which lurked beneath their fear, the quavering hope that he might be real.

This time, they get it. In Acts, Peter speaks to the people in a tone that echoes Jesus’ voice: no condemnation, only words of peace and forgiveness. He has full confidence that their turning to God will wipe out their sins. Like his master, he does not burden them with heavy dogmas or abstract philosophy. He reaches out to them with the same enthusiasm that Christ once reached toward him. Peter and John have the same tough-minded attitude toward sin that Jesus had. They do not deny it, nor do they allow it to overwhelm them. They place it under God’s mercy.

Peter and John had seen human evil in its worst form. They had witnessed the cruel betrayal and violent murder of God. Yet Peter believed that through the Messiah’s suffering, God’s promise of life would come to fulfillment. And John saw Jesus as an intercessor, an offering for our sins. When we get depressed about evil in the world, or become guilty about our own sin, they inspire us to take the next step, beyond the muck and into new life.