Devotional Message for the Third Sunday of Easter; Year B (4/15/2018)

Revised Common Lectionary Texts

Acts  3:12-19
Psalm 4
1st John 3:1-7
St. Luke 24:36b-48

Prayer of the Day

Holy and righteous God, you are the author of life, and you adopt us to be your children. Fill us with your words of life, that we may live as witnesses to the resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Lesson

24:36b 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?” 42They 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.” 45Then 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.

St. Luke 24:36b-48, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Peace, Perspective, Commissioning

This weekend’s text draws us back to that first Easter Sunday — the day when Jesus is raised from death. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women hear about the resurrection from “two men in dazzling clothes,” and then go to tell the Apostles. The men consider their report “an idle tale” but Peter runs to the tomb, observes the linen clothes, and returns home amazed. Two of Jesus’ followers walk to Emmaus, and Jesus joins them on their journey, but they don’t recognize him until he breaks bread with them at the table. Then comes the appearance of Jesus related in this week’s Gospel lesson.

Jesus begins the encounter with a greeting of peace — a greeting we extend to one another each Sunday as we prepare to receive Christ in the Eucharist. To this group of startled, terrified, frightened, doubting followers, this is a powerful gift. They may still wrestle with disbelief and wonder, but for them joy has begun to set in. It is Jesus. Death could not hold him. The women are right, as are Cleopas and his friend. Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed!

Then Jesus offers them two additional gifts. First, he places his life, death and resurrection in perspective. What has happened is precisely what he described to them ahead of time. As foreshadowed by Moses, the prophets and the Psalms, Jesus’ role as Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day. What’s more, his passion occasions the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness — the Good News of Jesus Christ — which will now be proclaimed, beginning from Jerusalem, to people throughout the entire world.

Note two important aspects of what Jesus says. First, repentance and forgiveness are to be proclaimed. Jesus is not offering a new, revised version of his ancestors’ faith. He has not replaced the sacrificial system leading to forgiveness with a new system that must be mastered and trusted. No, he is making all things new. (Revelation 21:5) From now on, instead, repentance (new direction) and forgiveness (new life) will be proclaimed — announced — as an extension of God’s grace. Undeserved. Unearned. Pure grace from God.

And second, this is not grace only for the ancestors of Abraham. It is grace for all the nations. Jews and Gentiles, women and men, slave and free. (Galatians 3:28) Grace that transcends every wall human beings have built between themselves. Grace that creates a unity among those who believe — united in the faith, hope, trust and joy in Christ. His followers receive the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness — a gift that shapes them and empowers them for ministry.

Finally the third gift: Jesus commissions them. “You are witnesses of these things.” These believers, filled with joy, will leave that place and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ for the rest of their lives. They become the proclaimers of the good news they have received.

We too have received these three gifts: peace, perspective, and a commissioning by Christ. May we believe with all our hearts, and share the good news with joy. This is the celebration of Easter.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How does St. Luke describe the Apostles on the evening of that first Easter Sunday?
  2. Why had they first refused to believe what the women told them?
  3. How does the appearance of Jesus completely change their lives?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I experienced the peace of God that passes all understanding? (Phil 4:7)
  2. How do I understand the relationship between Christian faith and Jewish faith?
  3. What does it mean for me to think of myself as commissioned to proclaim Christ?