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Easter 3, Yr B, 22.04.2012
Acts 3.12-19: You rejected the holy and righteous one ... repent, turn to God, so sins wiped out.
Ps 4: Answer me ... have mercy & hear my prayer.
1 John 3.1-7: See what love the Father has given us that we should be called children of God.
Luke 24.36-48: Law, Prophets & Psalms concerning me [Jesus] be fulfilled. (1519)
Risen Christ, you filled your disciples with
boldness and fresh hope: strengthen us to proclaim your risen life and fill us
with your peace, to the glory of God the Father.
(In Christ God makes his forgiveness known.)
When we came to
I believe we are much closer
to the mark if we say that in Christ God makes his forgiveness known; it is we
who have to change, not God. This is evident in Luke’s writings, both in the
Gospel and in Acts. In Luke’s
account of the Passion, Jesus prays to the Father, ‘Father, forgive them for
they know not what they do’, and in today’s reading from Acts in Peter’s
speech we have, ‘You
rejected the holy and righteous one ... repent’
We find the same theme at the cross in Luke in the words of acceptance to
penitent thief: ‘This day you will be with me in paradise.’
This Lucan outlook is matched by the Fourth Gospel.
In John we find the words ‘Having loved his own he loved them eis
telos’, that is, to the end, completely, and this is matched at the cross
by ‘tetelestai, ‘it has been completed’ – namely, loving the
disciples to the end, completely, for the cross is the final and total
embodiment of that love.
God has always been ready to forgive; we have only to acknowledge our
need for forgiveness and want that forgiveness for it be readily available.
And that is what we find in both the penitent thief on the cross in Luke
and in today’s reading from Acts.
So Peter’s call as presented by Luke is to ‘repent and turn’,
‘turn’ to God. Direct your
attention to God (not elsewhere). ‘You
rejected the holy and righteous one’ – if you had not done so, real life
would have been available to you. Do straighten up now and enter into that life,
as the children of God we find in today’s reading from the 1st
letter of John.
I strongly disagree with what Nick said on Palm Sunday when in effect he
said that nothing happened in the passion that was not willed by God.
As Roderick Strange, a Roman Catholic theologian, has said, Jesus came to
bring life, not to die. It was
because the kind of freedom that Jesus offered was such a threat that, as our
reading from Acts says, ‘You rejected the holy and righteous one’.
Now let us turn
to today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke. In it the risen Lord mentions all
the things in the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms concerning him.
Week by week in
synagogue the service would include a reading from the Law, one from the
Prophets, and a Psalm.
the Jewish scriptures came to be referred to by Jews as the Tanak, which is an
acronym. The T stands for the Torah or Law, the N stands for the Nebiim, or
Prophets, and the K for the Kethubim or Writings.
With some oral
traditions going back to possibly the 16th century BC, what we call
the OT began to be written down probably no later than the 10th
century BC. By about 400 B.C. the
Law, that is the Torah, Genesis through Deuteronomy, was fixed as being
canonical. By ca. 200 BC the
Prophets were also fixed. The psalms
were largely fixed by Jesus’ day. The
only part that was still more fluid was what came to be known as the Writings,
which includes the psalms. So you
can understand why Luke presents the risen Jesus as referring to the things
written in the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, namely, the scriptures read
week by week in synagogue. Even with a limited level of literacy the Jews were known as ‘The
People of the Book’ because of their familiarity with the scriptures.
The impact of
Jesus was such that those who followed him were sure that he was the Promised
Messiah. So they looked at their
received tradition, that is, the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, to see where
the Jesus they knew matched elements of this time-honoured tradition, for it was
this tradition which they believed witnessed to their encounter with God down
through the centuries. And then,
armed with these passages, they were ready to try to convince their fellow Jews
that in Jesus they had found the true Messiah and that with him had come a whole
new quality of life.
In our present
day culture there is no longer a general knowledge of the scriptures of the Old
and New Testaments, so while in the first century an appeal to scripture might
at least potentially find a ready audience, today it is the quality of our life
that must be so attractive that others will say, ‘I want some of that, too.’
We are the
Easter people, the people of the Resurrection, and we are empowered to show
forth in our lives as members of the Body of Christ the very life of Christ that
others may share it with us too. If
we are the people of the resurrection, then what is the resurrection?
expectation of a Resurrection from the dead came late to Judaism.
It arose only shortly before Jesus’ day during or just after the Jewish
revolt under Judas Maccabaeus against the Seleucid Empire in the middle of the 2nd
century BC. It was always seen as
being a sovereign act of God, not an inherent characteristic of human life,
which is why you have always heard me say whenever possible that Jesus was
raised, not that he rose.
we look at the NT narratives of the resurrection in the four Gospels and 1
Corinthians, it is striking that in every case we find the announcement that the
Lord has been raised before there is any mention of appearances of the risen
Lord, and all of the appearances are to disciples.
So the appearances are not a proof of the resurrection as such but they
are rather a fruit of the conviction that Christ has been raised.
before the appearances the band of disciples had already been changed in such a
way that they were sure that Jesus had been raised.
This means that when we talk about the resurrection it is not merely
about raising Jesus but it is also about the raising up of a renewed community,
This is why I would rather
phrase it as ‘what is the resurrection event?’
For I am convinced that the event we call the resurrection includes the
disciples finding themselves empowered by God’s Spirit with a unique and
overflowing sense of love that sends them out to others.
This is the resurrection life in their midst.
It is this sense of the life of Christ that leads Paul to speak of the
community as the Body of Christ. This
is for Paul much more than a metaphor; it is, simply speaking, reality.
There is this same experience of the corporate experience of the power of
Christ’s love that is to be found in the Book of Acts. When
Saul the persecutor of the church is confronted by a light from heaven outside
You and I are witnesses to the Resurrection.
It is a calling that we, as disciples of Christ, cannot ignore or reject
even if we want to. Our
very presence witnesses either for or against the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus in our every attitude, word and action.
let our light shine forth as those for whom the words of today’s psalm ring
true: ‘the Lord has shown me his marvellous
kindness’ and ‘You have put gladness in my heart’.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!