Engaging the Word: Readings for 4/19/15 (Third Sunday of Easter)

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By Barbara Klugh

Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text.

In this week’s readings, Peter explains that healing comes from God to glorify his Son Jesus, John tells us about repenting of sin as we are being made new in the image of Christ, and Jesus appears to his disciples in Jerusalem.

Saints Peter and John Healing the Lame Man, by Nicolas Poussin (1594 - 1665). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Saints Peter and John Healing the Lame Man, by Nicolas Poussin (1594 – 1665). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Acts 3:12-19: Earlier in this chapter, Peter and John go to the Temple to pray, and a man, lame from birth, asks them for money. Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” Peter helps him to his feet and the man enters the Temple walking and leaping and praising God. The crowd was filled with wonder an amazement.

In our reading, Peter uses the healing event to address the gathered people about the Good News of the Kingdom. He explains that the God of the patriarchs healed the man to bring glory to his Son, Jesus, “the Author of Life,” who the people rejected and had crucified. But God raised his Son from the dead. Peter acknowledges that the people and their leaders acted in ignorance; it was, however, in accord with God’s plan—the suffering of the Messiah was foretold through the prophets and fulfilled in Jesus, so now they should “Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.”

Psalm 4: This week’s psalm will be familiar to those who pray the Daily Office and close the day with Compline. Traditionally attributed to King David, the psalmist prays to God to vindicate him from his adversaries. He trusts that God will hear and answer his prayer as God has done in the past. “I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep; for only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

St. John the Evangelist, by Piero de Cosimo (1462 - 1521). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. John the Evangelist, by Piero de Cosimo (1462 – 1521). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 John 3:1-7: First, a note about the accompanying image of St. John: Christian art often represents St. John holding a chalice with a snake in the cup. This commemorates the legend that once, while at Ephesus, John was given a cup of poisoned wine to drink. Before drinking, he blessed the cup and the poison was miraculously drawn from the cup in the form of a snake.

In this week’s reading John reminds us of the great gift we have been given: that by God’s love, God has adopted us and we are his children—we are part of God’s family right now. Thinking about Christ’s Second Coming, John continues, “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.” With God’s help we must purify ourselves; in other words we need to get ready to meet God.

John then gives us some challenging words about sin. Sin is lawlessness—the deliberate breaking of God’s law. Jesus had no sin, so when we sin we do not abide in Christ, who came to take away the sins of the world. If we abide in Christ, our character will be transformed; we will be delivered from the impulse to sin. Being such a long way from that ideal behavior, I was encouraged by N.T. Wright’s idea that John is talking about the whole habit of life, about sin as a regular practice. Even when we do our best we will fail (as we know!), but, using a musical analogy, Wright says, “the failures must take place within a settled habit of life in which sin is no longer setting the tone. We are playing a different piece of music now, and even if our fingers slip sometimes and play the wrong notes, notes that belong to the music we used to play, that doesn’t mean we are going back to play that old music for real once more.”

Luke 24:36b-48: In this chapter, Luke describes several post-Resurrection appearances by Jesus. First the female disciples discover the empty tomb, and two men in dazzling robes announce to the amazed women that Jesus had been raised from the dead. When the women give this news to the male disciples, they ignore their report, thinking it sounds like nonsense, except that Peter went to see for himself. Later, Jesus appears to two of his followers on the road to Emmaus. They don’t recognize Jesus but they invite the “stranger” to join them for a meal, and they recognize Jesus when he blesses and breaks the bread. As soon as they recognize him, Jesus disappears. The two now return to Jerusalem and report this to the disciples.

Our reading begins when the disciples’ companions were discussing these events and “Jesus himself stood among the disciples and their companions and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’.”

Christ Appears to the Apostles during Supper, by Duccio (1260 - 1318). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Christ Appears to the Apostles during Supper, by Duccio (1260 – 1318). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The disciples are terrified, believing Jesus was a ghost. Jesus calms them down by showing them his hands and feet, and inviting them to touch him. While they are mixed with joy and astonishment, Jesus said, “Have you anything to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish and Jesus ate it. Then Jesus “opened their minds” to understand how the Messiah’s suffering, death, and rising on the third day fulfilled the scriptures, “and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

As our reading from Acts shows, this commission from Jesus began to be enacted through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit which was sent to his followers at Pentecost–and our mission today is to add another link to the great chain of witnesses as we proclaim the love of God embodied in Jesus Christ to the whole world.

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