Engaging the Word: Readings for 4/3/16 (The Second Sunday of Easter)

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By Barbara Klugh

 Acts 5:27-32; Psalm 150; Revelation1:4-8; John 19-31. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. In this week’s readings, the apostles Peter and John proclaim the Good News, John has a vision of Jesus as the Alpha and the Omega, and Thomas declares Jesus to be “My Lord and my God!”

John and Peter by Albrecht Durer, 1526. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John and Peter by Albrecht Durer, 1526. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Acts 5:27-32: During the Easter season the Old Testament readings are replaced with readings from the Acts of the Apostles. It’s a sequel to Luke’s gospel and it tells the story of the birth and early years of the church.

Earlier in the Book of Acts, Peter and John healed a lame man. Then they spoke to the crowd in Jerusalem about Jesus being the Messiah whom God raised from the dead, and many more were healed. Their actions caught the attention of the ruling authorities and they were ordered to stop. But they didn’t stop and they were imprisoned for blasphemy—for preaching the resurrection. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and told them to go back to preaching in the temple. When the council met the next day and asked to have the prisoners sent to stand before them, the temple police found they were missing. Then they learned that Peter and John were “standing in the temple and teaching the people!”

In this week’s reading, the temple police retrieved Peter and John and brought them before the council. The high priest asked them why they ignored the strict orders not to teach in Jesus’ name. The apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” Then the apostles proclaimed the Good News—that God raised up and exalted Jesus as Leader and Savior, to bring forgiveness to those who repent of their sins. They were witnesses, as “is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” The lectionary ends here but, as you might imagine, the council was enraged and wanted to kill them. Gamaliel, a wise teacher, persuaded them to leave the apostles alone “because if this plan is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!”

 Psalm 150: In this, the last psalm of the Psalter, we are called to rejoice and give praise, and make music for God’s surpassing greatness. The final verse is a fitting conclusion to the Psalter: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Hallelujah!” 

Jesus, Alpha and Omega, Emmaus Monastery, Prague. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Jesus, Alpha and Omega, Emmaus Monastery, Prague. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Revelation 1:4-8: In the Book of Revelation, John announces that he has received a revelation from Jesus Christ revealing God’s ultimate purposes for creation. It opens as a letter as a letter to seven churches in Asia.

In this week’s reading, John sends greetings to the church from the eternal Father, from the seven spirits, which may be the seven archangels who are closest to God, and from Jesus Christ, “the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.”

We give praise because Christ loves us, freed us from our sins, and by his blood and made us to be a kingdom of priests to serve God the Father.

John then announces the second coming of Jesus: “Look! He is coming in the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail.” Then Jesus or God (scholars debate) proclaims, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

The incredulity of Thomas by Maerten de Vos, 1574. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The incredulity of Thomas by Maerten de Vos, 1574. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

John 20:19-31: This week’s reading from John’s Gospel is read every year on the Second Sunday of Easter. It’s late on the day of the Resurrection, and the disciples are hiding out behind locked doors because they were afraid for their lives. The risen Christ is no longer restricted by physical limitations.

Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Thomas, who was not with the other disciples when Jesus came, said, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

In Journey to the Heart of God, Philip Pfatteicher writes, “The selection of the Gospel for the Sunday of St. Thomas is a consolation and encouragement for those thoughtful people who find the resurrection difficult or impossible to comprehend. The mystery of the resurrection continues to unfold throughout the great Fifty Days of Easter.”

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