Engaging the Word: 4/16/17 (The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Sunday)

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 By Barbara Klugh

Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Colossians 3:1-4; Matthew 28:1-10. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. Happy Easter! This week’s readings are about a living hope of new life for all God’s children—even us—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

St. Peter preaching by Masolino da Panicale (1383-1440). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Peter preaching by Masolino da Panicale (1383-1440). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Acts 10:34-43: The Book of Acts describes the birth and spread of the Christian Church. During the season of Easter the first lesson is from the Book of Acts instead of from the Old Testament.

This week’s reading may seem familiar, as we read it in January on the first Sunday after the Epiphany, which celebrated the Baptism of Our Lord. In our passage, the Gospel is proclaimed to Gentiles for the first time. Earlier in Acts, we learn that Cornelius, a Roman centurion is a devout believer in God. He had a vision in which he was told to send for the Apostle Peter. Peter had a vision that it was okay to break the Jewish food regulations, and a message to go to the home of Cornelius.

Our reading begins with Peter arriving at the home of Cornelius where he had gathered his entire household. “Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all.’” Peter gets it that the gospel is for all—Jews and Gentiles alike.

Peter then gives a brief summary of the gospel: Jesus was baptized, anointed by the Spirit, went about doing good, healed the oppressed, was crucified, was raised by God on the third day, and appeared to selected witnesses. Peter finishes by saying, “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Girl with tambourine by Alexy Trranov, c.1836. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

By Alexy Trranov, c.1836. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24: Our psalm is a joyful call to thanksgiving—a perfect psalm for Easter, and we pray it every year. I’ve highlighted vs. 14 in my Prayer Book: The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. And vs.16: “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! the right hand of the Lord is exalted! the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!”

In the parable of the wicked tenants, Jesus quotes from vs. 22-23, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” And we say, Yes, Yes! Alleluia, Alleluia!

Colossians 3:1-4: Earlier in Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, Paul made the case that we have been raised to new life by faith in Christ. In this week’s reading Paul helps us to deal with the question, “How are we to live in this new way?” Paul says we need to set our minds on heavenly things, not on earthly things—on the eternal, not the temporal. We need to allow Christ to shape our behavior. To me Paul is promising a spiritual resurrection for us  that is an echo of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  When Christ appears in glory at the end of time, then we Christians will be revealed with Christ in glory as well. What a promise!

Holy Women at the tomb, Walters manuscript, 1684. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Holy Women at the tomb, Walters manuscript, 1684. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Matthew 28:1-10: He is risen! In this week’s reading, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (mother of James and Joseph) come to Jesus’ tomb. “And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.” In scripture, earthquakes signify that God is up to something Big! You may recall that earlier in Matthew’s gospel (27:51), there was an earthquake when Jesus breathed his last.

The angel says, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised.” The angel tells the women to share the glorious news with the disciples, and inform them that Jesus will meet them in Galilee.

In awe and joy, the woman ran to tell the disciples. “Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’”

I like reading Bible commentaries because writers point out details that lead me to a deeper understanding of the text. For example, in Chris Haslam’s commentary for the last two sentences of our Gospel reading, he notes that when Jesus meets the Mary’s again later and they “they took hold of his feet” it confirms Jesus’ bodily resurrection. When Jesus refers to his disciples as “brothers,” it shows that Jesus had forgiven them for deserting him.

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