Engaging the Word: 4/23/17 (The Second Sunday of Easter)

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 By Barbara Klugh

Acts 2:14a, 22-32; Psalm 16; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. As you may notice, this is The Second Sunday of Easter—not after Easter. Easter is a season lasting for fifty days, from Easter Day until the Day of Pentecost, so we get to continue the celebration. Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed!

In this week’s readings, Peter preaches the first Christian sermon; in the epistle we learn Jesus’ Resurrection offers us “a new birth into a living hope;” and the risen Christ appears to his disciples behind locked doors, and later invites Thomas to touch his wounds.

St. Peter preaching at Pentecost by Benjamin West (1738-1820). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Peter preaching at Pentecost by Benjamin West (1738-1820). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Acts 2:1-4a, 22-32: We will read from the book of The Acts of the Apostles instead of from the Old Testament throughout the Easter season. Acts tells about the beginnings of Christianity, and much of Acts shows how Jesus fulfills Old Testament prophesy. This week’s reading takes place on the Day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples with tongues of fire, and the disciples began speaking in various languages. The crowd was amazed.

Peter then gives the first Christian sermon. He reminded the crowd of Joel’s prophecy: that in the last days, God promised, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,” regardless of age, gender, or class.

In our reading, Peter tells about Jesus of Nazareth who performed “deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him.” His enemies had him crucified, “But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.” Peter then quotes from Psalm 16, where King David predicted the resurrection of the Messiah, not David himself, who died and was buried, but Jesus, David’s descendent. “This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses.”

Psalm 16: We have another favorite psalm of mine, a song about living with joy, trust, and security as we follow the way of God, however imperfectly. Peter quoted Psalm 16: 8-11 in our reading from Acts, which seems to predict the resurrection of Christ.

St. Peter by A.W.N. Pugin (1812-1852). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

St. Peter by A.W.N. Pugin (1812-1852). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

1 Peter 1:3-9: Although scholars debate whether the Apostle Peter wrote this letter, I will stay with tradition and consider Peter the author. The letter is addressed to “the exiles of the Dispersion,” which was a term used for Christians living in provinces of the Roman Empire. It was a general (or catholic) letter, meant to encourage followers of Jesus who were suffering persecution from the Roman government We’ll have passages from 1 Peter throughout the Easter season.

Peter is full of passion and conviction. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Peter tells his readers that they have an inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,” being kept in heaven and protected by the power of God. The protection and power of God doesn’t mean Christians won’t suffer trials—in fact, trials test us and purify our faith like a refining fire. He reminds us of the wonderful gift of faith: “Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”

Appearance Behind Locked Doors by Duccio (1268-1318). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Appearance Behind Locked Doors by Duccio (1268-1318). 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 tells us that three days after the crucifixion of Jesus, the disciples are hiding out behind locked doors because they were afraid for their lives.

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.”

The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Caravaggio, c.1610. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Incredulity of St. Thomas by Caravaggio, c.1610. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

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.”

We, the readers of John’s Gospel two thousand years later, no longer have physical proof, yet Jesus calls us blessed because we “have not seen and yet have come to believe.” Now that’s Amazing Grace, indeed.

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