3rd Sunday of Easter — Sunday 19th April 2015
Acts 3:12-19 1 John 3:1-7 Luke 24:36b-48
Our readings this week contain curious mixture of boldness and doubt. In the Gospel reading, Jesus is confident in the fulfilment of scripture, but the disciples are frightened and disbelieving; in Acts, the disciples are now courageous, but their hearers are gobsmacked and mistaken; and in the Epistle, God’s children can be audaciously pure but the world looks on with incomprehension.
The Lord appeared to his disciples in the midst of a conversation they were having about him to bring them peace. Still uncertain about the initial reports of his resurrection, they are startled and terrified, believing at first that he must be a ghostly apparition and not a solidly physical resurrection body. He seeks to calm their fears and doubts with evidence — “touch me… watch me eat!”, which causes exhilarating joy to rise in their hearts though not yet with unfettered exuberance. Only as the fog cleared and their minds were opened to understand the scriptures, did they grasp the significance of what they were witnessing.
In Acts, those same disciples set about the task that Jesus had laid out before them that day. They were to be his witnesses, and proclaim his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem.
That start in the capital was surprising and confusing to the people there. But Peter sought to calm their astonishment and focus their minds. Rather than staring at him and John, as if they had healed the lame beggar by the Beautiful Gate through they own power or piety, he directed their attention to the Author of Life.
Their bewilderment turned to faith and assurance as Peter unfolded the plan of God that Jesus had unveiled. The God of the scriptures, the God of the promise, had foretold the recent events of that gloomy Passover — how the Messiah would suffer and be killed. They must respond in repentance and faith in the now living Christ, or face his judgment as Moses had foreseen.
Acts 4:4 tells us many of them did just that, with the number of those whose sins were wiped out growing to 5,000 men.
As Acts 4 also begins to show, many would not recognise what had happened, or believe the testimony of the Apostles to the resurrection. The Father’s lavish love makes us children of God. Yet the world does not know us as such. It did not know God when he stood right in front of them. Even when he fulfilled the greatest prophecies of scripture by dying for us before their very eyes, he was not acknowledged. When our eyes are opened, the truth is revealed. And one day, every eye will see him, and see us as we truly are to God.
The application of this glorious hope is plain and clear in John’s letter. “All who have this hope in him, purify themselves just as he is pure.” He was revealed to take away sin, and in him there was no sin. So how can we go on clinging to the very weights that relentlessly pressed his shoulders towards the depths of the grave? John, who saw the lame beggar walk, warns us that some will try to deceive us on this score. But the one who does what is right is righteous, not the one who claims to be a child of God but has not yet glimpsed the beauty of holiness.
They will walk in the light, not wallow in sin and call it good. Let us be warned, and not doubt.