SUN­DAY SER­VICE

The Church of England - - BOOKS / SUNDAY - Dr Lee Gatiss is au­thor of The Forgotten Cross (Evan­gel­i­cal Press) and Direc­tor of Church So­ci­ety (www.church­so­ci­ety.org).

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.

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