3rd Sunday of Easter

Collect

Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
                   with the sight of the risen Lord:
give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

 

Acts 3.12-19

Peter said: “Men of Israel, why are you surprised? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.

“Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”

 

1 John 3.1-7

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No-one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No-one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

 

Luke 24.36b-48

Jesus stood among the disciples and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

 

Reflection by Arthur Edwards

 

Some years ago, I established contact with a friend and ex-work colleague that I had lost touch with thirty or forty years before.  Barbara and I had worked together with him for several years and I discovered that he had been living abroad but visited his mother in England every summer.  We arranged to meet when he visited England the following summer.  We remembered him as he was when we last saw him and we were all shocked at how we had changed over the intervening years.  Talking together we soon re-established our relationship largely by talking about the past and telling our stories of what had happened to us since we last met.  It was not so much about what we looked like as the people we were and had become.

The gospel story this morning is about the disciples re-connecting with someone they had lost contact with, Jesus.  It follows on from the Emmaus Road story we heard last week, and there are similarities in them.  The risen Jesus appears to the disciples and is recognised at a meal, something he had shared with them on many occasions.  This recognition happened in the familiar things they had shared during their time together.  He had explained the scriptures to them in order to strengthen their faith; that as the prophets had foretold he must die at the hands of the authorities and rise again on the third day.  At Emmaus the disciples had recognised Jesus ‘at the breaking of the bread’, and here in the upper room, they only believe that he is real when he asks for something to eat and eats the broiled fish he is offered by the disciples.

Two of the disciples had come breathless from Emmaus to tell the others the tale of meeting the risen Jesus on the road.  Suddenly, Jesus was there again standing among his friends in Jerusalem.  On the Emmaus road he had appeared initially incognito, and at the very moment of recognition he had vanished.  Here the disciples cannot believe their eyes and are afraid of this ‘spirit’ among them.  Jesus needs to prove to them that he is truly there among them, solid and physical.  He is no ‘spirit’.  He asks for something to eat and is offered some broiled fish which he proceeds to eat before them.  They know from the scriptures that ‘Angels’ do not eat!  Jesus reminds them of the teaching he had given them long before, drawing from ancient scriptures and prophesies of his death and resurrection.  Soon would come mission and the offer of a new way of living.  The friends who witnessed his risen presence would have a vital role in telling this gospel.

There are resonances with other passages in the New Testament.  (John 20:19-20).  The taking of bread and fish (v30 and 42-43) recalls the feeding of a crowd (9:15-17).   Paul’s summary of the Old Testament messages about Jesus and the Church’s preaching is contained in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).  The appearance of Jesus here also establishes the corporeality of the risen Christ.  When he appeared to the disciples they supposed they saw a ‘spirit’.  This is contradicted by the physical proof of his hands and feet, and his ability to eat.  The risen Jesus not only eats, he also can be seen and touched.  He has truly defeated death.  His victory over death is not to be seen as an escape from his perishable frame but a transformation of it.  But at the same time it is not purely a spiritual event, he still has flesh and bones.  He is however immortal in that he is not limited by time and space.

Luke is keen to emphasise in this chapter of his Gospel the fact that what was said about Jesus in the Old Testament has been fulfilled and that the disciples have witnessed it.  The trial, death and resurrection of Jesus have all taken place before them.  ‘You are witnesses to these things.’  They are therefore ideally placed to engage in the mission of spreading the good news.  ‘Repentance and forgiveness will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem.’  The resurrection appearances of Jesus were essential in underlining his credentials as the risen Lord.  The disciples were prepared for the task ahead, knowing that they would be spreading the word they had received from the risen Jesus. 

In the reading from Acts we hear Peter speaking to the crowds who had come because of the healing of the crippled man.  The crowds had been astonished to see that the man had been healed.  Peter tells them that it is not through his own power that the man has been healed but in the name of the God of their forefathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and his Son Jesus Christ.  Here is another case where the retelling of scripture is used to strengthen their faith.  The suggestion here is that the Jewish authorities had got it all wrong when they condemned Jesus to death and killed him.  Peter tells them that God is willing to forgive them if they repent.  Although there was antagonism towards the disciples, we are told that many believed and joined the Church.  Do we share this confidence in him?  Do we know the risen Jesus and are we able to tell others about our faith in him?

 

Post Communion Prayer

Living God,
your Son made himself known to his disciples
in the breaking of bread:
open the eyes of our faith,
that we may see him in all his redeeming work;
who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.

 

Copyright acknowledgement (where not already indicated above):

1 John 3.1-7 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Acts 3.12-19 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Luke 24.36b-48 ©  1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Pub. Hodder & Stoughton
Post Communion (3rd of Easter) ©  1985 Anglican Church of Canada: The Book of Alternative Services
Collect (3rd of Easter) ©  The Archbishops' Council 2000