3rd Sunday of Easter, year B, 2015 (preached 4/19/15)
first reading: Acts 3:12-19
second reading: 1 John 3:1-7
gospel reading: Luke 24:36b-48
The days after Easter must have been chaotic and troubling for Jesus’ followers. We have several accounts like last week’s and today’s readings, where the presence of the resurrected Jesus among the disciples cause fear and doubt and confusion.
We can only imagine how they must have felt. How would YOU feel if someone you loved and believed dead suddenly appeared before you?
Some of us might be convinced that we had gone MAD – others that we must have eaten or smoked something funny, other, that we must be dreaming, and other might believe we were seeing an angel or a ghost.
We’ve had movies and tv shows with these kinds of storylines – remember “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” “Touched by an Angel,” “Ghost,” and “Highway to Heaven?”
But this was no angel, no apparition. This was a dead man come back to life, and we read the disciples were “startled” and “terrified.” Jesus understood that he needed to show his followers he wasn’t a ghost or an angel. He needed to show them that he was real flesh and blood. And how did he do this? He ATE.
The One who had shared the Passover with his disciples as a farewell meal, was now joining them in everyday food!
But Jesus intended more than simply proving that he was a real LIVE person. He began to tell them again the purpose of him being human in the first place. And the end of his work on earth, Jesus was now bringing the disciples to the place where they would begin their work.
We read in verses 45-47: “Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'”
In this statement, Jesus highlights three important things.
- First, that he IS the Messiah, and that his death and resurrection are not only real, but also the way God is bringing healing and reconciliation to the earth.
Jesus was a real man, died a real death for you and me, and was resurrected. Through his sacrifice we are made part of God’s family – as we read in the first letter of John today – we are God’s children, and brothers and sisters of one another.
- The second point Jesus makes is that repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be proclaimed.
This would be a new twist on an old theme. The disciples knew the Jewish practice of calling for repentance. We have good examples of this all through the Old Testament prophets through John the Baptist. But Jesus had the authority to do more than just preach repentance – he proclaimed FORGIVENESS.
Now that Jesus is risen, repentance and forgiveness will always go together, and God’s forgiveness becomes the pivotal piece of a disciple’s proclamation.
- Thirdly, Jesus tells us that this word, HIS word, is to go to all nations.
The word of repentance and forgiveness, Jesus’ act on the cross, does not belong only to the Hebrew nation, even if it begins there. There is no birthright involved or at stake. The word about Jesus, and what God has done for us through Jesus goes out to all people – of every race and nationality, every age, every economic and social class. The message of the gospel is for EVERYONE.
Jesus proclaimed the gospel of God’s love – of repentance and forgiveness, throughout his earthly ministry. The distinction that is made after the resurrection, is that the Word Jesus brought, the Word Jesus IS, and its proclamation, now belongs to his followers – YOU and ME.
At first it was Jesus’ work, but after his resurrection and ascension, he passed on that work to all of us who follow him. Jesus became human like us, died and rose for us, so that the Word of God could be proclaimed IN, AMONG, and FROM the people of God.
Jesus wants us not only to love him, but also to love each other. God wants people not only to repent, but to know that they’re forgiven.
Now, I would bet that the average Christian doesn’t necessarily think of him or herself as a proclaimer. But Jesus makes it clear in this passage that the work of proclaiming belongs to all those who follow him. We have the gift of salvation, not to hoard it or keep it to ourselves, but so that we may share it with others. And we are made proclaimers through gift of Holy Baptism.
But what does it mean to be a proclaimer?
Many people think, “Sunday sermon,” or “pastor’s job.” And that’s true, but that’s only one kind of proclaiming. You and I proclaim God in countless ways everyday.
When a neighbor is helped – in a soup kitchen or food pantry, by a nail hammered in home repair, a ride to the doctor, a kind word for a young mom or dad struggling with a toddler at the grocery store, standing with someone being bullied, praying for the sick, giving a much needed hug – the list goes on and on.
This is proclaiming Jesus’ love through our actions. A saying attributed to St. Francis goes something like: “Proclaim the gospel, when necessary use words.”
But there are also words – when we share how much God has done for us, how much Jesus’ love impacts our lives – you don’t need a fancy theological degree to do that!
In this Easter season, may we all be moved by Jesus’ love for us, and also moved by his words to us today: “that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations…”