Scripture notes – 3rd Sunday of Easter – Year B – 14th April 2024

Our Eastertide readings continue with a portrait of how Jesus’ resurrection affected the apostles in different ways – giving birth to the early Church.

The readings are available online here.

Acts of the Apostles 3:13-15, 17-19
Luke is the only writer in the New Testament to follow his Gospel with a history of the first days of the Church after the Ascension of Jesus. Acts includes a number of speeches, summaries rather than word for word transcriptions. The first ones have many references to the Resurrection and so are selected for the Easter season. In this passage, Peter and John have just gone to the temple for prayer – an interesting point for us modern-day Christians, as it shows they still understand themselves as faithful, practising members of the Jewish community.

A disabled man begs for money on the way in and, for the first time, Peter and John exercise the healing ministry they saw their Master do so many times; and in a similar, very direct way – by simply commanding the sufferer to do the one thing they cannot do. (Walk; or hear, see, etc.)

Presumably that got everyone’s attention, and clearly Peter is not going to waste the opportunity of a good crowd.  The sermon he preaches is, politely put, ‘bold’ – indeed confrontational. He openly accuses his Jewish listeners of responsibility for Jesus’ death; gives them a graceful way out (their ignorance), and also begins to interpret Jesus’ death against the backdrop of the Hebrew Scriptures, presenting it as the fulfilment of these texts about the chosen but suffering one. (The first of many Christian preachers to do so.) He invites their repentance, as the act that will wipe away this complicity.

His boldness is so ‘in your face’, very confrontational in tackling their Jewish communities on how their leaders had killed Jesus, that he and John are promptly arrested. Acts chapter 4 will go on to tell the story of their arrest, but also how the consequence of this preaching and the healing increased the number of believers to 5,000. In terms of social psychology – or just human nature – it is pretty remarkable that such a guilt-inducing, confrontational call received such a positive response!

1 John 2:1-5
The writer of this Letter often speaks in ‘black and white’ about good and evil as if there was no middle ground where we may fail, but not be condemned. Here, however, is the reassurance that if we sin or fail to live up to the loving commandments of God, we can always find forgiveness in Jesus.

‘Truth’ is an important concept in the writings named for ‘John’, and it means more than the way usually understood today of something ‘actually happening’. It is perhaps closer to our idea of the fullness of ‘what is really real’.
‘To know’ is more than just a mental understanding, but refers to taking something on in depth and experiencing it. If we truly ‘know’ God, we act out of understanding of his love for us and the love he commands us to share.

Luke 24:35-48
The opening of this reading refers to the verses just preceding, which are not read at Sunday mass in Year B. They record the first appearance of the risen Jesus in Luke to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:13-35).

Today’s selection is the climax of Luke’s gospel with an appearance to a larger group of disciples just before Jesus ascends to his Father in heaven. They are ‘startled’ and ‘terrified’, common reactions in the Bible to something that seems to come from a world outside our normal experience. They think first of a spirit appearing – like our idea of a ghost – a form without a real body. To make clear the reality of his new life as including body, Jesus asks for some food. As they see him eat, they can accept the reality of his full humanity. The wounds of the cross are still apparent, as they were to Thomas in John’s Gospel. Though no longer causing pain, this record of his willingness to suffer until death has now become a glorious remembrance. Luke has often mentioned ‘joy’ but here the disciples seem almost delirious in their happiness. He also shows an astuteness about how hard it was to take in fully, as people often say now, ‘I can’t believe it!’ or ‘it’s too good to be true’.

Luke explains that the disciples did not fully understand the meaning of Jesus’ death and rising as part of God’s loving will until he taught them how it was foreshadowed in the Old Testament. In a little echo of the preceding reading from Acts, we see that early believers had to make sense for themselves of how the events of Jesus death and resurrection somehow conform to, and indeed fulfil, what is written in the Hebrew Scriptures that were the word of God, and remain so for us modern Christians.

As witnesses to how this scripture was carried out in Jesus, the disciples are now to preach to all nations. Luke can imagine a longer time span than some early New Testament writings which show the expectation of Jesus’ ‘Second Coming’ happening very soon, or are concerned to explain the delay.

Jerusalem has played an important part in Luke’s gospel, and the new era will start there. But, Luke stresses, that from now on Jesus and his teachings will be no longer limited to the Holy City and the Jewish people. Accounts in Acts, the sequel of this Gospel, will show the Good News spreading out until it reaches the capital of the empire in Rome, which for that time was representative of the ‘whole world’. We living today are also to inherit that promise and its fulfilment. This generation is also called to do our part, in words and action, to carry out Jesus’ call to prepare the world for God’s coming.

Joan Griffith/GGD

Suggestions for prayer or reflection:

    • Both Peter’s preaching in the Acts passage and the final texts of this Gospel passage link belief in the risen Christ with repentance (‘turning’, in Greek) and forgiveness. Does this mean anything to me? Is this obvious what significance it has in my life, or is it a puzzle?