Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - April 18, 2021
On the Third Sunday of Easter, the Risen Lord continues to bestow peace on his disciples. Just as we heard in John’s Gospel last week, so this week, Jesus’ first words to his disciples are “Peace be with you.” Last week, Jesus’ peace and blessing comforted the fearful disciples with the breath of the Holy Spirit and sent them out with the power to forgive sins. This week, Jesus’ peace reinforces the disciples’ hope and joy, deepens their understanding of the scriptures, and prepares them to proclaim his resurrection and forgiveness in his name to all the nations.
Today, we hear how the presence of the Risen Lord reassured and prepared the disciples for their mission to proclaim his resurrection to the world. Even though they had heard that Jesus had revealed himself to others - like the two disciples on the road, the disciples in Jerusalem did not believe that Jesus was physically present in their midst. Jesus recognized that they were troubled, and, after bestowing his peace to them, he showed them his hands and feet and invited them to “touch and see,” Jesus strengthened their Easter faith and joy before he ate with them. Then, Jesus prepared them to be witnesses of these things by opening their minds to understand the Scriptures, to understand not only that everything written about him in the law of Moses and the prophets, and the psalms had to be fulfilled but also that, because of his suffering, death, and Resurrection, repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all the nations. When Jesus tells them, “You are witnesses of these things,” Jesus is speaking to all those who, down through the centuries, have received the witness of those first disciples. As we hear about their growth in faith, so we, too, especially at Easter time, open ourselves to the Risen Lord’s presence and rely on his presence in Word and Sacrament to strengthen us for life-long witness.
The witness to the resurrection of our Lord continues to call our attention to the mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation that God establishes through his Son. Proclamation of the Resurrection involves participation in what has been accomplished, and we see this in the other readings from the Acts of the Apostles and the First Letter of John.
In the First Reading, Peter’s speech draws from the Scriptures and reminds the crowd that Jesus is the servant of the God of the Patriarchs, “of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.” Peter reviews how his listeners had been involved in the handing over of God’s Servant to His death. When he talks about “handing over” and “denying,” Peter was very likely remembering the way even Jesus’ disciples had struggled at the moment of our Lord’s passion, with Judas’ handing Jesus over to the authorities and Peter himself denying Jesus. But now, having received the forgiving peace of Jesus, the understanding of the Scriptures, and the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter offers the comforting call to repentance and life offered through Jesus, whose death and resurrection was foretold in their Holy Scriptures. Here is the good news that must be shared with others, and so Peter invites his listeners to immerse themselves in the forgiveness of Christ, who has fulfilled the prophecies of old. God brought to fulfillment what had been foretold. God would not allow suffering and death to be the final word about the Holy and Righteous One, who is the author of life and raised him from the dead. Jesus forgave his disciples. Jesus forgave those who crucified him. Christ, the author of life, is alive and giving life and forgiveness to all who believe. The peace of the resurrected Christ overflows with blessing.
The First Letter of John today puts the finishing touch on the good news. Disciples strive to be faithful to the love of God and to avoid sin. But, when we sin, all is not lost. John tells us that because Christ has died for us, “if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is the expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for the whole world.” All are invited to participate in the blessings of Christ’s resurrection.
From the first century to the twenty-first century, disciples of Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord, have continued to hear and receive his gift of peace. We recognize his presence as we hear God’s word and receive the bread that is broken for us. When we sin, we know we can trust in the advocacy and intercession of our Lord. As people of the resurrection who are guided by the Holy Spirit, we are called to carry our witness into the world - to proclaim that the Christ, who was crucified according to the standards of the world, is raised from the dead and calls us to repentance, forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation. By the power of God’s Spirit working within us, we pray that we will continue to be witnesses to God’s re-creation of the world.
The Resurrection of Christ has renewed and restored the glory of our adoption as God’s children (Collect for Mass). The power, peace, love, and forgiveness of God invite all to participate in the joy of the Resurrection.
“We are witnesses of these things!”