1st Reading: Acts of the Apostles 3:12-19
Our first reading is a portion of the apostle Peter’s second sermon in the Book of Acts (3:12-26). It was given to the crowd that had witnessed the healing of a lame man (3:1-11). He implores his listeners to change their minds (repent) about Jesus of Nazareth, in whose name (and by the power of God working through him) this lame man has been healed. Because of Peter’s pointed criticism of his fellow Jews, this passage has in the past been a source of anti-Judaism. It is too simplistic, however, to say that “the Jews” killed Jesus and anti-Judaism has no place among Christians.
3:12 Peter addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. 14 But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you. 17 And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.”
1 Answer me when I call, O God, defender of my cause; *
you set me free when I am hard-pressed;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
2 “You mortals, how long will you dishonor my glory; *
how long will you worship dumb idols
and run after false gods?”
3 Know that the Lord does wonders for the faithful; *
when I call upon the Lord, he will hear me.
4 Tremble, then, and do not sin; *
speak to your heart in silence upon your bed.
5 Offer the appointed sacrifices *
and put your trust in the Lord.
6 Many are saying,
“Oh, that we might see better times!” *
Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O Lord.
7 You have put gladness in my heart, *
more than when grain and wine and oil increase.
8 I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep; *
for only you, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
2nd Reading: 1 John 3:1-7
Our second reading begins with an assurance about the present (we are God’s children now) and the promise of the future (we will see him as he is). It continues with an idealized understanding of the believer’s relationship to sin. The author seems to be saying that you cannot sin and be a believer, although at the beginning of the letter he has said that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1:8). We find this same dynamic in the Rite of Baptism. We renounce all sinful desires (BCP, p. 302) but then promise that whenever we sin we will repent and return (p. 304). It is constant attention to the truth about ourselves, the desire to change, and the act of changing, with God’s grace, that is important here.
3:1 See what love the Father has given 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. 2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 4 Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.
Gospel Reading: Luke 24:36b-48
As our Gospel reading begins, the disciples are together, having just heard two reports of encounters with the risen Jesus—one from Cleopas (the “road to Emmaus” story—24:13-35) and one from Peter (24:12 & 34). Now Jesus appears to them all. His greeting is significant to those who have betrayed and abandoned him, “Peace be with you.” It is a message of forgiveness. He then proves he is not a ghost. He still bears the wounds of his crucifixion and eats a piece of fish. Once he establishes his identity, he “opens their minds” and commissions them as witnesses and messengers of his message of forgiveness, to be proclaimed to all nations. One of the important underlying messages of Luke’s resurrection stories is that the risen Jesus becomes the interpreter of Scripture for the new community that follows him.
24:36b Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence. 44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 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, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.
The Scripture quotations (except for the psalm) are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved. The Psalm translation is from The Book of Common Prayer. Commentaries are copyright © 2017, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved. Permission to copy and edit for church services is given, provided this attribution remains.