First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 10:34-43
It is an ancient tradition to read from The Acts of the Apostles during Eastertide. Acts is the second volume of the evangelist Luke. At this point in the story, the apostle Peter has had a strange dream in which a voice had told him “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” At the same time, a Roman Centurion named Cornelius had a dream to seek out Peter and invite him to his home. When Peter arrives, Cornelius, a Gentile, welcomes him, and Peter begins to speak, which is today’s reading. Immediately after this, the Holy Spirit falls down on Cornelius and his family, and the Jesus movement makes a major advance—the Gentiles will be as welcome in this movement as Jews. The speech contains an accusation that “the people of Israel….put him to death by hanging him on a tree.” We know the story is more complicated than that. It was certain Jewish religious authorities who goaded Pilate to send Jesus to a Roman-executed death.
34 Then Peter began to speak to [Cornelius and his household]: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
First Reading: Isaiah 65:17-25
This reading comes near the end of Isaiah, echoing two passages from earlier in the book, Isaiah 25:6-10 and 11:6-9. It is a grand apocalyptic vision of a renewed creation living fully within the dream of God. This new creation hearkens back to Israel’s creation myth with people living extraordinarily long lives and all the curses of life accumulated over the years reversed (except for the serpent!) In Christian terms, this is the fully resurrected life both for humanity and the whole creation.
17 [Thus says the Lord God], I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. 18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress. 20 No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed. 21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain, or bear children for calamity; for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—and their descendants as well. 24 Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. 25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent—its food shall be dust! They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain, says the Lord.
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Psalm 118 has long been associated with Holy Week and Easter. Verses 1-2, 19-29 were appointed for the procession of palms a week ago. Thanksgiving for God’s “steadfast love” is the overall theme. The psalm then goes on to recount the deeds of steadfast love that call for gratitude. Verses 14-24 have so long been associated with Easter that it is hard to hear them in anything other than a Christian resurrection context. The “cornerstone” verse is used by Jesus in Mark (12:10) and Matthew (21:42) and by the apostle Peter in Acts (4:11).
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; *
his mercy endures for ever.
2 Let Israel now proclaim, *
“His mercy endures for ever.”
14 The Lord is my strength and my song, *
and he has become my salvation.
15 There is a sound of exultation and victory *
in the tents of the righteous:
16 “The right hand of the Lord has triumphed! *
the right hand of the Lord is exalted!
the right hand of the Lord has triumphed!”
17 I shall not die, but live, *
and declare the works of the Lord.
18 The Lord has punished me sorely, *
but he did not hand me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of righteousness; *
I will enter them; I will offer thanks to the Lord.
20 “This is the gate of the Lord; *
he who is righteous may enter.”
21 I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *
and have become my salvation.
22 The same stone which the builders rejected *
has become the chief cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing, *
and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 On this day the Lord has acted; *
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26
In Chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks more about his understanding of the resurrection than in any of his letters. The Christians in Corinth were skeptical at some level. Paul begins the chapter by reminding them of what he has taught (15:3-11). In verses 12-19, he argues for the resurrection by use of logic. Todays’ reading is his grand summary, putting the resurrection in the context of the whole story of God. Even Paul, however, cannot escape the reality that believers still die, and so he declares, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” The destruction of death was seen by many early Christians (as well as many still today) as the great purpose of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Second Reading: Acts of the Apostles 10:34-43
For commentary, see above.
Gospel Reading: John 20:1-18
There is no actual story of the resurrection; there is only the empty tomb. In all four Gospels, it is women who are the first witnesses to the empty tomb, chief among them Mary Magdalene. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Mary is accorded the title “apostle” because of this. Another commonality of most post-resurrection stories of Jesus is his identification by the wounds he carries on his body. Did Mary not recognize Jesus because his resurrection body was quite different? Or is he “disguised as the gardener? Or is she still in shock? We do not know. What we do know is that the sound of his voice calling her name triggers her recognition.
1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes. 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Gospel Reading: Luke 24:1-12
There is no story of the resurrection available to us, only that of the discovery of the empty tomb. The four Gospel writers all agree the first witnesses to the empty tomb were women, chief among them Mary Magdalene. In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Mary is accorded the title “apostle” because of this. Luke adds the names of Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and “the other women,” presumably those identified at Luke 8:1 as having been among Jesus’ followers and who “provided for them out of their resources.” Only Luke adds the detail that the [male] disciples did not believe the women when they told of their discovery.
1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, [the women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that ‘the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
The readings are taken from The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible © 1989 by The Division of Christian Education of The National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. The Psalm is the translation of The Book of Common Prayer. Commentary on the readings is Copyright © 2016, Epiphany ESources, 67 E. Main St., Hornell, NY 14843, www.epiphanyesources.com. All rights reserved. Permission given to copy for group study. Bulletin inserts are available. Please see our website