Bishop's Lectionary Reflection
Third Sunday of Easter, Year B
April 18, 2021
God has just accomplished a wonderful thing – through Peter, God has healed a lame man in the sight of all the people. Not recognizing the presence of God, the people attribute the healing to Peter’s abilities and powers. In this text, Peter is quick to refute that notion. Peter lays out reality for what it is. He is not the one who did the healing. Jesus did. Then Peter goes on to remind those who watch of the current status of their relationship with this Jesus. Jesus is the one that they rejected and handed over to be killed. Jesus is the one that they abandoned in favor of a murderer (Barabbas). Jesus is the author of life whom they killed. Jesus is the one in whose face they acted ignorantly. But, Peter proclaims, God has used all of their ignorant actions to glorify His Son and Himself and to fulfill His promises. In the face of what they have just witnessed, Peter exhorts, they are to repent and to turn to God.
This is a good time to assess the status of our own faith. Do our own lives reflect places where we have rejected Jesus and asked for something else instead? Do we attribute Jesus’s saving acts in our own lives to our own powers or to the powers of other humans? Where have we smothered out the abundant life that God has given us? How can we turn back to God?
Just as the crowds asked for the release of Barabbas and not the Son of God, we too often look to something else to bring us satisfaction. In this Psalm, the psalmist calls us to worship God, and not something false (an idol) which will not bring us happiness. Often, when we are hard pressed and beset by trials, we are tempted to turn to idols or to ask God for special favors. The psalmist reminds us that the Lord does wonders for the faithful and that we are held in Him. We should persevere in what is appointed in order to honor God.
To what idol do you turn when you feel that the world is closing in on you? Security? Prestige? Wealth? To what appointed sacrifices is God inviting you to attend? Time in prayer and study? Worship? Acts of kindness for those less fortunate? Psalm 4 is an invitation to move outside ourselves into the needs of the world.
1 John 3:1-7
This epistle sings the praise of God’s love which is characterized by God’s making us into and calling us His children. The world does not recognize our status as God’s children because it does not know or recognize God. But, John claims, it is clear that we are children of God. Furthermore, being children of God is only a starting point, because what we will be in future, John claims, has not yet been fully revealed. That moment of revelation will be exciting because at that time John is certain that we will be fully revealed as being just like Jesus – completely pure! In the meantime, we should strive for that endpoint – purity. We are made pure by Christ; we strive for purity through acts of righteousness.
If you understand yourself to be truly God’s child, what does that mean for you today? How can you strive for purity and righteousness? Can you imagine being totally pure just as Jesus is pure? This is our hope and God’s promise!
In this Gospel account, even as the disciples are telling the Good News of Jesus, Jesus comes and stands among them and manifests that Good News in their presence. The Good News is proclaimed both by sight and word! Jesus challenges their fears and doubts: “Why are you frightened and why do doubts arise in your hearts?” He then commands them to use their senses which God has given them in order to understand that He is raised from the dead: “Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see….” Jesus commands all of this to help us dispel our doubts and fears. Look. See. Touch. And then watch me eat, Jesus says. There should be no fear that I have gone away. There should be no doubt that I am raised from the dead in the flesh! The information that comes to the disciples through their senses is dizzying – no wonder they experience joy, disbelief and wonderment all at once! But Jesus knows how to ground them – even as their senses bring them this wonderful news, Jesus opens their ears and hearts to hear His word through Scripture.
In our own lives, we are beset by fears and doubts. Jesus stands among us: “Why are you frightened and why do doubts arise in your hearts.” And then He commands us: Look. See. Touch. Are we looking for Him? Do we see Him? Do we touch Him? Do we hear Him asking for something to eat and do we give it? Do we allow the presence of Christ among us, eating with us, to dispel the doubts and fears which beset us? Where do you see Christ today? Where does He stand among you?
O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.