Sunday Scripture Readings

THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER,

MAY 4

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4;

1 John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48

OUR GOOD NEWS: The risen Lord, who fulfilled Old Testament promises, challenges and empowers our deeper faith commitment. "Peter said to the people..." Careful reading uncovers two "layers" in Peter's early proclamation of the Easter Good News (first reading). Today's passage is important, first, for discovering how the faith was presented to Jews in the earliest days. In having Peter begin with reference to "... the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers," Luke was careful to put Jesus in His original context as a Jew. By identifying Jesus as the Lord's "servant," He is acclaimed as last and greatest in a long line of Old Testament figures beginning with Abraham. In particular, Jesus fulfilled Isaiah's mysterious Suffering Servant, who combined unswerving fidelity and obedience toward God with extreme suffering and rejection from his own people. The Messiah, whom Jews rejected, God fully vindicated ("glorified") as ideal Israelite, authentic "Holy and Just One." Paradoxically, these nominal believers forced the hand of Gentile authorities by preferring a "murderer" (Barabbas), killing their "leader (author) to life," a second Moses commissioned to complete the people's liberation and intimacy with God. Jesus succeeded where Moses ultimately failed. In addition to preserving the flavor of primitive Christology, Luke anachronistically inserted his own (later) themes into Peter's address. Pro-Gentile sympathies minimized Pilate's guilt (he was "ready to release him") for what in fact could only have been Roman execution by crucifixion. Luke typically went further, having Peter address his Jewish audience with a title ("my brothers") reserved for fellow Christians. Their ignorance of the fuller picture explained why God offered a second chance to turn from sinful resistance and toward Him in humble obedience. Also specifically Lucan are emphasis on fulfillment of Scripture and the apostles' role as official "witness" to the Good News they proclaimed. Peter is a model for us in our preaching and catechizing, combining new and old while challenging with gentleness. This sensitivity to alienated sinners encourages repentance and faith commitment. This empowering challenge is reflected in today's psalm. In time of need we cry out for deliverance by a God who is "just" - who vindicates our right rather than condemns us, who upholds our just cause. Present confidence is grounded in His having regularly done so in the past, although we can make no claim upon His help - asking "pity" rather than our due. The psalmist then proclaims to others, including oppressors, God's providential concern for the person careful to live out a special covenant relationship with God and others - meaning of "faithful one." Toward such, the sovereign Lord turns His face, offering "the light of His countenance" - favor and love resulting in personal presence and attention. But witness to divine care includes challenge: Those longing for blessing must dispose themselves through God-fearing lives. For us, each day's difficulties are made bearable because of a profound "security" flowing from God's constant divine presence.

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