Second Sunday of Easter
April 3, 2005
I didn’t manage to restart these notes before Lent as I had planned and stated on the web page, but they are restarted now. I am no longer including my working translation so I can focus more on the interpretive process. Where I have worked such translations over enough, they will be found on my Totally Free Bible Version page, a project to work on Bible translation in public with input from anybody and everybody and the result free to anybody. Whether there is an entry there or not, I will include a link to a translation of the passage on the Bible Gateway, normally from the Contemporary English Version (CEV). I apologize for the long break in posting these notes, and hope the new style will be helpful.
At the bottom of the page is a form for posting response notes. This will allow readers to add their own comments and thoughts.
- Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Peter opens the proclamation of the gospel.
- Psalm 16
Celebration of deliverance.
- 1 Peter 1:3-9
The outcome of the testing of our faith.
- John 20:19-31
Jesus appears to the disciples and the doubting of Thomas.
I continue to emphasize the theme of how people responded, and respond, to the resurrection of Jesus. In the easter evening lectionary passages we found responses ranging from joy through confusion and all the way to fear and hiding. Today we add proclamation to those responses.
Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Peter launched the gift of exhortation with his sermon in Acts two. We will see several passages from Acts 2 in the readings this easter season. What is the strength of Peter’s proclamation?
- He is speaking of something he has witnessed.
- He has gone through, temptation, trial, failure, and triumph.
- He has waited for the empowering of God’s Spirit.
- He acts in the timing and under the authority of the Spirit.
Those are some things to look for in the proclamation of God’s message. Too frequently we try to talk about things that we know from books but that are not part of our own experience. Your testimony and your proclamation will always be weaker when you try to talk about things that don’t relate directly to your own walk with God. The only way to make sure that much of what you preach does relate to your own walk is to walk and talk constantly with God. I find that I can study diligently and prepare very well for a sermon, but if I haven’t spent time in meditation and prayer, and if I haven’t listened for the Holy Spirit to impress me with what is most critical, I find that the sermon is somewhat flat. If I take the prayer time and do less technical study, I will find the sermon well received and powerful, even though it may bother me for technical reasons. Ideally we allow enough time for both, of course, and proclaim with a combination of all our skill, knowledge, and experience with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Take careful note of the extensive quotations for Psalm 16, the next lectionary passage. This connection between the Old and New Testaments can be very important. I recommend the chapter entitled “The Best Story in the Old Testament: The Messiah” from the book Who’s Afraid of the Old Testament God? published by Energion Publications.
As you read this Psalm, ask yourself how appropriate it is as a prayer in the mouth of Jesus. I suspect there are some things that we might wonder about. Does Jesus need God the Father to show him the path of light? But if we consider more deeply, I think we will see that this prayer, ancient already in the time of Jesus fits quite well with his ministry. I have already mentioned the quotation of this passage in Acts 2:22-32 above, but I want to suggest that this is a passage that was originally a prayer for an ordinary person that became totally appropriate in the mouth of Jesus, and provided a strong connection to the Hebrew scriptures for the early Christian proclamation of the resurrection. Remember, Peter didn’t go looking through the Bible, find scriptures, and decide from them that Jesus would be resurrected. Faced with the fact of resurrection, Peter looked for scriptures that would help make sense of what he knew.
We may look to prophecy as a form of proof, but to the disciples it was more an aid to understanding things that they already knew. They knew who Jesus was. They knew he had died, and they knew he was raised from the dead. How would your testimony change if you started from that point?
I personally have experienced much doubt. I’m much more in tune with Thomas than Peter at this point in the story. But there came a time in my experience when I became experientially convinced that God was real. All the arugments I had ever seen couldn’t convince me. But then I experienced personally the risen Christ, and knew his presence. After that, all arguments seemed simply too weak for the reality. The question became “How can this be true?” instead of “Is this really true?”. I think the disciples went through that transition at some point (a different point for each, I suspect) during the days and weeks after the resurrection.
One good guess at the date of 1 Peter is in the 60s, probably early in the 60s. But even if it is that early, we know it would be late in Peter’s life, and it is around 30 or so years after the time of the resurrection. We have here the proclamation, aged and distilled, but still full of life. Compare the two proclamations and ask yourself when you might have sounded like each one.
Here there is much more comment on suffering and waiting. Peter in Acts 2 had been through trials and seen failure and finally triumph. Here he has experienced long waiting and he is talking to people who have gone through suffering. Just how sure is their hope? Peter’s assurance is still strong. He acknowledges the suffering and the difficulties. He acknowledges the waiting, but he still sees the sure hope, the inheritance that Jesus has for us.
Does your hope stay steady for the long haul? Thirty years after your first proclamation of Jesus, will you still give the same proclamation, seasoned by the experience of the years, but still strong?
Out of this passage I want to focus on “doubting” Thomas. I think the poor guy gets a bad deal from most preaching. I sympathize with him a great deal. He knows, as I do, that resurrection is really impossible. He knows that Jesus was crucified, and now all these folks are babbling about seeing Jesus. This is the early proclamation, even before Pentecost, before the full empowering. This is the spread of a new work of God through the community itself. Thomas is uncertain. Perhaps they are all being crazy. Perhaps hope is making them see things that aren’t actually there.
We aren’t told, but I suspect the disciples are pretty impatient with Thomas. After all, they have the evidence of their own eyes, and they are convinced! What more does he need?
In the church, when God is moving and doing something new, we are often just as impatient. Why can’t people see it? It’s so obvious! They just need to shut up and get on board. I imagine that was what Thomas lived through until Jesus provided him with the evidence he asked for.
Notice that! Jesus provided him with the evidence he wanted. While others were just annoyed, Jesus was willing to provide. I think that indicates that Thomas’s doubt was genuine and sincere and that he truly was ready to be persuaded. We need to have similar patience with one another and allow Jesus to communicate with each person individually.