By Barbara Klugh
Acts 10:34-43; Psalm 118:1-2.14-24; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; John20:1-18. Go to www.lectionarypage.net to read or print the weekly lectionary text. Happy Easter! In this week’s readings we have an abundance of Good News. Peter realizes that the Gospel is for everyone, not just the Jews; Paul explains the significance of the Resurrection; and Mary Magdalene is the first person to see the Risen Lord.
Acts 10:34-43: The Book of Acts describes the birth and spread of the Christian Church. For the remaining Sundays of Easter, our first reading will be from Acts instead of from the Old Testament.
In our reading for Easter Day, the Gospel is proclaimed to Gentiles for the first time. Earlier in Acts, we learned that Cornelius, a Roman centurion was a devout believer in God. He had a vision in which he was told to send for the Apostle Peter. Peter had a vision that it was okay to break the Jewish food regulations, and a message that he should go to the home of Cornelius.
Our reading begins with Peter arriving at the home of Cornelius where he had gathered his entire household. “Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all.’” Peter gets it that the gospel is for all—Jews and Gentiles alike.
Peter then gives a brief summary of the gospel: Jesus was baptized, anointed by the Spirit, went about doing good, healed the oppressed, was crucified, was raised by God on the third day, and appeared to selected witnesses. Peter finishes by saying, “everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24: Our psalm is a joyful call to thanksgiving—a perfect psalm for Easter, and we pray it every year. I’ve highlighted vs. 14 in my Prayer Book: The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. And vs. 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!”
1 Corinthians 15:19-26: Paul had helped to found the church in Corinth, but later heard about problems in the church and wrote this letter to address difficult issues. This chapter discusses the Resurrection because some in the church were teaching that there was no such thing as bodily Resurrection of the dead.
Paul begins this chapter by reviewing the gospel message of salvation he had first taught to the Corinthians, “Christ died for our sins…was buried…was raised on the third day” all in fulfillment the scriptures. The Resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of our Christian faith.
In this week’s reading, Paul explains that Christ’s Resurrection is the first fruits of the harvest, and guarantees that we also shall be raised. When Adam ate from the tree of life death became part of human reality. But through the resurrection of Christ, we have a new reality. All who belong to Christ will be made alive when Christ returns. We need to remember that it’s our death that is short; our life is for eternity..
John 20:1-18: In our Easter Gospel, two days have passed since Jesus’ crucifixion and burial; the Passover Sabbath is over. Mary Magdalene, who had witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion, went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been rolled away. She immediately went to inform Peter and the beloved disciple. They ran to the tomb and found only the linen cloths that the body had been wrapped in. The beloved disciple “saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” The disciples then returned home.
Mary stayed at the tomb weeping, and saw two angels, who asked her why she was weeping, She said, “they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where to find him.” Then she turned around and saw Jesus standing there but thought he was the gardener. But when Jesus called her by name, she cried out, “Rabbouni!” Jesus said to Mary, “Do not hold onto me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.” Jesus told Mary to go and tell the disciples that he was ascending to the Father. Mary went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.” Mary was the first disciple to see the Risen Lord.
It wasn’t until last year that I came to believe in the Resurrection. Before then I didn’t know what really happened; only that something happened and accepted it as a mystery. I have come to believe in a deep way that the Resurrection and appearances by the risen Christ are not a mystery at all, but are factually true—still astonishing and mind-boggling to be sure, but absolutely true. If Jesus died, was buried, and remained in the tomb, that would have been the end of the story. What else but a bodily Resurrection could have changed the fearful disciples into courageous witnesses for the Gospel? If Jesus hadn’t been raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples and followers, there would be no Church, no New Testament, and no Christianity. But he was raised from the dead, and here we are, still celebrating 2,000 years later. Alleluia! Alleluia!