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Third Sunday of Easter

Sermon for Easter 3

Readings: Acts 3:12–20; 1 John 2:15–17, 3:1–6 & Luke 24:36b–48

If I was to ask everyone after the service this morning to describe in detail what had taken place during the service, do you think everyone’s description would be exactly the same?

Experience would tell us that the answer is no. The basic reason for that is that we are all individuals; each one of us is very different from the other people who are here. The way in which we receive information differs, and the way in which we interpret the information we receive may also differ. There are certain aspects of the service that may appeal more to one person than to another, and there are likely to be things that we hear in the readings and/or in the sermon, that will resonate with us more than with some others. 

Each of us may also have a different emphasis that we place on what we have witnessed. So even though we have all witnessed and taken part in the one service, there are likely to be a number of different ‘accounts’ or ‘stories’ of the service.

The same is true for the stories we read in the Gospels. Today’s gospel passage, from the Gospel of Luke, is Luke’s ‘account’ of the sudden appearance of the resurrected Jesus to the disciples behind the locked doors of the room they are meeting in. It is different to the ‘account’ which was given in last Sunday’s gospel passage from the Gospel of John. 

Whereas John’s account contained two separate appearances of the resurrected Jesus appearing to his disciples, once when Thomas wasn’t present and the second time when he was, Luke’s account refers to only one appearance, and it doesn’t mention the specific names of those who were present. John’s account also includes the commissioning of the disciples for ministry by Jesus, which Luke deals with much earlier in the events of his gospel.

Luke is concerned with two things in his account: (1) emphasising the physical reality of the resurrection of Jesus, and (2) making sure that his readers understand that the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus fulfils all that had been written about the Messiah in Scripture, and that Scripture itself communicates the promise of God’s salvation for the whole world.

Prior to today’s story, Luke has already told the story of the women finding the tomb of Jesus empty and encountering two angels who tell them that Jesus has risen. He has also already told the story of Jesus appearing to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus where at first the disciples don’t recognise Jesus, and when they do, as he blesses and breaks the bread as they eat, he immediately vanishes from their sight. 

Now in this story, when Jesus suddenly appears among them in a locked room, the disciples are terrified and think that he is a ghost. So Luke stresses the physical reality of Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus asks the disciples to touch his hand and feet, to see for themselves that he is actually flesh and blood and not a ghost. Jesus also eats a piece of fish while he is with them, further proof that he is real flesh and blood.

Luke also stresses that the Scriptures foretold of the suffering, death and resurrection of the Messiah, and that it was also written in the Scriptures that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed to all the people of the world, starting from Jerusalem.

And in today’s first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, we find Peter doing just that; preaching to the people in Jerusalem and telling them to repent of their sins and receive God’s forgiveness through Jesus. 

Our reading from the First Letter of John reiterates the fact that God revealed Himself in Jesus so as to take away sin, and that in Jesus there was no sin. Therefore anyone who is truly a disciple of Jesus cannot continue to live in sin. John tells us, that as disciples of Jesus, we are now children of God. He also tells us that what we will be in the future, at the moment of our own resurrection, is unknown, but that whatever shape or form we take, we will be in the same shape or form as Jesus himself.

That is the Christian hope – that we will be raised to life eternal, in whatever form or shape that takes, with Jesus. 

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