Matthias Stom’s Supper at Emmaus. Wikipedia

God's Word on Sunday: Our righteousness, salvation is in God’s hands

  • April 12, 2024

Third Sunday of Easter (Year B) April 14 (Acts 3:13-15, 17-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48)

Peter had jarring news for those gathered around him. In their view, Jesus was a renegade and had died a disgraceful death. The whole matter should have ended there, but God had other plans. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — the God of all Israel — had raised Jesus up and glorified Him.

God always has the last word, and this was it. He approved of everything that Jesus said and did and made it clear that Jesus was acting according to the divine will. Then He dropped the bombshell — they had rejected the Holy and Righteous One and had preferred the release of a murderer. They had killed the Author of Life.

What can you say or do in the face of such an accusation? How can that be undone or put right? It cannot, any more than we can undo the effects of our own sin. The only way out of the darkness for them — and for us — is repentance and acceptance of mercy and forgiveness. And that is humiliating and galling for many, for we like to believe that we are masters of our own fate and can somehow earn our righteousness and salvation.

Peter generously acknowledged that they acted in ignorance. Some of the worst things that have ever been done in the name of God were at the hands of those convinced that they were doing the right thing. The Inquisition, holy wars, persecutions and repression were correct in the eyes of those responsible but not — and never — in the eyes of God. Only much later, looking in the rear-view mirror, do people realize the great harm that they have done and the misery they have inflicted on others. If only we could see it coming and not give in to arrogance, anger, fear and lust for power. Learning to listen, dialogue and to resist the temptation to give in to darker impulses would make for a much happier world and fewer reasons to repent or feel ashamed.  

John wrote his admonitions to his community so that they would not sin. But he was also a realist — people being people, they would probably slip. In that case, they were to rely on the advocate — Jesus Christ the righteous. He had already paid the debt for all of humanity and had Himself become the law. It is in Him that our sins are washed away, and it is pure grace and mercy. Obeying God’s commandments is the only way that we can show that we know God and abide in Him. Obeying God’s word can only come about through the perfection of God’s love. Love is the only way that we will ever know or be like God.

Many people live in what appears to be a constant tug of war between faith and doubt. Those gathered in the upper room heard the account of the two disciples at Emmaus and how they met Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Then Jesus Himself appeared in their midst, frightening them out of their wits. He reassured them and showed them His wounds. He then asked for something to eat so they brought Him some fish — He was not hungry but was just trying to prove that He was not a ghost. Interestingly, we are told that even in the midst of their joy they doubted. Even solid, irrefutable evidence was not enough to chase away the doubts. Attempts to “prove” the Resurrection to satisfy the skeptical are doomed to failure.

Then the last piece of the puzzle fell into place. All of this had been part of the divine plan right from the beginning. It was present in the writings of Moses and the prophets. He then gave them the greatest gift of all — He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. This is a gift we should pray for too.

The last step in this long journey was for all of them to be witnesses to these things to the ends of the Earth. It is still our mission today, but witnessing means far more than talking or preaching. Manifesting the universal compassion and love of God in word, thought and deed in our dark world is the greatest witness we can give.