April 18, 2021: The Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 3:12-19; Psalm 4; 1 John 3:1-5l; Luke 24:36-48
Bishop Ariel P. Santos
The gospel of St. Luke was the account on the evening of the first Easter where the disciples were in a room, locking themselves in for fear of the Jews. Jesus appeared to them, and they thought that He was a ghost. They were fearful because they deserted Jesus, left Him for dead, and now, they thought that He was back from the dead.
We know of stories of revenge of those being offended, or that where violence disturbs the peace and greater violence restores it - like an unending cycle. Jesus' solution is not violence but to overcome evil with good. He puts a stop to the cycle, an end to sin, which is the sting of death, by nailing it to the cross. Jesus did not perpetuate it nor recycled it; He put an end to it. Nothing could be more offensive to God than killing His only begotten Son whom He sent to save us. Even if this was forgiven, no other sin is beyond God’s forgiveness.
Jesus, instead of avenging Himself, gave the disciples peace -shalom - which is a whole package of a wish for the benefit, welfare, health, and prosperity of the person one greets. Shalomcomes from the forgiveness of God. Blessed is he whose sins are forgiven. Our hope is to be like the Risen Lord who's free from sin.
1John 3:2 says, "We know that when Jesus appears, we will be like Him - free from the power of sin and death." Jesus was resurrected. He conquered death. He was not resuscitated. He was not reincarnated. He went through death [not back from the dead] to a whole new life. He wasn’t recycled back to old life to die again like Lazarus. He went through death once for all and conquered it.
Romans 6:9-10a says, "Christ being raised from the dead is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. The death He died, He died once on behalf of all; [but the life He lives, He lives to God]." The Jews had various beliefs, the most popular of which was belief in Sheol where all of the dead, righteous and unrighteous, went to this dark realm. Remember King Saul who summoned the soul of Samuel from Sheol through a medium? Some also believed in reincarnation. When Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do the people say I am?" they replied that some said He was John the Baptist reincarnated orHe was Elijah back from the dead. Because of Greek influence, some also had a platonic view in that they thought that the body is a prison and the soul is at last free at death because it can go back to its creator and be with its creator for eternity.
Jesus was saying to His disciples, "I am whole and not a ghost! Look at My hands and feet!" To the Jewish mind, like the Christian mind, the human being's wholeness is body, spirit, and soul. At death, the soul is torn apart from the body. The division is horrible for us because death is an enemy. Jesus said He was not a ghost and this is what the gospel emphasizes because our hope is eternal life in a transfigured material world. Our hope is eternal life in a physical new creation. God did not create this world with an expiration date so that one day when He gets tired of it, He will just dispose of it. No! He will renew it. He will cleanse it of impurities and anything else that destroys it. This iswhat Jesus meant when He said, "I will make all things new".
God hates nothing He created. Everything He made is good. The aggregate, totality, togetherness, ensemble is very good just as it is good and pleasant when brothers dwell together in unity. God is about wholeness and togetherness as seen in the Holy Trinity. When divided, it is not good, the opposite which is of the devil. The devil rejoices whenever there's division.
What do we have division over? Being righteous and others are unrighteous; and others are "Raca" or fools because they cannot see how we see. When this happens, the devil laughs and thinks we are Raca because we are divided, not understanding that God's will is for us to be one and in unity. This is true in the case of our composition. God made that we are flesh and soul. When death separates body and soul, God's response is that one day, the two will be reunited in resurrection.
We are one with the earth as well. We are called humans, coming from the word "humus" meaning soil. We are in solidarity with the earth. It is not a coincidence that both humansand the earth are 70% water. We are one with the earth and we are to take care of it; it feeds us. God made us to live in this material world. The body is our home as is the earth. They are not prisons we are to escape from. They are God's gifts. We are whole in our natural God-given habitat because God is about wholeness. Thus the songs says, "Go free in the name of Jesus'' or "Be whole in the name of the Lord." Our freedom and salvation is the wholeness we were created to be. It's the wholeness of being, not extrication of the soul from the body.
How does God make all things new? By granting peace and forgiveness. Easter is the beginning of this. Jesus will leaven the whole lump. He started with the disciples by telling them, "Repentance and forgiveness of sins must be proclaimed in My name, beginning from Jerusalem," which is the Church. From here, He will leaven the whole lump - renewed, not thrown away; not replaced but renewed, corrected, remedied, and restored.
Jesus showed His physicality and materiality by asking the disciples if they have food because He wanted to eat. Even if He just ate two-and-a-half hours ago in Emmaus, He wanted to show the disciples that "Hey, I'm alive and whole. God will do this to you as well. You will be like Me when I appear again."
This is evocative of the first bad meal that Adam and Eve had when they ate of the forbidden fruit. Now, Jesus is reversing andcorrecting this. It also evokes the future heavenly banquet that we will have with Him, and how we will have a righteous meal.
In the new resurrection world, in the new creation that Jesus inaugurated on Easter, the first word He said was "Peace be with you! I don't avenge. Fear not!" He dispels the fear to the disciples who deserted Him. The disciples were not looking for Him but He came to them.
We are saved not because we will it, but God wills it. It is unmerited. Creation was made by the grace of God. The restoration of it will happen by the grace of God. Forgiveness also is by the grace of God. We are not forgiven because we repent. We repent in response to our forgiveness. Jesus forgave the adulterous woman and told her to sin no more. He did not condemn her. As Peter metaphorically said, "Now that you're clean, don't roll back in the mud." We repent after being forgiven in thankful response to forgiveness.
Jesus's first mandate to His disciples on the first Easter evening: forgive the sins of anyone. It was not a choice but a command because the foundation of the new creation is peace and forgiveness. We are sons of this new world. Grant peace and forgiveness to anyone. We don't evaluate who deserves and who doesn't. Forgiveness is to be preached always because it is the gospel.
It is so sad that prosperity, self-gain, blessings, or eternal heavenly insurance are taught instead of forgiveness. Jesuscommands, "Forgive just as I have been sent to forgive; so I send you to forgive." He says, "Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness would be proclaimed in My name to all the nations beginning from Jerusalem [from you]. You are witnesses of these things."
Spread peace and forgiveness. "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me because I am a witness of these things". Weare witnesses. We are not claiming that we are not sinners, but we are proclaiming that we are forgiven sinners. This is the good news and this is the way it is the kingdom of our God.