Acts 3:12-19 & Luke 24:36-48
The Biblical narrative does not go directly from Jesus’ crucifixion to Paul’s letters about how to understand Jesus and how to live in community, thank goodness. Jesus was resurrected and appeared to many of his disciples, and not just the twelve. He was able to comment on and interpret his own death and resurrection for those who had followed him. Then the disciples who had actually known Jesus in life were able to interpret his life, death and resurrection for those who would believe through him. The common refrain through Jesus’ and his disciples’ post-resurrection teaching is incredulity that what came to pass should have come as a surprise.
In the pericope immediately before this week’s reading in Luke, Jesus joined his disciples who were walking away from Jerusalem. While they were on their way, they discussed what they thought were the last days of Jesus’ ministry. But they were confused by the report of “some of [their] women” who said that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Jesus’ response was to chide them and then patiently re-explain what he had no doubt explained to his followers many times before:
“How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24:25-27
These two then invited Jesus to share the evening meal of the festival of unleavened bread with them. They saw Jesus in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup – as we are blessed to do as well. And then they hurried to tell their comrades that they had seen the risen Jesus.
The disciples were just discussing this when Jesus stood among them and wished peace upon them. They were shocked, but Jesus’ response again was one of surprise at their lack of equanimity. “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your minds?” (Luke 24:37). After allowing them to touch him and then eating a fish to prove that he was really resurrected and not just a spirit, Jesus then pointed back to scriptures. He went through “Moses, the prophets and the psalms” in order to open their minds to what they should have expected. He told them to wait in the city for the gift from the Father. But crucially, Jesus did not want the Holy Spirit to come in power before his disciples knew and understood the scriptures. Jesus delayed his ascension to heaven to be reintegrated into the royal throne room of God because it was SO important that his disciples receive a few final lessons in scripture.
Days later, Jesus’ disciples Peter and John finally arrived to the point where they could successfully emulate their master, teacher and friend with whom they had spent so long learning the ways of Life. When the two disciples entered the temple courts a beggar asked for a gift. The power of God flowed through Peter and the crippled beggar was healed (Acts 3:1-8). Many people in the temple courts had regularly seen this crippled beggar who was now running around inside the temple courts and they pressed Peter for answers as to how this had come to pass. Peter responded just as Jesus had only a few weeks earlier to similar questions of who and why these things were happening: “Why are you surprised?” Peter then rehearsed the circumstances leading to Jesus’ death and resurrection and pointed to the power that had caused the crippled man to be healed and freed them all from their sins. To support his argument, Peter quoted Moses; Samuel and the prophets; and the conversations between God and Abraham.
The bottom line is that after the resurrection people are continually surprised by the life and power of Jesus. But we should not be. Jesus and the disciples repeated pointed to scripture and how studying and knowing scripture helps us see, understand and anticipate what God will do in the world. In the spirit of this instruction, I am re-engaging in close study of the major prophets that Jesus referenced so often. I’d invite you, if you’re not already, to consider re-reading some of the Hebrew Bible that Jesus and his disciples repeatedly pointed to as necessary for understanding what God was up to in Jesus’ ministry.