Third Sunday of Easter
One way to tell a story about the resurrection is the one we find in Luke’s gospel. The disciples on that road to Emmaus seem to have been in Jerusalem through the whole week-long events that took place: the parade on Sunday, the crucifixion on Friday, the attempt to anoint Jesus’ body with spices on Sunday.
When the spice-bearing women return with a report of angels proclaiming Jesus was risen, these two Emmaus disciples appear not to know what to do with this information. They must be thinking to themselves that the women’s account can’t possibly be factually true. Some other disciples go test the theory, but apparently see no angels, but no body either.
So our disciples from Emmaus are dejected as they walk along the road, debating the meaning of these events. They remind themselves of what they know about Jesus: he “was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” and “we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel”. Their proclamation of Jesus is intermingled with doubts: Maybe the body was stolen. Jesus is just a really great man, but obviously no Son of God. There couldn’t really have been angels, could there? That’s just an overactive imagination.
It’s interesting to compare the Emmaus story to the one that Peter tells in the Acts of the Apostles. Here, too, Jesus is “a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.“ Here, too, Jesus has been crucified.
The key difference is that in Acts, Jesus clearly has been resurrected, and Peter is very eager to name that. Gone is the confusion of those first post-resurrection days. Peter speaks with utmost confidence because he can connect Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to the familiar scriptures he has read all his life. Peter names how Jesus fulfills those scriptures. For example, he is the one King David names in the Psalms (as one example): “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.”
What is interesting is to imagine how the disciples get from the confusion of Luke to the certainty of Acts. Jesus himself holds the key in the Emmaus story. For when Jesus hears the disciples’ half-baked account of the resurrection, Jesus shows the disciples how to tell the story. He breaks open the Word of God, just as he breaks open the bread, showing how he himself is the one of whom scripture speaks.
What we see Peter doing in Acts 2, then, is really simply telling the story the way Jesus told it. By connecting the Old Testament to Jesus, Peter is sharing who Jesus is.
Of course, in both resurrection stories, the message does not stop with the proclamation of the resurrection. In both cases, Jesus asks for a response from us. How will we tell the resurrection story?
More to the point, how will we live the resurrection story? Living the resurrection story is part of what it means to be members of the Ekklesia Project. In Peter’s first letter, we learn we must respond with our lives: “conduct yourselves with reverence” and “love one another deeply from the heart” because of who we proclaim Jesus to be. The rest of Acts, chapter 2, has more: Christians responded to Peter by living in community, sharing prayers and bread, holding all things in common and selling property in order to support members in need.
Many of us at EP aim to live and respond in these ways. Let us, this Easter season, renew our response to Christ. We tell the resurrection story with our lives. How, then, shall we live?