3rd Sunday of Easter
04/26/2009
Readings
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19
1 John 2:1-5a
Luke 24:35-48

Christianity is not unique in its stories of a god dwelling among men or in the resurrection of someone from the dead. Other ancient religions have myths of gods coming down to earth as well as heroes being resurrected and sometimes even becoming a god. What is unique about Christianity is its insistence on the historicity of such actions which we see in today’s first reading and Gospel. Instead of placing such stories in a mythological framework intended to impart a lesson rather than recount actual events, Christianity insists that God became a particular man in a particular place at a particular time – and that this man was truly raised from the dead. Furthermore, there are eyewitnesses to these events. The entirety of the Christian message is dependent upon these events actually happening.

In the first reading Luke recounts one of the first addresses by Peter to the Jewish leaders. The Apostle declares, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in Pilate's presence when he had decided to release him” (Acts 3:13). Note the historicity of the language: Peter first attaches God to actual historical figures – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – then he speaks of the events that occurred under an actual Roman governor. He is not discussing some long-distance occurrence shrouded in mystery – he is giving the details of a recent event of which his contemporaries were aware. If this had not occurred as he related it, he surely would have been challenged. And Peter also proclaims the core message of the early Christian preaching: “The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses” (Acts 3:15). Peter and others are eyewitnesses to the fact – not the myth – of the resurrection. He is willing to testify – even to the point of death – to the reality and historicity of the resurrection.

The reading from Luke’s Gospel likewise testifies to the reality of the Christian proclamation of the resurrection. Luke writes,
They were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then [Jesus] said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them (Luke 24:37-43).
Touching the hands and the feet, eating the baked fish: both testify that the Risen Christ is no apparition – he is not the product of the apostles’ wishful imagination. Christ’s resurrection is not merely spiritual or mythical: it is in the realm of historical and physical reality. It is something that can be verified and witnessed.

The first Christians understood the possibility that people would think their claims of an incarnate God and risen Savior would be seen as mythological flights of fancy. Thus they testified, even to the point of death, to the reality of Jesus Christ, God made man, and his resurrection. This Easter season we need to reflect on the implications for the world and in our own lives of this event which changed all of human history.
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