Scripture Study, Apr 16, 2017

April 16, 2017 Easter Sunday

HAPPY EASTER! May the Risen Lord grant you a most holy and blessed Easter. This Sunday the church celebrates Easter, the original Christian feast. The Resurrection of Jesus is the great foundational event of Christianity and is at the very center of our beliefs about Jesus. This event established the pattern for our new relationship with the Father and carries within itself the promise of our own resurrection.


First Reading: Acts 10: 34a, 37-43

34 Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.35 Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. 36 You know the word (that) he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, 37 what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached,38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and (in) Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. 40 This man God raised (on) the third day and granted that he be visible, 41 not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

NOTES on First Reading:

The reading is taken from Peter’s speech to the household of Cornelius which is probably fairly typical of early Christian preaching to Gentiles. For this speech Luke has taken material that was already part of the Christian tradition (as young as it was) and reworked it to some extent. It is full of Luke’s universalist themes and language.

Verses 35-36 are not included in the reading but I left them in for completeness. God’s choice of Israel to be the people of God so that He might reveal Himself did not mean that he withheld Divine favor from all the other peoples of the earth. All peoples of the world are loved by God.

This speech has the ring of Luke speaking more directly to his Christian readers rather than of Peter speaking to the household of Cornelius, as is indicated by the opening words, “You know.” The speech traces the continuity between the preaching and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth and the proclamation of Jesus by the early Christians. The emphasis on this divinely ordained continuity (Acts 10:41) is meant to assure Luke’s readers of the fidelity of Christian tradition to the words and deeds of Jesus.

The early church saw the ministry of Jesus as an integral part of God’s revelation. For this reason they were interested in conserving the historical substance of the ministry of Jesus. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit this tradition lead to the writing and preservation of the four gospels. The passion and urgency in the tone of the remaining verses (up to 44) of this speech clearly show this desire to pass on the teaching of Jesus.

Second Reading (Choice 1): Colossians 3:1-4

1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.

NOTES on Second Reading (Choice 1):

In this short reading, Paul urges the Colossians to hold on to the gospel message that the risen, living Christ is the source of their salvation. This will keep them free from false religious values and notions concerning the things of the world (Col 3:1-2). They have died to these but one day when Christ appears, they will live with Him in the presence of God (Col 3:3-4).

Second Reading (Choice 2): 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8

6 Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough? 7 Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

NOTES on Second Reading (Choice 2):

In verse 6, Paul uses a proverbial expression. Yeast is a common biblical symbol for a source of corruption that becomes all-pervasive (sin).

In the Jewish calendar, Passover was followed immediately by the festival of Unleavened Bread. In preparation for Passover all traces of old bread were removed from the house, and during both celebrations only unleavened bread was eaten. Paul uses the sequence of these two feasts as an image of Christian life. Jesus’ death (the true Passover celebration) is followed by the life of the Christian community, marked by newness, purity, and integrity (a perpetual feast of unleavened bread). It is thought by many that Paul may have been writing around Passover time (See 1 Cor 16:5). This is often called a little Easter homily. If it really is then it is the earliest one in Christian literature.

Gospel Reading (Choice 1): John 20:1-9

1 On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; 5 he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. 6 When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 7 and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. 8 Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. 9 For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

NOTES on Gospel (Choice 1):

In Chapter 20 of the Gospel of John, the risen Jesus reveals his glory and confers the Spirit. This story fulfills the basic need for testimony to the resurrection. It is not a single record, however, but a series of individual stories strung together. Our gospel reading comes from the first of this series of stories, the story of the empty tomb. While this story is also found in both the Matthean and the Lucan traditions, John’s version seems to be a fusion of the two stories.

At the beginning of the story, John says it is”Still dark.” According to Mark the sun had risen; Matthew describes it as “dawning,” and Luke refers to early dawn. In John, Mary sees the stone removed, not the empty tomb.

Here, Mary runs away. She is not directed by an angel (young man) as in the synoptic (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) accounts. The plural “we” in the second part of her statement might reflect an older tradition of more women going to the tomb.

In verses 3-10 Peter and the other disciple, generally believed to be John, go to the tomb to see for themselves. In Luke 24:12, this same basic story is told of Peter alone. It is missing in some important manuscripts and may be borrowed from a tradition similar to John. See also Luke 24:24.

The text in verses 6-8 seems to indicate that some special feature about the state of the burial cloths caused the beloved disciple to believe. Perhaps the details implied that the grave had not been robbed or the body simply removed.

Verse 9 is probably a general reference to the scriptures as in Luke 24:26 and 1 Cor 15:4 rather than to any specific quote. Several Old Testament passages suggest themselves: Psalm 16:10; Hosea 6:2; Jonah 2:1,2,10.

Gospel Reading (Choice 2): Matthew 28: 1-10

1 On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; 5 he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. 6 When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, 7 and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. 8 Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. 9 For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

NOTES on Gospel Reading (Choice 2):

* 28:1-10 Versions of this story are also told in Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; and John 20:1-10. The resurrection was and still is the foundational event of Christian faith. It has always been the cornerstone of Christian preaching and teaching and was seen as pointing toward the permanent Kingdom of God in heaven and the beginning of the Kingdom on earth which is still in the process of coming to fulfillment.

Generally, resurrection stories are either “Empty Tomb” stories where the disciples find the empty tomb or “Appearition” stories where Jesus appears to His disciples after rising from the dead.

All of the material in Matt 28 after verse 8 is peculiar to Matthew. Even where he follows Mark closely, Matthew has altered the telling of the story so much that he leaves a dramatically different impression in the reader’s mind than does the story in Mark. Matthew’s story interprets the resurrection as the turning of the ages (See Matthew 28:2-4)and so he endowes it with greater dignity and splendor.

* 28:1 The meaning of Matthew’s time references is a little unclear here. The sabbath ended at sunset, and dawning could refer to the appearance of the evening star so the time could be in the early evening but it is most likely that early morning at dawn is meant since other texts such as Luke 24:1 and Mark 16:2 put the time clearly at sunrise. Mathew changes the number of women present from three as in Mark 16:1 to two (in keeping with 27:61) and alters the purpose of their visit to the tomb. In Mark, they go to the tomb to anoint the body but in Matthew there was a formal sealing of the tomb and placement of guards (27:66) that would have eliminated the possibility of their entry. In Matthew they go to see the tomb. Some scholars connect this with a later rabbinic tradition that said a tomb should be watched for three days.

*28:2 The earthquake, the angel of the Lord, and the rolling away of the stone are reminders of apocalyptic images which were initially introduced at the crucifixion scene and are repeated now to make a connection between the cross and the resurrection. The apocalyptic elements also point forward to the appearance of the Risen Jesus in vv 9-10 and they do not mark the moment of the resurrection. Jesus was already gone. Mark’s young man in the tomb is explicitely interpreted as an angel by Matthew and is described as being responsible for rolling back the stone. One of the apologetic elements of the story is that the tomb is never open without witnesses being present. These witnesses who saw the stone being rolled back know that the body was not removed because they were there when the tomb was opened. Jesus had already left.

The stone which had been a monument marking death’s victory is moved and now, with the angel sitting upon it, is a symbol of Christ’s victory over death.

* 28:3-4 The angel’s appearance is meant to remind us of the transfigured Christ (17:2) which in turn is meant to remind us of Jesus’ predictions of His death and resurrection. It is also in keeping with angelic descriptions in the Old Testament (Dan 10:6 and 7:9). Fear is the common reaction in the scriptures to such an angelic visitation and apocalyptic signs and the guards react as expected. Matthew links the guards here in 28:4 with the associates of the centurion in 27:54 by using the same Greek word, “terountes.”

* 28:5 The common angelic command not to be afraid is part of most angel appearance stories. Here the angel’s knowledge is stressed in that he knows the women’s errand.

* 28:6 The angel adds the element of prophetic fulfilment which is one of Matthew’s interests (12:40; 16:21; 17:23; 20:19; 26:32) to his statement, taken from Mark, that Jesus is risen.

* 28:7 Matthew continues with his apologetic theme by having the angel explicitely say in a creedal formula as part of a message to the disciples that Jesus is risen. With the seal on the entrance and the guard outside the tomb there can be no other explanation for the absence of Jeus’ body.

Matthew omits the special mention of Peter that Mark had in the message to the disciiples. Possible reasons for this are that Peter has been dealt with in 16:17-19 and Matthew has a general address to the disciples as a group (16-20) that Mark does not have.

The meeting in Galilee implies that they have been forgiven their betrayal and that Galilee, where it all began, is a place of vision and grace.

* 28:8 Unlike Mark, in Matthew, the women’s fear is an element of the angelophany alone and so they run away from the tomb because the angel instructed them to go quickly to tell the disciples when they were commissioned by the angel to be messengers of the resurrection.

* 28:9-10 Jesus now appears to the women and essentially repeats the message of the angel. The Christophany is also found in other early Christian tradition (John 20:11-18) but Matthew seems to have added their worship of Jesus as a parallel of the action of the desciples in 28:17 and to emphasize the reality of His bodily presence.

Of all the post resurrection appearance stories only this one is missing the element of nonrecognition where his disciples do not recognize the Risen Christ. It is likely that Matthew is reflecting a traditional story of Jesus’ appearance to a group near the tomb and that John’s story (John 20:14-18) expresses an independantly developed version of the same tradition.

The reference to the disciples as “brothers” is another indication of forgiveness for their lack of faithfulness and also seems to indicate a change in the basic relationship between the Lord and his followers. This relationship change is also reflected in John’s Gospel 15:11-17 by Jesus’ use of “friends” in place of “servants.”

 

* 28:10 There are two separate traditions of the Lord meeting His disciples after the resurrection. One has the meeting in Galilee and the other in Jerusalem. While it is likely that the crucifixion would have caused a scattering of disciples back to Galilee, where it all began, and where they would have felt relatively safe from the establishment of Jerusalem, both religious and governmental, we can no longer determine which of these two is more closely historical. Whether they remained in Jerusalem or went to Galilee where they met and were regathered by the Risen Lord the, early church did end up, either way, centered on Jerusalem very shortly after Jesus’ resurrection and Ascention.

In Chapter 20 of the Gospel of John, the risen Jesus reveals his glory and confers the Spirit. This story fulfills the basic need for testimony to the resurrection. It is not a single record, however, but a series of individual stories strung together. Our gospel reading comes from the first of this series of stories, the story of the empty tomb. While this story is also found in both the Matthean and the Lucan traditions, John’s version seems to be a fusion of the two stories.

At the beginning of the story, John says it is”Still dark.” According to Mark the sun had risen; Matthew describes it as “dawning,” and Luke refers to early dawn. In John, Mary sees the stone removed, not the empty tomb.

Here, Mary runs away. She is not directed by an angel (young man) as in the synoptic (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) accounts. The plural “we” in the second part of her statement might reflect an older tradition of more women going to the tomb.

In verses 3-10 Peter and the other disciple, generally believed to be John, go to the tomb to see for themselves. In Luke 24:12, this same basic story is told of Peter alone. It is missing in some important manuscripts and may be borrowed from a tradition similar to John. See also Luke 24:24.

The text in verses 6-8 seems to indicate that some special feature about the state of the burial cloths caused the beloved disciple to believe. Perhaps the details implied that the grave had not been robbed or the body simply removed.

Verse 9 is probably a general reference to the scriptures as in Luke 24:26 and 1 Cor 15:4 rather than to any specific quote. Several Old Testament passages suggest themselves: Psalm 16:10; Hosea 6:2; Jonah 2:1,2,10.

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