Sunday, Sunday, April 22, 2012,

Three Easter
Acts 3:12-19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.

We like to find someone to blame. When we have difficulty in a relationship, we blame the other person. When we fail at work, we blame our boss or our co-workers. When we fail at school, we blame our teachers or some other circumstance that makes it impossible for us to learn. Criminals blame the system or their childhood. Celebrities and politicians blame the media or the public. Teenagers blame everyone older than 25.

There are very few instances in which blame can be attributed completely to someone else. There is usually reason to accept some responsibility for our problems. We can choose to be miserable. We can choose to allow someone to destroy us. We can choose to hold on to a grudge or not forgive. We can choose to wallow in self-pity and reject ways to make the situation better. We can choose to be a martyr and blame the world for our trouble.

Throughout the history of Christianity, the words of Peter in today’s scriptures have been used to blame certain people for the death of Jesus. These words, blaming the Israelites and the leaders, have led to incredible persecution of the Jews. People like Adolf Hitler have taken words like these and used them for his benefit, claiming that it the responsibility of Christians to do away with the people who destroyed Jesus. He put the blame on them, ignoring the reality of what Peter was saying.

Peter says, “And now, brethren, I know that in ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.” He was not blaming the Israelites for killing Jesus; he knew that they did not know better. Now, we might say that ignorance is no excuse. There are certainly times when we would like to claim ignorance even though we could have been informed. The Jews should have understood that Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophets. They should have seen the truth in His actions and in His words. It is so clear to us, and we weren’t there, how could they miss it? And so we blame them for the death of Jesus.

Yet, Peter says they acted in ignorance. They didn’t know any better. As a matter of fact, they could not have seen what God blocked from their vision. If anyone is to blame, it is God. But God did what had to be done because of what we do. If anyone is truly to blame, it is us. It is time for us to stop blaming others and take responsibility for what we’ve done to make it necessary for God to send Jesus to the cross. If the words of the prophets had not been fulfilled, we might still be ignorant of God’s truth and grace.

Now is time to repent and turn to God so that our sins might be blotted out. Now is the time to cry out to God, to seek His goodness. Now is the time to hear Him and see that the blame game doesn’t fix anything. God speaks through the words of the psalmist, “O ye sons of men, how long shall my glory be turned into dishonor? How long will ye love vanity, and seek after falsehood?” God never intended us to put the blame of Jesus’ death on others. He never intended us to despise His people because they made the wrong choices two thousand years ago. He never intended the cross to be an excuse for the horrors that have been inflicted on the Jews throughout the centuries. The cross was Jesus’ moment of glory, the moment when everything God intended came into fulfillment. How can we ever use it as a reason to blame someone else, especially since by our own sinfulness we are equally responsible?

The psalmist writes, “Many there are that say, Who will show us any good? Jehovah, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.” We have seen the greatest goodness. We have received the greatest gift. The light shines on us because Jesus has been obedient to God’s will. This may seem particularly hard to understand, but when we see the truth in it we can rest in peace. There is nothing to fear any longer because Jesus has defeated all there was to fear.

Did Peter expect to do the things Jesus did? Did he think during that first Eastertide that the sick would be healed with a few simple words? I doubt it; they didn’t even understand how Jesus could be there. They were still processing the stories that they’d heard from those who had seen Him.

Jesus spent forty days with His disciples after the resurrection, and in that time they began to truly understand. The Holy Spirit that Jesus breathed upon them was at work and they could see more clearly and understand the whole story of Jesus. In our story from Acts, Peter knew it wasn’t by his own power or ability that the man was able to walk. The power of healing came from Jesus. The transformation of lives comes from the grace of God. Peter is just a front man, willing to confess his inability to do such things while lifting up the story of the One who can. He doesn’t lay blame, he simply calls people to believe.

We have speculated from the beginning about the physical nature of Jesus’ body after the resurrection. Sometime was different because we have eye witness accounts that tell of extraordinary abilities. I can’t walk through a wall or a door, and yet it appears Jesus could do so. I think the actions of Jesus in this story are telling, though. Jesus asked for food. He ate with them. He took the fish and ate it so that they would not fear the phenomenon He had become.

The timing of this encounter is interesting. In Luke’s story, it comes right after the encounter of Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. After Jesus revealed Himself, the disciples ran back to the room where the others were hiding and told them what they had seen. They told the disciples, “It is true, Jesus is alive!” It was while they were talking that Jesus appeared before them. He greeted them with words of peace, knowing that they could not receive anything He had to give if they were struggling with fear and doubt. I don’t doubt that they might have been afraid. After all, Jesus appeared and disappeared. He could seemingly make people blind and see with a word. And yet, we know that Jesus was real. He still had a body that could eat fish and dwell with His disciples.

He says, “Peace be with you” to us, too. He knows we are afraid and we have doubt. He knows that we will try to find excuses for our failures and that we’ll look to put the blame on others. He knows we struggle with the stress and cares of our life in this world. But He says, “Peace be with you” so that we’ll see that He overcomes even our fear and doubt. Fear and doubt comes from not knowing. But the Holy Spirit gives us knowledge. Jesus spent those forty days with the disciples teaching them everything they needed to know. He is with us today, though not in the same physical body, and we have nothing to fear. We are now witnesses, just as Jesus’ disciples were witnesses, of all the things that God did in and through Jesus for the sake of the world.

And because of Jesus, we are made children of God. Isn’t that an amazing thought? Despite our failure, the Father loves us and has made us His own. Two thousand years after the resurrection, we are just beginning our relationship with God. We are individually just getting to know Him, one step at a time. The day will come when everything will be made perfect. He will come again and we will truly know what it means to be like Him. For now, let us live in the reality that we are not righteous by what we do but by being in a right relationship with God.

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