15 Apr – Third Sunday of Easter
Peter said to the people: ‘You are Israelites, and it is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our ancestors, who has glorified his servant Jesus, the same Jesus you handed over and then disowned in the presence of Pilate after Pilate had decided to release him. It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of a murderer while you killed the prince of life. God, however, raised him from the dead, and to that fact we are the witnesses.
‘Now I know, brothers, that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing; this was the way God carried out what he had foretold, when he said through all his prophets that his Christ would suffer. Now you must repent and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.’
1 John 2:1-5
I am writing this, my children,
to stop you sinning;
but if anyone should sin,
we have our advocate with the Father,
Jesus Christ, who is just;
he is the sacrifice that takes our sins away,
and not only ours,
but the whole world’s.
We can be sure that we know God
only by keeping his commandments.
Anyone who says, ‘I know him’,
and does not keep his commandments,
is a liar,
refusing to admit the truth.
But when anyone does obey what he has said,
God’s love comes to perfection in him.
The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised Jesus at the breaking of bread.
They were still talking about all this when Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.
Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.’
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name…”
We have survived Lent, we have carried our own crosses for 40 days, we have fasted and abstained. We have confessed, repented, and we have celebrated the resurrection of Christ on Easter Sunday. We are also lucky. We have the benefit of hindsight of more than two thousand years to reflect on the resurrection and what it means to us. We are able to do a ‘post-resurrection review’ (for lack of a better term), at least to a much better extent than the early followers of Christ.
Those who had witnessed the cruelty meted out to Christ at the hands of his captors, followed by his crucifixion, would no less be confused, doubtful and afraid. Had this man really been the Messiah as people said he was, in which case why then did God let these things happen to him? If Jesus could raise the dead and heal the blind, why then could he not send down a bolt of lightning to silence his captors and angels to free him from the cross? The soldiers at the foot of the cross mocked Jesus, asking him to save himself. Perhaps they were expecting a miracle to happen, not realizing that they would soon be witness to one.
We know now that all these things had to happen for God’s plan to materialize. The resurrection of Christ is a metaphor of our own struggles in life. Whatever demons we are fighting within ourselves, they are constantly taunting us to save ourselves, telling us that if we can’t, then we are weak. But the thing is, we can’t save ourselves. We can’t do it alone. We need God to help us, we need to depend on God for the emancipation from our struggles. We think we can do it alone and probably, to a certain extent, we could; but at some point, we will hit a roadblock and exhaust our own capabilities. We crash and burn and at our rope’s end, that is where the miracle happens — out of the ashes of our old selves, a new us is reborn in Jesus Christ our Lord.
“Out of ashes into freedom, out of dying into life,” sings Steve Green in his song “Out of Ashes”. We ‘die’ to our old selves, not only during Easter when we renew our baptism vows, but every single day that we surrender to God for help. We die to stubbornness, we die to pride, we die to addiction, to lust, to unfaithfulness. We die to the self that God abhors and in its place – in the name of forgiveness, mercy and love – He transforms us into an image more like Him, every day. He frees us to love and to live our best selves. This is all part of our transformation. It is hard. It is painful. But through fire we are tested, and we emerge on the other end victorious and full of grace.
Out of the ashes He is risen! And so are we. Like a phoenix, we must first burn to rise again. Out of the ashes, we are entwined with Christ in His resurrection. Let us celebrate our renewal and our rebirth into freedom.
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: We pray O Lord, for the strength, obedience, and willingness to surrender to God the transformation of our lives according to His plan for us.
Thanksgiving: Thanks be to God, for the risen Christ and for our own rising from our ashes!