Today’s author is Prince of Peace member, Carol Swanson.

Christ is Risen!

‘“The Lord has risen indeed,’” (Luke 24:34) the couple heard when they returned from Emmaus, “and he appeared to Simon!” Then the couple shared with the disciples their own encounter with Jesus, how their hearts burned within them.

And yet in the very next verse when Jesus suddenly appeared to all of them again saying, “Peace be with you,” they were “startled and terrified.”  He offered proof: “Look at my hands and feet….touch me and see…” And Luke’s gospel tells us that “in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering.” (Luke 24:36)

Perhaps that was why Jesus “presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3) FORTY: That symbolic number that signals time for repentance, new life, new growth, challenge, transformation throughout scripture. 

Then, before the ascension, the disciples, together again, asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) It sounds like they still hoped that Jesus was the Messiah Warrior who would bring down the Roman Empire. But Jesus told them that wasn’t for them to know—that’s God’s business, as Debbie Jorgens said in her sermon.

Rather, Jesus described a much greater vision for them. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Witnesses empowered by the Holy Spirit. To the ends of the earth! Reaching far beyond the Roman Empire in time and space. The Acts of the Apostles tells the story of how we can experience the risen Jesus in this new Way movement. And how the “word of God continued to spread; the number of disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith” (6:7). “The church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort [the strengthening] of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers” (9:31). In Antioch “the word of God continued to advance and gain adherents” (12:24); in Asia Minor and Galatia “the churches were strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily” (16:5); in Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus “the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (19:20); and in Rome, Paul “welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” (28:30b-31)

Remember, just a few days ago on Easter Sunday, we heard how Mark’s Gospel ended abruptly, making a different emphasis.

In his book, Fortress Introduction to The Gospels (Second Edition), Mark Allan Powell writes, “We have seen that in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus’s disciples are presented essentially as failures to whom Jesus nevertheless remains faithful. Luke redacts this portrait to present an altogether different picture” (176-177). Powell continues. “Perhaps Luke wants to assure his readers that, whatever failings the disciples of Jesus may have had, they can be regarded as faithful witnesses…. Here, [in Acts] the already positive portrait of the disciples is taken to an incredible extreme. Peter, Paul, and others become Spirit-filled agents of God who are almost duplicates of Jesus. They perform miracles similar to his, healing the sick (Acts 5:12-16; 19:11-12) and raising the dead (9:36-43; 20:7-12)” (178).

“Luke is not telling the whole story. He says nothing, for instance, about the divisions in the church of Corinth or the false teachers in Galatia, problems that we know about from the letters of Paul.… But this is not a part of the story that he wants to tell. Instead, he tells us something else: Sometimes, miracles do happen. Sometimes, prayers are answered, heroes are rescued, pagans are kind, martyrs die bravely, and people of faith turn the world upside down. Remember those times…Remember! Sometimes, God’s will is done” (179-180).

Let us pray to the God of abundant Life, Love, and Grace so freely given. As we sang on Sunday,

 Lord, you give the great commission: “Heal the sick and preach the word.”
Lest the church neglect its mission, and the gospel go unheard,
help us witness to your purpose with renewed integrity:
With the Spirit’s gifts empow’r us for the work of ministry.

Lord, you call us to your service: “In my name baptize and teach.”
That the world may trust your promise, life abundant meant for each,
give us all new fervor, draw us closer in community:
With the Spirit’s gifts empow’r us for the work of ministry.    (ELW 393)