Studying God’s Word

Acts 10:34a, 37-43
1 Corinthians 5:6b-8 [42]
Luke 24:1-12 [41C]
The Easter season begins today with the solemnity of Easter Sunday. For the next fifty days, from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday, the church celebrates not only Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, but also our participation in Christ’s resurrection as people of faith.
The first reading for Easter Sunday is an excerpt from Peter’s speech delivered in the household of Cornelius, a Gentile believer in Christ who worked as a centurion (an officer in the Roman army). In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke tells us that Peter struggled with the idea of Gentile believers in Christ not being required to follow Jewish law and teachings (see, for example, Acts 10:9-16, Peter’s vision). In today’s first reading, we hear how Peter worked through this personal dilemma of allowing Gentiles to be saved by Jesus (the Jewish Messiah) simply by believing in what God had accomplished through Christ. Peter grounds his speech in the historical details of the public ministries of John the Baptist and Jesus, including (and especially) Jesus’ death and resurrection. Peter places special emphasis on the apostles’ role as divinely appointed “witnesses” to these events and as being “commissioned” to preach and testify that Jesus—the crucified and resurrected Christ—is “the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead.” With Israel’s prophetic tradition on his side (“To him [Jesus] all the prophets bear witness”), Peter was able to see that everyone—Jew and Gentile alike—“who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins though his name.” 
In the second reading from First Corinthians, Paul uses the metaphor of yeast and unleavened bread as a way of communicating to the Christian congregation in the city of Corinth the new life that comes from faith in the crucified and resurrected Christ. Paul’s metaphor is set within the context of his concern over widespread reports of incest occurring among some community members in Corinth (see 1 Cor 5:1-5). Paul views this type of immoral behavior (and immorality of all sorts) as “the old yeast” that shaped and defined many in the community before their faith in the cross and resurrection of Christ, “our paschal lamb.” The old yeast (life before faith in Christ) was characterized by “malice and wickedness.” But for believers who have “become a fresh batch of dough,” who have come to believe in the resurrection of Christ, living the moral life is an expectation, since faith in Christ guides one to a life of “sincerity and truth.”
The Gospel reading for Easter Sunday is Luke’s account of the empty tomb. One of the unique features of Luke’s version is the presence of the “two men in dazzling garments” that appeared to Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary, the mother of James. At three key moments in Luke–Acts, “two men” suddenly appear: at Jesus’ transfiguration (Lk 9:30-31), at Jesus’ resurrection (Lk 24:4), and at Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:10). Only in the Transfiguration are the two men identified as Moses and Elijah. It could be that Luke infers Moses and Elijah are giving witness to these other events in Jesus’ life. It could also be that Luke is showing how Hebrew Scriptures bore witness to and affirmed for salvation history the key moments in Jesus’ life, resurrection, and ascension. Either way, the empty tomb is the first sign to the apostles that Jesus has risen from the dead!
Dr. Daniel J. Scholz