For the Sundays beginning with Easter and following, the first lesson does not come from the Old Testament; it comes from the book of Acts. We shift our focus from the old promise to the actions of the apostles, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to spread the Good News.
The Holy Spirit has called Peter to go to the house of Cornelius in the city of Philippi. Cornelius is an officer in the Roman army, and a Gentile. But he is a “god-lover”. This is what they called non-Jews who worshipped Yahweh, but did not fully convert to all the Jewish practices, namely the dietary laws and circumcision. The Holy Spirit called Peter to bring the Good News to Cornelius’ household. At this point in time, most of the Christians were Jewish, and kept all the Laws of Moses.
- Peter begins his speech by making a bold statement. He says that “…God shows no partiality.” Because of what the Holy Spirit has revealed to him early in this chapter, Peter now knows that Yahweh is not interested in a relationship with His “chosen people”; God loves everyone, showing no partiality to the Jews. (This is very good news to all us Gentiles!) (v.34)
- He then says “You [already] know his relationship with the people of Israel, but wait! There’s more! Jesus [the] Christ was sent to preach peace. By the way, Jesus is Lord of all “. (This is my personal paraphrase of verses 35 & 36.)
- Peter goes on to concisely explain the life and ministry of Jesus. (vv. 37-39)
- He concludes with Jesus’ death and resurrection, adding that he and those who came with him that day were witnesses to all of this. (vv. 40-41)
- Now comes the clincher. Jesus not only commanded them to spread the news. Jesus is the one ordained by God who will judge us all. Not only that, everything you know about the prophets—they all testify about him. (vv. 42-43)
- The rest of the story, not included here, is that Cornelius and his entire household believed in Jesus, and were baptized that day. The Holy Spirit came, and caused them all to speak in tongues, just like those at Pentecost.
No longer do the Jews have exclusive access to God’s love. God sent Jesus to gather us all in, even Roman army officers. He commands us to preach the Good News of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.
1 CORINTHIANS 15:1-11
This reading is really the tip of a huge iceberg. Chapter 15 is 58 verses long. After the 11th verse, Paul shifts into a long discussion on the resurrection—its truth and meaning. Apparently, some believers in Corinth were questioning whether or not the resurrection actually happened. This would be a wonderful study and basis for a sermon, but who wants to hear 58 verses of the bible read on Easter Sunday? I do recommend that you at least skim over the entire chapter, if you have time. But let’s focus on what Paul says in these eleven verses.
- In verses 1-4, Paul reminds them what he had previously taught them, that Jesus lived, died, was buried, and rose on the third day.
- Paul provides a long list of Jesus’ appearances. (vv. 5-8)
- Paul gets around to humbly including himself in the list in verses 9 & 10.
- He concludes this section by saying that they all did this for our benefit. (v. 11)
These verses are good for me to read during times of doubt. It wasn’t just a couple of people making this up—there were many witnesses and many appearances. We can rest assured that Jesus not only died for our sins, but rose on the third day. He truly is Lord of All!
For the Jews, the Sabbath begins on Friday evening, and ends on Saturday at sundown. You are not allowed to do any work on the Sabbath, so completing the burial operations on Jesus’ body had to wait until the first day of the week—Sunday morning.
Three women who were close to Jesus are assigned the task of caring for Jesus’ body. But they had a big surprise waiting for them. The body was gone! A young man in a white robe explains that Jesus was raised from the dead, and was no longer there. The women fled in terror and amazement.
Those poor women went to the tomb in grief and left in terror. It took some time before the apostles believed them. After all, who ever heard of anyone rising from the dead?
But it is Jesus’ resurrection that is the whole key to his life’s mission. Without the resurrection, he would have been just another preacher who got on the wrong side of the religious authorities. But because of the resurrection, we know that Jesus truly is Lord of All. He his God’s son, come to earth to put the Law in our hearts, set us free from sin, and give us eternal life. Amen!