Easter III Year B Sunday 18th April 2021
Todays three readings which all come from the post-resurrection New Testament writings explore what ‘seeing’ means. Not just seeing but perceiving as well.
“When Peter saw it …”
Although this is a powerful phrase to begin this reading with it is also a rather stupid place to begin. What was it that Peter saw? You get an idea it was a disabled man being told to walk by Peter in the name of Christ. But to really put this reading into context you need to read the sentences before this reading starts:
“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. 2And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. 3When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. 4Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ 5And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6But Peter said, ‘I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.’ 7And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9All the people saw him walking and praising God, 10and they recognised him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. 11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s Portico, utterly astonished.”
See says Peter to the gathered crowds, see what Jesus does for you? Peter is continuing Jesus’ ministry to the Israelites challenging them to hear the good news and to see both physically and metaphorically who and what Jesus was/is.
Peter later in this account goes on to have a good rant at the spiritual blindness of the Israelites. This is what Jesus can do for you, you saw it all but you did not believe and you crucified him. Can you see now? Peter asks or are you still blind to who he is?
In this reading it seems as though Peter is really getting a lot off his chest and he is releasing long pent up anger but once he has done o his tone comes conciliatory and affirming. He says to his listeners:
“17 ‘And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out …”
Peter’s tone may be conciliatory but it is still challenging, as the Good News should always be - you did this in ignorance but still you must repent.
I think Peter gives us an idea as to what God is actually like. God is always giving us another chance to get it right, God is always prepared to give us the benefit of the doubt and is always hoping that we will come to see and perceive who he is and what he offers to us.
St.John, like St.Peter in the Acts reading begins with the word ‘see’:
“1See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” 1John 3:1
‘See what love’ writes John, but he goes on to say that it was love that the world did not at first recognise because the world failed to see God in Jesus. In this piece John continues to explore what knowing and not knowing God means and he proposes that even as we come to see or know God there is always more to discover, more to see and know. God, however, can never be fully known by his creation because he is the author of all being and we his creation are only part of his being and not the sum of him.
John also tells us that our sin obscures who God is and that the more we do discover about God the more we learn that we have more to discover. The more we know God the more we have to know about him. It is a paradox. Getting to know God is a life long journey not something we can do in this life alone.
For me this is why I am a theologian, a priest but firstly a Christian. I find it exciting beyond measure trying to discover who God is and what God is - to try and perceive or see him more clearly. I know that by my nature I will never fully know God but that does not put me off, in fact it spurs me on to try and follow his ways more closely in hope of a clearer vision of him.
“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
be thou my best thought in the day and the night,
both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.”
This is an account of one of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances. A time when he showed himself to his followers and a time when they saw him, even if at first they were not prepared to believe their own eyes:
“They thought they were seeing a ghost…”
And, well they might! Who had ever heard of anyone surviving a crucifixion and three days in a tomb?
Jesus, obviously knows thy cannot believe their eyes and that they doubt their perception. Jesus challenges them to look closely at him and to see and touch him, so that they can individually recognise him. When they do recognise him he knows they will be ready to hear what he has to say about the redemption he has won for them and for us. Jesus ends by calling them witnesses and witnesses are those who see something but do not necessarily see the same thing because we all see things differently and because of that we will all proclaim or deny the Christ. Our personal perceptions of who he is will always be different.
Seeing is not as straight forward as we might first think and seeing God in Jesus is perhaps one of the hardest things we can try to do. Yet, when we do perceive God in Christ the joy we gain can be immeasurable.
“God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.”