GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that we who celebrate with reverence the Paschal feast, may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Readings below: Acts xiii. 26. -- St. Luke xxiv. 36.
St. Luke's account of Paul's address to the men in the synagogue of Antioch is a synopsis of the Gospel. Note that his message is sent to those who "feareth God." The verses before it summarize the history of Israel. Paul so couched his address to appeal to the Jews and their heritage. The next Sabbath, the account goes on to tell us, Paul addressed the gentiles, almost the entire city of Antioch. His succinct message bears the central theme of the ministry of Jesus, the Good News that Jesus offers forgiveness of sins to all who repent and believe in him, and that they shall be justified of all things.
At the end of these verses, Paul warns that the prophets have foreseen this day, and that many would despise the Good News to their own demise. It is no different today than then. Recently here in America, "Fundamental Christianity" has become a derogatory term. If one truly believes the Scriptures and expounds them and follows them, the American culture despises you. An example of this is the recent film, The Passion. In it director Mel Gibson has attempted to capture the Gospel account of the Passion faithfully, and graphically. He has received much criticism for his effort. The box offices, however, have shown that this story has the power to attract listeners and change lives as it has for 2,000 years.
In the Gospel account, Jesus deals with a similar situation. He makes a demonstration of his resurrection to his disciples so that they might see and believe that he was raised from the dead. He shows them his wounds. He eats food before them. He opens their eyes to the Scriptures. He did this to encourage them and strengthen them so that they might believe and then go forth and preach the Good News to all nations - just as Paul is seen doing in our Epistle. That news is: The Lord Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Repent, be baptized, and believe on him and your sins will be forgiven.
Acts xiii. 26.
MEN and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead: and he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people. And we declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God hath fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: but he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption. Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Beware therefore, lest that come upon you, which is spoken of in the prophets; Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish: for I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you.
St. Luke xxiv. 36.
JESUS himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them. And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.
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