34 Peter began to speak to Cornelius and the other Gentiles: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
The book called “The Acts of the Apostles” was written around 85 to 90 CE by the anonymous author of the Gospel According to Luke. The first 15 chapters of Acts are a didactic “history” of the early Jesus Follower Movement starting with the Ascension of the Christ and ending at the so-called Council of Jerusalem where it was agreed that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised and keep all the Kosher dietary laws to become Jesus Followers.
Chapters 16 to 28 of Acts are an account of Paul’s Missionary Journeys, his arrest, and his transfer to Rome – and the stories are not always consistent with Paul’s letters.
The Gospel According to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles see the Holy Spirit as the driving force for all that happens. The events surrounding today’s reading exemplify this.
As background to today’s reading in Chapter 10, Peter fell into a trance (v.10) and saw a sheet filled with foods regarded by Jews as profane or unclean. A voice admonished him that what God made clean shall not be called profane (v. 15). Soon after, Peter converted a Gentile, Cornelius the Centurion, at the behest of the Spirit (v.19). Peter then gave a speech that was a synopsis of the major themes in the Gospel According to Luke (vv. 34-43).
In today’s reading, it is noteworthy that the author presented Peter’s speech as saying it was God who allowed the Resurrected Christ to appear (v.40), but not to all people, but only those chosen by God as witnesses (v.41). Consistent with Luke’s Gospel in which the Resurrected Christ ate a piece of fish (Luke 24:42), Peter asserted that the Risen Christ ate and drank with the chosen witnesses (v.41).
In the verses that follow today’s reading, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard Peter’s speech. The “circumcised believers” (v. 45) were Jewish Jesus Followers. They were astounded that the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon Gentiles (v. 47). Peter baptized these Gentile Jesus Followers.
These three events – the sheet of “unclean foods,” the conversion of Cornelius, and the baptism of the Gentiles upon whom the Holy Spirit was poured – are presented in Acts as critical “precedents” to the spread of the Jesus Follower Movement to Gentiles.
This expansion was “ratified” at the so-called Council of Jerusalem in 49 CE (Acts 15). At this “Council,” Peter and Paul testified about the Spirit’s coming upon Gentiles. James (the brother of Jesus and head of the Jerusalem Jesus Follower Community) made the decision that Gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism by observing a strict kosher diet and by being circumcised to become Jesus Followers.
Following the Council, Acts of the Apostles turned its focus to Paul’s missions to the Gentiles.
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. 21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; 22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
Corinth, a large port city in Greece, was among the early Jesus Follower communities that Paul founded. Its culture was diverse and Hellenistic, and Corinthians emphasized reason and secular wisdom. In addition to Paul, other Jesus Followers also taught in Corinth, sometimes in ways inconsistent with Paul’s understandings of what it meant to be a Jesus Follower. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians was written in the 50’s (CE) (likely while Paul was in Ephesus) and presented his views on several issues.
It is one of Paul’s most important letters because it is one of the earliest proclamations of Jesus’ death on behalf of sinners and his resurrection and it contains the basic formula for celebrating the Lord’s Supper.
Today’s reading is part of Paul’s extended discussion of “resurrection of the dead” in Chapter 15. In the verses just before today’s reading, Paul recognized that the Corinthians were Hellenists who generally accepted the Platonic division between the body and the “immortal soul.” Paul emphasized, however, that not only the body is resurrected, but the entire person, and Paul used the words “resurrection of the dead” to encompass the entirety of resurrection.
In today’s reading, Paul acknowledged that if there is no resurrection of the dead, Jesus the Christ could not have been raised. If there is no Resurrection of the Christ, Paul said there is no basis for salvation and that believers’ faith would be in vain (v.19).
But, Paul asserted, Jesus the Christ has been raised (v.20). As a First Century Jew, Paul believed that death itself was the result of Adam’s disobedience (v.22).
Because Jesus the Christ has been resurrected, death has been destroyed (v.26).
1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
The Fourth Gospel is different in many ways from the Synoptic Gospels. The “signs” (miracles) and many stories in the Fourth Gospel are unique to it, such as the Wedding at Cana, Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, and the Raising of Lazarus.
The chronology of events is also different in the Fourth Gospel. For example, the Temple Event (“Cleansing of the Temple”) occurred early in Jesus’ Ministry in the Fourth Gospel, rather than late as in the Synoptic Gospels. In the Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, but in the Fourth Gospel, it occurred the day before the first day of Passover so that Jesus (who is described as “the Lamb of God” in the Fourth Gospel) died at the same time the lambs were sacrificed at the Temple for the Passover Seder that was to be held the night he died.
In all the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection, the women who go to the tomb are different in each account (Matthew — Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary;” Mark – Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome; Luke – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women; John – Mary Magdalene). The one constant is Mary Magdalene.
The reason all the events had to occur on the first day of the week is that the followers of Jesus, as Jews, would be required to wait until the Sabbath ended on Saturday night before going to do the “work” of anointing the body, but it is not the reason that Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb in today’s account.
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary points out that inconsistencies in the story in John show that the author relied on at least two other sources. For example, Mary Magdalene comes alone to the tomb, but the use of the plural in “we do not know where they have laid him” (v. 2) indicates that in another tradition other women were with her.
The “other disciple” the one whom Jesus loved (v.2) is not named, but some scholars suggest it was Lazarus. Other traditions hold that it was John, the Apostle.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible points out that linen (v.5) was regarded as a sign of immortality and that grave robbers would not have left the linen behind.
Although the text says that according to the scripture “he [Messiah] must rise from the dead” (v.9), The Jewish Annotated New Testament correctly points out that “there is no quotation referring to this from the Tanakh.” The New Jerome Biblical Commentary agrees.
Even though Mary Magdalene and the Risen Christ had a “conversation” (v.15), she did not recognize the Risen Christ as Jesus until he spoke her name (v.16).
In verse 17, Jesus refers to the disciples as “my brothers” and the phrase “I am ascending to my Father and your Father” is understood by the NJBC as the Evangelist’s seeing Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, exaltation and return to heavenly glory as part of a single event. The NJBC continues: “One is not to think of Jesus’ resurrection as though Jesus had returned to life and then later ascended into heaven. Rather, Jesus has passed to an entirely different reality.”