Scripture:Jesus said to the eleven, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:44-48)
Reflection:The Lukan Jesus commissions his disciples as witnesses to his suffering, death, and resurrection. A witness is one who testifies to what he or she knows to be the truth. The disciples are told to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to the nations, as the result of Jesus’s suffering, death, and resurrection; their beginning point is Jerusalem, and from there they will take the message to the ends of the Earth. What most people don’t understand about the passage is that the English word, “witness,” is a translation of the Greek word, “martyr.” In other words, those commissioned by the Lukan Jesus will suffer and die, like he, as they preach repentance and forgiveness of sins; they also have the hope that, like Jesus, they will be raised from the dead.
The author’s understanding is that the new covenant established by Jesus emerges out of the covenant God established with Israel. In other words, Christianity grows out of Judaism. This is why the Lukan Jesus declares that everything written about him in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms had to be fulfilled. He opens the minds of the disciples to understand the scriptures. Lurking beneath the surface here is another important Lukan presupposition, namely, that Jesus is a new suffering servant, like that described in Isaiah, who is the favorite prophet of the author of Luke’s gospel.
Jesus is the martyr extraordinaire in Luke’s gospel. He voluntarily suffers death. Everyone in Luke’s account of his crucifixion declares him to be innocent: Pilate, Herod, one co-crucified thief, and the centurion at the foot of the cross. Just as God commissioned Jesus to be a witness to his new new work in the world through his suffering, Jesus commissions his followers to be witnesses through their suffering, which will result from preaching repentance and forgiveness of sins throughout the world. What was true for Jesus and his first followers remains true for commissioned followers two thousand years later.
Journal/Meditation:What suffering have you endured as a result of being a witness to repentance and forgiveness of sins?
Prayer: Merciful God, through the witness of the suffering of your only-begotten Son, you brought forth repentance and forgiveness of sins. Keep me faithful to his mission so that I may one day share in his resurrected life. I ask through the same Jesus Christ, who is Lord forever and ever. Amen.