In this season of Easter we continue to remember and celebrate the joyful and amazing news of the resurrection. As Zephaniah had foreseen hundreds of years before he has repealed our sentence and driven our enemies away. With God, the King of Israel in our midst, being the risen Lord Jesus, we have no more evil to fear. (Zeph. 3.15). 'When that time comes, I will be your guide, when that time comes I will gather you in;' so God promised through the writing of Zephaniah. Maybe this was one of the prophecies that Jesus explained to the disciples on the Emmaus road, showing them how it had been fulfilled in him. The disciples that recognised Jesus in the breaking of bread and returned to Jerusalem to join the others gathered in a room in today's Gospel reading. (Luke 24).
The news was so amazing, so incredible that even Jesus' closest friends could hardly dare to believe that he had indeed risen from the dead. That he had conquered the forces of darkness in the ultimate battle between good and evil, and had returned to them, the King of Israel in their midst, to continue as their guide and gather them to himself. Luke presents what he regards as proof that Jesus was truly risen and not just a 'ghost'. Jesus showed his hands and feet. 'Touch me and see for yourself; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you see I have'. He ate the grilled fish, as he did by lake Galilee in John's gospel. His interaction with the world was still physical and concrete, not just imaginary or spiritual. And faced with this visual and concrete proof the disciples recognised that here, in their midst was the Christ, the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy in his song of the faithful servant. Here in the flesh was 'The Servant King'.
Such faith arose from that meeting, and of course from the time spent following Jesus, hanging on his every word and action, that Peter was able to use some of that miraculous healing power in healing a lame man at the portico of Solomon. When those around came running in great excitement Peter was quick to point out by whose power and authority the healing had happened. Just as Jesus himself had explained his life to them in terms of fulfilling the prophecy of God's chosen people, the Children of Israel, so Peter explained to the bystanders that it was their God, and the God of their ancestors, the God that they had put to death on a cross, that had given the power to heal. Peter's argument and persuasion was enough to reach the hearts of up to three thousand people who decided to answer the call and become followers of Christ, Christians, or as John puts it in his letters, to be 'children of God.'
It is that same call that we answer when we decide to live a Christian life. Through our own faith, whether it has developed slowly through a life of attending church and responding to its teaching, or whether like Paul we have a particular experience of spiritual conversion which leads us to make our commitment to follow Jesus, we strive to become God's children. In fact John tells us 'we are already the children of God' (1 John 3) 'through the love that the Father has lavished on us.' Having decided to answer the call John points out to us that our lives must reflect this decision. Everyone should 'try to be as pure as Christ', he says, and accepting that as mortal and human beings we can never hope to attain that quality of life, nevertheless we should set our sights on nothing less.
Sin, the word, as you may be aware is taken from the world of archery. Sin in archery is the distance from the centre of the target that an arrow lands. If our attitude is that we cannot be perfect so why even try, God after all will forgive our little lapses, then it is like pointing our arrows in the general direction of the target and hoping. Our concept of goodness, although honourable, is without focus or clarity because our eyes are not on the centre of that target. Whilst through the resurrection of Jesus we can indeed be sure that we have God's forgiveness when we fall short of the mark, we also have the opportunity for achieving a much higher quality of relationship with God because he has made very clear where the centre of the target lies. He has provided us with a pattern for living in the life, teaching and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, the King in our midst, continues to act as guide and draw people in to God. But now we are his feet and hands, we must help provide the proof to others that Jesus really saves. We know we are not perfect, that the world has damaged us as we have given in to sin, but Jesus own hands and feet have also been damaged by the world and continue to work miracles of healing. By keeping our own eyes on Jesus, our 'Bullseye', we can hope that our actions may draw others towards the target, bringing the kingdom of God closer to earth.