Acts 3:12-19; 1 John 3:1-7; Luke 24:36b-48
Do you know the phrase, “You know better, so do better”? One little girl with whom I am acquainted repeats this phrase with regularity because her mother employs the admonishment in many settings: in church, at the dinner table, after a less-than-stellar report from the teacher. “You know better, so do better.” The theory, of course, is that once we possess a certain knowledge, we employ it. The reality, of course, is that often our knowledge and behavior don’t match. Even that pillar of the early church, Paul, confessed,“I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19).Knowing, even wanting, to do what is right and good doesn’t necessarily mean we actually do that. In fact, sometimes we do the exact opposite. And yet, knowledge seems an irreplaceable part of the equation for living with intentional integrity. Ignorance may be bliss for the one who is ignorant, but those living in the orbit of one who is oblivious may experience things very differently.
Teaching and plain old not-very-flashy Bible study take center stage in the Acts and Luke texts for this third Sunday of Easter. Peter takes advantage of the attention he has received from the healing at the Beautiful Gate and teaches. “Why do you wonder at this?” he asks. He connects the dots between Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and Jesus. He tells the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, implicating his hearers in Jesus’ murder. (A bold rhetorical move.) To which he adds this important truth, “I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your rulers.” You didn’t know better, he says. Further, God fulfilled the prophets in this way, through your ignorance. But now, you know better, Peter tells them. You know better, because we – the witnesses to these truths – are teaching, preaching, sharing the story and filling in the blanks. We are teaching what we’ve learned so that you, too, can know better and do better. Repent and be forgiven.
That’s the sought response to this lesson: learn and live. Knowledge is power, God’s power, if we are willing to act on what we now know.
The Risen Christ in Luke’s Gospel conducts a Bible study, too. The scene is both extraordinary and totally typical for those familiar with Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings in local congregations. Fallible, more or less faithful, followers of Jesus gather together. Some are more in the know than others. Some are farther along the way than others. Some are more confident that this gathering will be meaningful than others. Regardless, they are together; and lo and behold, Jesus shows up, right there in the midst of them. He offers his peace, tells them not to be afraid, invites them to touch his hands and feet, and then asks for something to eat. What’s a church gathering without food?
Bible study and table fellowship go together. Scripture and snacks are virtually inseparable. Spiritual and physical nourishment go hand in hand. The Risen (not a ghost) Jesus, wants something to eat, and “then he opened their minds to understanding Scripture.” He goes on to tell the story, his story, God’s story, now their story too: “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 the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to these things.”
Learn and live. You know better, so do better. Knowledge is power, God’s power, if you are willing to act out the truth you now know.
Bible study. Food. A small gathering of unremarkable people engaging with Scripture, telling the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Listening. Wondering. Asking questions. Disciples made open to the possibility that ignorance isn’t inevitable and that knowledge of God is joy and joy is so much better than oblivious, fleeting bliss. Totally typical Sunday school or table conversation or storytelling made absolutely extraordinary through the power and presence of the Risen Christ, the one in our midst whenever two or three are gathered.
“Learn and live,” says Peter and the writer of 1 John and our Risen, living Lord. We have so often acted out of ignorance. There will often be times when we do not act out what we know. We, like Paul, will do the very things we hate, again and again. But now we know this: the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ enable repentance and the forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses to this. We know it by heart, in our hearts, because we have experienced this amazing grace firsthand. We know that we are to proclaim this truth so that others can learn and live too. Through Jesus Christ and in the words of I John we know, “Beloved we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.”
Learn and live. Take claim of the power of this knowledge. Repent. Be forgiven. Forgive others. Know you are beloved children of God. Tell and teach others this truth to which you are witnesses so that they will come to know they, too, are beloved children of God, forgiven, freed, no longer ignorant but well aware of the presence and power of the Most High God.
Hold a typical, extraordinary Bible study in the church, on the streets, at the portico beside the Beautiful Gate, in the park, at the coffee shop, around your kitchen table. Get people’s attention through healing acts of love and service, offer some food, tell the story, the story of Jesus, God’s story, our story, the story written and enacted for the sake of all creation. Teach and learn and live. Know better. Do better. Know better. Don’t do better. Repent. Repeat. Keep learning, trusting God’s promise as told to the prophet Jeremiah, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”
Such knowledge is too powerful for me and too good to keep to myself.
- Do you participate in a group Bible study? If so, why? What have you learned?
- How do we tell the story of our faith to others? Have you ever shared your faith with others?
- All three of these texts talk about sin, repentance and forgiveness. Why is this message so primary in post-resurrection stories and the beginnings of the church? Is it still primary for us?
- When have you known better but not done better? How do we come to act out of what we know?
- Peter seems to honestly, yet graciously, tell his hearers that they have been ignorant. Are we able to do likewise? Has anyone ever corrected your ignorance in a way that was transformative for you?
- Jesus wants to make sure his disciples know that he is not a ghost. What is at stake in his having them touch him and eat with him?
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