3rd Sunday of Easter - homily
“Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures… (where) ‘it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day’”. Where in the Old Testament does it say that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day? What Scripture passages did Jesus reference to the Apostles and disciples? It is so fascinating to study these passages in the prophets, the psalms, and the Law of Moses – Scriptures that were written hundreds of years before the death and resurrection of Christ. And, they give specific details of these events. Let’s look at a few of these passages. We do it with the understanding of the Church: the Catechism tells us that the Church reads the Old Testament “searching for what the Spirit who has ‘spoken through the prophets’ wants to tell us about Christ’” (CCC, # 702).
So, let’s see what the Spirit tells us about Christ in the Old Testament, beginning with the prophets. The prophet Zechariah in about 500 B.C.: “he will be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver” (11:12-13)…“his side will be pierced” (12:10). Of course, these things happened to Jesus in his passion. The prophet Isaiah in about 700 B.C.: “he will be spat upon” (50:6)…“he was wounded, bruised, and scourged for us” (53:5). And, then the experience of the prophet Jonah (about 800 B.C.) spending three days and three nights in the belly of a whale is a foreshadowing to Jesus spending three days in the dead.
Next, the Psalms (written around 1000 B.C.) which give such specific accounts about the suffering and death of the Messiah. Psalm 22: “they will divide his garments among them”…”they will cast lots for his garments”. Psalm 30 speaks of the resurrection of the Christ: “he will be raised to life on the third day”. Psalm 68: “he will escape the powers of death”.
Then, within the Law of Moses is a passage from Deuteronomy 18. Moses says, “a prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you”. He is talking about the Christ. The Jews acknowledge this about Jesus in John 6 after Jesus multiplies the loaves and the fish. They say, “this is truly the prophet” (of whom Moses spoke). In Peter’s speech from the first reading (a few lines after our reading), he quotes Deuteronomy 18. So, the Apostles and the Jews recognized that Jesus was the prophet- the New Moses –spoken of in the Old Testament.
It is so interesting to see how the Spirit speaks about Jesus throughout the Old Testament, especially with regards to his death and resurrection, revealing that he is the Christ.
Finally, it is also a great study to see how the sacraments are prefigured in the Old Testament, especially the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the new Passover. In fact, Jesus celebrated the Last Supper on the feast of Passover. If you know about the Passover, you know that lambs were sacrificed and the blood of lambs were used to save the Jews. Now, Jesus is the lamb -the Lamb of God - who is sacrificed. His blood saves us. Through the Eucharist and through Scripture, may we recognize Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God.