Thursday in the Octave of Easter
(Acts 3:11-26; Luke 24:35-48)
For the crime of executing an innocent man, Christians have more than excised repayment from the Jews. Their crimes against Jews through the centuries are extensive and bloody. At times Christian leaders supported or, at best, turned a blind eye to racist atrocities. Interestingly, the Gospel according to Luke and Luke’s Acts of the Apostles takes a judicious approach to the Jewish people’s complicity in Jesus’ death. On the cross in Luke’s passion narrative Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” In today’s reading from Acts, Peter likewise mitigates Jewish responsibility for Jesus’ death. Addressing himself to the Jews of Jerusalem, he says, “’...you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did.’”
The ignorance of which Jesus and Peter speak here regards the inability of the Jews to recognize who Jesus is. As he says, Jesus is God’s “Holy and Righteous One” sent to bring new life to the people. It is a large truth for us to grasp even after two millennia of spiritual reflection. We continue to sin, and our sins conspire with those of the Jews and the Romans in Jerusalem to crucify Jesus. Like the Jews addressed by Peter then, we are not fully aware of all that we are doing when we ridicule others or take something that does not belong to us. And, yes, we too become beneficiaries of Jesus’ prayer for forgiveness from the cross.