3rd Sunday of Easter (Year B)

We should read the Bible through a Jesus-shaped lens. Look for his face and character: both are hidden in the Old Testament and revealed in the New Testament.


First Reading: Acts 3:13-15, 17-19

  • There is no justification for an anti-Semitic position based on this or other New Testament passages; as the author is clear that the handing over of Jesus was out of ignorance and in accordance with God’s plan. Indeed, the whole Bible is clear that it was humanity as a whole that crucified Jesus.
  • Notice the interplay between Jesus’ humanity and his mysterious divinity in this passage. In verse 13, Jesus is called God’s servant. He is then called the Holy and Righteous One in verse 14 and the Author of Life in verse 15. The Holy One of Israel is a title for God found in the Book of Isaiah, whereas being the Author of Life implies involvement in creation, as recounted in Genesis. In other words, this Jesus is to be identified with God quite directly.

Psalm: 4:2, 4, 7-9

  • This psalm is fascinating for several reasons. In verse 4, we hear the injunction to be angry but to do so without sinning. The psalms can be filled with emotion and passion, taken up into worship of God and into a life lived in light of his presence. Do we find a place for these emotions in our own relationship with God?
  • There are a number of references here to the night and sleeping with contentment and safety.

Second Reading: 1 John 2:1-5

  • The letters of the New Testament are worth pondering over to follow the logic the author presents. Here, we’re told why the author is writing: so that we (the readers/listeners) may not sin. Everything that is written in the letter about the love and light of God, the wonders of Christ, and so on are filtered through the lens of avoiding sin.
  • This passage closely links love and keeping the commandments. In the modern world, we tend to conceptualise love as a feeling; how might this perspective add to or challenge our assumptions about love?

Gospel: Luke 24:35-48

  • This well-known and beloved gospel passage is full of insights; like Mary at the tomb, the disciples are unable to recognize the risen Jesus – what does this imply?
  • The passage says that the disciples were prevented or kept from recognizing Jesus and that their eyes were opened after the breaking of the bread: notice how the wording indicates that the preventing and opening were done to them and what this might tell us.


It’s a familiar scene: on the day Jesus rose from the dead, two of his disciples were walking along the road from Jerusalem to a nearby town called Emmaus. As they walked, they were joined by Jesus, but they were kept from recognising him. They looked sad, so Jesus asked them for the reason. Their reply was that Jesus, who they understood to be a great prophet, had been executed, and their hope had died with him. They retold how some of the women had reported seeing Jesus alive that morning, but as they did, they looked sad; did they believe them?

Jesus responded by taking them through the Old Testament from beginning to end as they continued their journey. He interpreted it for them, showing them how it spoke about himself. When they finally arrived in Emmaus, Jesus broke bread with them, and when he did, their eyes were opened; they recognised Jesus for who he was, and he vanished from their sight.

The first thing to notice is that the disciples Jesus walked with didn’t understand who he was. They thought he was a prophet. We can assume that as his disciples, they had met and talked with him before, but the Bible says in verse 16 that they were kept from recognising him. They didn’t really know who he was, so their eyes and hearts were closed to him.

Jesus then took them on a journey far more important than their physical journey to Emmaus. He opened up the Old Testament to them, which the Bible calls the Scriptures. Remember that at the time this story happened, there was no New Testament; the Bible was the Old Testament on its own. Jesus explained how it referred to and spoke about him using just the Old Testament.

Let’s take a step back just for one moment: The disciples walked with Jesus, were in his presence, and didn’t know him. They knew the apostles and the women who had seen the risen Jesus alive, had their testimony, and still didn’t know him. But when the Scriptures were opened to them and bread broken, their eyes were opened, and they recognised Jesus! The words they use are that their hearts ‘burned within them’.

What lesson is here for us? The New Testament Scriptures are not enough to come to know Jesus through the Bible and to recognise who he really is. From beginning to end, the Old Testament speaks of Jesus, as the writer of Hebrews says (Hebrews 1.1), in many varied ways. Jesus is the hope of salvation after the Fall in Eden; he is the Passover Lamb in Exodus; he is foreshadowed in the whole burnt offerings of Leviticus; he is praised and sung of in the Psalms; he is prophesied as the virgin-born Immanuel in Isaiah. The New Testament draws from this memory bank of foreshadowing and prophecy, but it also points us back to it. Like a pendulum, the Bible sends us back and forth between its two parts, neither completely revealing Jesus’s face without the other.

How should we read the Bible, then? Through a Jesus-shaped lens. Look for his face and his character as you read: both are hidden in the Old Testament and revealed in the New Testament. Keep him always before your mind, and he will open the Scriptures to you.

This reflection is taken from Bible Society’s Rooted Journal.


  • Interpretation of Scripture: CCC 109-119 (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
  • The importance of listening to Scripture: International Theological Commission, Theology Today: Perspectives, Principles and Criteria