Saint Stephen 

Easter 3B 

April 13th, 1997 

Acts 3: 13-15, 17-19; 
I John 2: 1-5, 
Luke 24: 35-48

I Don't Know!

Peter said to the people:

It was you who accused the Holy One, the Just One, you who demanded the reprieve of the murder while you killed the Prince of Life. God, however, raised him from the dead and to that fact we are witnesses .

"Now I know, brothers that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing...."

It's about those last words that we are going to think this morning: "no idea what you were really doing".

If you think back to the days of your childhood you can probably recall doing something really silly and getting found out.

Perhaps it was throwing stones at passing cars; or perhaps it was starting a fire in the woods; or maybe it was stealing some sweets from the counter of the local newsagent whilst his back was a rude and whom or breaking the head of your sister's favourite doll.

Even if you didn't ever do anything of the sort yourself, you must remember others doing such things; and more recently perhaps you've caught your children red-handed doing so.

What do the culprits always say in reply to the question "why did you do such a naughty thing?"

"I Don't Know". Isn't that the invariable answer?

And it's very often true. People don't know why they do wrong thing; and many of the worst things that people do they haven't got a clue how seriously wrong they are, or even the real nature of what they have done.

"Now I know brothers that neither you nor your leaders had any idea what you were really doing..." said Peter to the people who brought about Jesus's death on the Cross and now were faced with the fact that God the Father had raised him from the dead two days later.

And Saint Paul writing to the Christians of Corinth said "we speak the wisdom of God, a hidden wisdom which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."

The fact is that every minute of the days somebody, somewhere is doing something seriously wrong without fully understanding the nature of what they're doing, or even why they're doing it.

"Why did you do that?" "I don't know". It's like the chorus- line from a music-all song. And let's face it, you and I have probably said something like it in the last few days even if only to ourselves. "I just don't know why I did that wrong thing; I got carried away and before I knew where I was it had happened; I don't know why I said that unkind word, it just slipped out when I wasn't thinking". "Everyone else, all my friends were throwing stones at cars and so I joined in. It seemed the natural thing to do".

It shouldn't take many more examples convince even the most easy-going person here this morning that people, ourselves included, do some very seriously wrong things without realising just how seriously wrong they are.

That realisation may come later - perhaps when it's too late to prevent the full consequences of what we've done from happening. What starts off as a lark, say joining in a group of boys throwing stones at cars on the motorway, or two young people playing around with sex, ends up with a serious accident in which someone is killed, or a baby which nobody wants is conceived, who may find itself getting killed for that very reason as well.

We are surrounded by the wreckage caused by people who "don't know" what they're doing.

The truth of the Resurrection is God's answer to the "I don't know" attitude of mind. He shows himself alive to anyone who has the eyes to see, not least in the "Breaking of Bread".

If God the Father and chosen to raise Jesus from the dead secretly so that nobody saw him after the Resurrection then no doubt he could have done so.

Instead, he chose as St Luke tells us in the first chapter of the Acts to "show himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs" one of which we heard about earlier this morning in the Gospel.

We have been called it "the Resurrection People". It is a privilege to be able to meet the Lord week by week in the Breaking of Bread, in hearing the Word of the Lord read in the lessons and explained in the sermon, and in discovering his presence both in the Blessed Sacrament and in our fellow Christians who meet together on Sundays to celebrate his death until he comes again in glory.

That is a privilege. But privileges bring responsibilities with them; and one of the responsibilities of being a Christian is that we can never again say "I don't know" as an excuse for what we do wrong.

"I don't know" is the sort of thing children say. "We are not to be like children any more" says St Paul "tossed to and fro with every kind of false belief by which the world deceives us , but speaking in the truth in love we may grow up in to him in all things".

So if "I don't know" is the hallmark of being childish, what is the real adult response to sin and wrong doing?

St Peter gives the answer to those whose ignorance he had exposed: "now you must repent and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out".

The adult response to wrong doing is not "I don't know, but "I do know".

Firstly, I do know that what I did was wrong. Whether I knew it fully at the time I did it is neither here nor there. I now (and that word 'now' is perhaps the most important word of all) accept responsibility for my actions.

Secondly, I know him in whom I have believed even Jesus Christ risen from the dead. I know that in him I have forgivenessnine of all my sins".

Thirdly, I know that by repenting now and turning from those sins I am doing the really grown-up thing.

So never again will I say "I don't know" in the hope that somehow that will act as an excuse. I'm not asking God to excuse my sins but to forgive them for the sake of Jesus Christ, crucified, dead, buried, Risen, ascended.

It's as Resurrection People who know the Lord that we are gathered here this morning. Let's make the decision to give up being the Don't Know People right here and now.

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