Easter 2B

image: wikimedia

 
 

Voice in the Wilderness: Chris Strickland

Featured Musician: The Steel Wheels

PSALMIST: Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Tasty Wafer:

Featured Musician: Red Molly

 


Exegetical Notes

John 20:19-31

Initial Thoughts

  • This is the a reading every Easter 2, years A, B, and C.

    • Easter 2B is John 20:19-31, Jesus appears to disciples and Thomas.

    • Easter 3B is Luke 24:36b-48, After Emmaus: I am not a ghost

    • Easter 4B is John 10:11-18 I am the Good Shepherd.

    • Easter 5B is John 15:1-8 Farewell Discourse: I am the True Vine

    • Easter 6B is John 14:23-29 Farewell Discourse: Abide in my love

    • Easter 7B is John 17:20-26 Jesus prayers for disciples before his arrest.

    • Even better- Focus on 1 John!!

  • “Fear of the Jews” is a troubling phrase.

Bible Study

  • Picks up right from last week: Jesus Appears to Mary v. 11-18

    • Lection leaves this part out, but it feels improper to leave it out. Should at least be informed by this part of the story.

    • Mary discovered empty tomb, with stone already rolled away. Runs to get Simon and the Other Disciple. They find empty tomb, then go back to where they were staying.

    • Mary lingers, and meets a “gardener.” Gospel of John is the only one that specifies that Jesus was arrested in a garden. Now he is also resurrected in one.

      • Matthew and Mark call it “a place called Gethsemane.” Luke says he went to the Mount of Olives. Only John names it a garden.

    • “Woman, why are you crying?” asked twice.

    • Mary recognizes Jesus when he says her name.

  • “Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.

    • “Don’t hold to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (v. 17).

    • Women had told the disciples that he had risen, but they are locked in a room out of fear.

  • Every Sunday is Easter. This Sunday is literally still Easter: “It was still the first day of the week.”

    • In the evening, disciples were behind closed doors because they were afraid.

    • Jesus appears. No mention of the doors being opened.

    • “Peace be with you.”

      • Twice Jesus appears to disciples who are afraid. Twice his first words are “Peace be with you.”

      • When we pass the peace with one another in worship, are we quieting each other’s fears, or is it just a nice greeting?

    • Peace comes along with sending.

      • There are no real details about what he is sending them to, only the parallel that they are sent by him as Jesus was sent by God.

    • Shows them hands and side.

      • They don’t ask to see it, but he shows them anyway.

      • The wounds and scars are still there.

      • Resurrection doesn’t erase the pain of crucifixion.

    • They have no particular reaction.

      • No confession by any disciples at seeing Jesus.

    • Breaths on them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

      • No response by disciples at receiving H.S.

      • There is no Pentecost story in John. The disciples receive the Holy Spirit on Easter - no delay.

      • What do they do with the Holy Spirit? Forgive - or don’t forgive.

      • Forgiveness is a foundation of this community. That is the only thing they are directly told to do.

  • Jesus Appears to Disciples v. 19-23

    • John merges the events of Easter and Pentecost.  

      • Giving of the Holy Spirit occurs while Jesus is present.

      • Jesus is closely linked to church

      • Mission of Jesus as sent from God is parallel to mission of Church as sent from Jesus.

    • “The beginning of the community’s life is not separated from the story of Easter; indeed, in John, the gift of the Spirit and the commissioning of the church occur on Easter Sunday evening… [which] serves as a reminder that the church’s life is intimately bound to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection” (Gail O’Day, New Interpreter’s Bible v. IX, p. 848)

    • Disciples are sent out to forgive anyone’s sins.

  • Jesus Appears to All v. 24-31

    • Thomas shows up.

      • Where was he?

      • Thomas: “Unless I see the nails marks in his hands… I won’t believe”

      • Disciples didn’t believe the women until they saw. Thomas doesn’t believe the disciples unless he sees

    • Eight days later they are still locked in a house

      • If they had seen the risen Lord, and been given the Holy Spirit, shouldn’t the be doing something other than chilling in a locked room for a week?

      • Eight days later. What happened to being “sent out”?

      • What have they been doing?

      • Jesus appears even though the room is locked.

      • “Peace be with you,” again is the greeting.

      • Thomas does not ask Jesus to see the wounds. Jesus simply offers - in the same way he offered the disciples.

        • History has labeled Thomas the doubter even though he really showed no more doubt than the others.

        • If anything, he doubted the disciples, but they were locked in a room 8 days later.

        • He is actually the only one in this passage to respond in any meaningful way to Christ’s presence.

    • Thomas never doubts Jesus. He doubts the disciples, who haven’t apparently started to do anything different since first encountering the risen Christ.

    • Jesus offers his hands and his side, but there is nothing in the story that shows Thomas actually touched him. Jesus appears, shows Thomas his wounds, and Thomas declares “My Lord and my God.”

      • Blessing to “those who believe, but have not seen,” is a direct call to the community receiving this gospel. They now have the complete good news, and are free to believe where they have not seen.

      • Readers are pushed to proclaim, as Thomas, that Jesus is “My Lord and my God,” which was the point of the prologue, back in 1:1. Probably the end of the Gospel of John, but “there is no evidence that John’s Gospel was ever circulated without chapter 21” (Common English Study Bible, p. 212 NT).

Sermon Thoughts

  • Thomas didn’t doubt Christ, he doubted his followers. He doubted those that gave witness to the risen Christ, perhaps because they showed no evidence. Even after encountering the risen Christ, they were locking themselves in a room. Is there any wonder that he didn’t believe them? What evidence do we show that there is a risen Christ? If all we do is lock ourselves in rooms (sanctuaries, churches, institutions), then why would anyone believe that we have been changed by a miraculous experience?

  • Readers at the end of this passage are pushed to recall the prologue. The gospel started by proclaiming that Jesus is the eternal Word made flesh. At the end, Thomas is able to declare that Jesus is “My Lord, and my God.” This is the culmination of belief. Just as the gospel is structured with increasingly dramatic signs and wonders, so is the increasingly bold witness. In the end, we are left to witness that Jesus is Lord and God. This might be a difficult thing for those with low Christology, but it is a basic tenet of Christianity that Christ is fully human and fully divine.

  • What were they afraid of?  Fear didn’t keep two of them from sprinting to the tomb when they heard the body was gone.  After the tomb, they returned home. Why were they now locked in a room? Now faced with reality of resurrection, why were they paralyzed?

  • Thomas didn’t want anything that the disciples hadn’t gotten themselves.  He was no less a believer than any of them. He didn’t doubt Jesus – he doubted their testimony.  Maybe because he was living in the same fear that they had. Once he encountered the risen Christ, that was enough.

  • In Easter, Jesus is called “Teacher,” “Lord,” and “My God.”  What do each of these titles mean? Is he teacher, Lord, and God?  What does it mean to my life if he is all of these things?

  • Doubt is the pathway to faith.  When we doubt, we probe, question, and search.  Perhaps Thomas started with doubt, but he ended with the greatest testimony of the disciples.

  • Thomas didn’t doubt Christ, he doubted his followers. He doubted those that gave witness to the risen Christ, perhaps because they showed no evidence. Even after encountering the risen Christ, they were locking themselves in a room. Is there any wonder that he didn’t believe them? What evidence do we show that there is a risen Christ? If all we do is lock ourselves in rooms (sanctuaries, churches, institutions), then why would anyone believe that we have been changed by a miraculous experience?

  • Readers at the end of this passage are pushed to recall the prologue. The gospel started by proclaiming that Jesus is the eternal Word made flesh. At the end, Thomas is able to declare that Jesus is “My Lord, and my God.” This is the culmination of belief. Just as the gospel is structured with increasingly dramatic signs and wonders, so is the increasingly bold witness. In the end, we are left to witness that Jesus is Lord and God. This might be a difficult thing for those with low Christology, but it is a basic tenet of Christianity that Christ is fully human and fully divine.

  • What did the disciples do for eight days after they “received the Holy Spirit,” and were still locked in the room? The disciples are passive in these stories. They have no real response. Except for Thomas who declares “My Lord and my God.” He is the only one who makes this stark confession to Jesus’s resurrection.

  • This passage is more about the readers - the Johannine community - than it is about the disciples themselves. To a group that is beginning to face scrutiny and persecution, it is a word of encouragement for those who believe though they had not seen.

    • “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and believe.” This is clearly an exhortation to the community receiving the gospel. The good news is that you need not have seen Jesus to believe. The offering to see and believe is made to all. The question is, “What have you seen?” The gospel closes (kind of) with the words, “believing, you will have life in his name.” What does it mean to have life in Jesus name? Is it purely about afterlife? Is following Jesus just about believing so that you can get to heaven? Or does life in Jesus name mean something more?


Acts 4:32-35

Initial Thoughts

  • This is a great verse to use against those who quote 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “Those who don’t work, don’t eat.”

    • Needs to be more than a proof text for social safety net programs.

    • Describes the nature of community - even if idealized.

  • Prepare for the Lectionary to not do you any favors if you’re preaching the Acts track

    • Easter 2: Acts 4:32-35 describes the community

    • Easter 3: Acts 3:12-19 the first half of Peter’s sermon, detailing history of killing prophets

    • Easter 4: Acts 4:5-12 the first half of Peter and John before the leaders, elders, and legal experts.

    • Easter 5: Acts 8:26-40 Philip and the Eunuch

    • Easter 6: Acts 10:44-48  Cornelius responds to Peter’s teaching

    • Easter 7: Acts 1:15-17, 21-26 or Ascension Acts 1:1-11

    • Pentecost: Acts 2:1-21

Bible Study

  • Literary Context

    • This is the close of chapter 4, which is the story of Peter and John’s arrest by the Sadducees and Temple Guard. (Part of this story is going to be the reading for Easter 4)

      • The response of the community is direct contrast to the response of the leadership.

      • The leadership commands Peter and John to stop telling people about Jesus. “To prevent it from spreading.”

      • Peter and John go back to the community, tell them what happened, and this was in part their response to being told to be quiet.

    • The very next story is of a couple who hides their property, lie about it, and are struck dead immediately.

      • The rosy picture of the perfect community is shattered immediately.

  • Idealized community, maybe.

    • Also a clear contrast between how the followers of Jesus live(d) and how the world is

      • one in heart and mind - conflict

      • shared everything - materialism

      • no needy persons - plenty of needy people

      • trust in the leaders - distrust of leadership

    • How did they do this? Not by their own power but through grace

    • One, holy, catholic and apostolic church - this is the vision for the church

    • There is a realism that develops - we know people did own property (homes that the earliest house churches took place in), we know that some did not give everything (Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5), that widows are neglected again (Acts 6)

    • The vision of Acts 4 is that this is possible. Not only is it possible, but it is what we should be striving for - to be able to support and empower each other.

      • “In Jesus Christ, there was now a new family: the church… The implications for this new theology and humanitarianism are not difficult to trace. Societies may change, as may the structures of economics and finance, but the needs of the people for support and strengthening do not change. Thus the spirit of Christian unity, in addition to being a proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus Christ, must work to sustain and empower men and women in the myriad ways in which sustenance and empowerment are required - even in a day of insurance policies and government benefits.” (Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, Year B, p 279)

    • Christian community is about more than “saving souls,” or “reaching people for Jesus.” It is about empowering communities, helping them stand up against external forces of oppression and marginalization, and caring for one another.

Sermon Thoughts

  • What is keeping us from being this kind of church?

  • How do we “bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus”? For this community, that powerful witness came from radically caring for one another.

    • What might that look like in our context - where this kind of radical selling of possessions and communal living would be called into question?

      • Low-cost daycare

      • Tutoring

      • ESL, GED, citizenship, cooking, parenting classes

      • Multicultural worship, intentionally directed for those who may not want to - or be able to - come in on Sunday at 10 a.m.

  • It is no wonder that one of the first controversies of the Church is about money. This passage presents the community’s response to external pressure. They do not waver in the face of external pressure. They waver at their own inability to live up to the ideal that set for themselves. The story of Ananias and Sapphira reveals the depth to which we cling to materialism, and the extent we go to deceive ourselves in its pursuit.

  • “In Western culture, money assumed a god-like quality in our lives, our ticket to enduring significance in the face of death. We sometimes say, in the face of materialism, ‘You can’t take it with you.’ But that observation does not defeat our materialism; it reveals its source.” (William Willimon, Interpretation: Acts, p. 53).


1 John 1:1 - 2:2

Initial Thoughts

  • John 1 in Eastertide!

  • Give Thomas a break for once and jump into 1 John: love, antichrists, light and darkness, the complexity of sin and more!!

  • “How plain, how full, and how deep a compendium of genuine Christianity!” - John Wesley

Bible Study

  • Thoughts on 1 John

    • Authorship - little is known, anonymous in all letters except for “the elder in 2 and 3 John. Most scholars agree that all 3 letters were written by the same author. Traditionally thought to be authored by John, son of Zebedee, the disciple whom Jesus loved and author of the 4th Gospel - no hard evidence to support this claim (or that John of Patmos authored the letters), therefore they retain the name “John” due to tradition. (C. Clifton Black, “1, 2 & 3 John” NIB XII)

    • Dating: 1 John has many literary and theological consistencies with the 4th Gospel. While it is unknown (and debated) which came first the letters or the Gospel. Either way the letters most like come from the Johannine community around 100 CE

    • Major theological themes of 1 John (you’ll note common themes in the Gospel of John)

      • Incarnation

      • Light and Darkness

      • Love

      • Walk as a metaphor for faith journey

    • Want more on 1 John? Check out Enter the Bible’s entry on 1 John here!

  • Introduction v. 1-4

    • Experiential, not doctrinal - faith is sensory (heard, seen, touched)

    • Community- faith is experienced in fellowship with God, Jesus and one another

    • In this experience of faith seen, heard and touched and in fellowship with one another and the divine “joy may be complete”

  • Complexity of sin v. 5-10

    • God is light, in God there is no darkness v. 5

    • If you sin or “walk in darkness” you are not with God v. 6

    • We all sin v. 8 (Norman GreenBaum has it wrong)

    • If you say you haven’t sinned - you are lying and are sinning v. 10

      • George Straup - compares this to Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve convincing themselves and trying to convince God they have not sinned (Feasting on the Word)

    • How do we overcome sin? confession (v. 9), walking with God (in the light) and fellowship with one another (v.7)

  • 50 shades of John

    • The world is light and darkness, sin and sinless

    • We are always vacillating between these poles - we live in the tension between light and dark, sin and redemption, we live in the 50 shades of grey…(only without the spanking bench)

Sermon Thoughts

  • How might we invite people not simply to hear the word but to see it and touch it?

  • Fellowship with one another and with God are central to a life of faith, yet fellowship in church’s is too often seen as less important than outreach and faith formation or happened devoid of spirituality. How do we resurrect [see what I did there :) ?] fellowship as a spiritual practice?

  • There may not be darkness within God, but that does not mean God did not experience darkness through crucifixion.

  • 1 John is not concerned about justification by works or faith- the two are inseparable. If you believe in the light- walk in the light. If you walk in the dark- you clearly don’t believe in the light.


THANK YOU FOR LISTENING AND GET IN TOUCH:

Thanks to our Psalms correspondent, Richard Bruxvoort Colligan (psalmimmersion.com,@pomopsalmist). Thank you to Scott Fletcher for our voice bumpers, Dick Dale and the Del Tones for our Theme music (“Misirlou”), Nicolai Heidlas (“Sunday Morning”,"Real Ride"and“Summertime”) and Paul and Storm for our closing music (“Oh No”).