Easter 5A

219: May 14, 2017

63: May 18, 2014

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16 Richard Bruxvoort Colligan

Voice in the Wilderness - 1 Peter 2:2-10 with Lee Saylor

Featured Musician - Emily Joy - “Everything Must Burn,” from her album “All Prodigal Daughters and Sons”

Opening Music: Nick Eberhardt, Rainy Day Woman #12 & 35 Cover (Bob Dylan)

Featured Musician: “If God’s Alive,” by Brian Sirchio. Found on Crosswind music.

Exegetical Notes

John 14:1-14

Initial Thoughts

  • One of my first sermons in seminary was on this text and built it around “The Way, the Truth, and the Light.” Whoops. (Robb)

  • How to live now that Jesus is gone

    • Funerals

    • Part of Jesus’ farewell discourse

    • Typical of ancient literature- Socrates, Moses, etc

Bible Study

  • Beginning of the Farewell Discourse (14:1-16:33)

    • Critical analysis presents many ways of editing this passage. There are many theories about the redaction of this section.

      • Farewell Discourse is a genre

      • “The voice of Jesus that speaks in the Farewell Discourse is, therefore, that of a risen and victorious Jesus.”  (Gail O’Day, New Interpreter's Bible, v. IX, p. 738)

      • Message to the writer’s present community is given added weight by being ‘assigned’ to Jesus.

      • Themes of this particular passage: Consolation and Assurance (Gail O’Day, New Interpreter's Bible, v. IX, p. 738)

  • Jesus first provides the answer to the question the disciples have yet to ask (but John’s community had surely wondered about); When and Where?

    • Jesus provides an answer to worry and anxiety

    • Do not fear- “if you know me” I will take you to me

    • Jesus prepares to die, the Disciples must prepare to let go of their pre-conceived notions of who the Messiah is and accept a Messiah that will be crucified

    • “When their hopeful visions for a just and peaceful messianic kingdom melt in the crucible of crucifixion, the hearts of the disciples will be diseased—and their anxiety will be blinding.” (Shannon Michael Pater)

    • Believe in God and believe also in me

    • Luther asks what it means to have a God and answers that God is what you hang your heart upon. The heart that is troubled is a heart not hung upon God but hung rather on all the things the world peddles to soothe a troubled heart.” (Cynthia Jarvis)

    • Can we follow God without knowing where?

      • Preparing a place

      • What do we know?

        • God will be there

        • Jesus will be there

        • Follow Jesus’ Way

      • Nothing can separate us from Jesus or God - words of comfort

  • “My Father’s House”

    • “It is critical to the interpretation of Jesus’ words here that the reference to ‘my Father’s house’ not be taken as a synonym for heaven.” (O’Day, p. 740)

    • The key to this passage is “abiding” which is a common theme in John that describes a relationship, not architecture.

    • The “many rooms” is not about having enough room for people to get into heaven. It is extending the abiding relationship between Jesus and the Father into a relationship that we may now enter into also.

      • Jesus abiding with God did not start when he died. It was a description of how he lived.

      • This is true with us, too. It is not about where we live in the ‘afterlife,’ but where we live in the present.

    • Jesus’ promise is about permanent abiding with God

  • v. 14:6a - I am the Way the Truth and the Life

    • WAY

      • People of the Way (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22)

      • Journey of faith:

        • Abraham to Canaan

        • Israel to Promised Land

        • Back from Babylon

        • Disciples following Jesus

        • Journey from Galilee to Jerusalem

          • From the Baptism to the Cross to the Empty Tomb and beyond

    • TRUTH

      • Main theme of John’s Gospel

      • Prologue: Grace and truth (1:14, 17)

      • Spirit of Truth will come after Jesus to guide the faithful (14:17, 15: 26-27)

    • LIFE

      • Theme of eternal life

      • Not what is coming next but what happens when you follow the Way of God

      • participation in God = eternal life (cf. Jn. 10:28; 17:2-3)

  • 14:6b - Exclusivism

    • Can exclusive claim be made- YES

    • Is this only exclusive? - NO

    • Message of comfort (see 14:1)

    • Who is Jesus talking to here? The believers and disciples

    • Is Jesus message consistently exclusive or inclusive?

    • Do not fear and do not worry

    • “Jesus claim that ‘no one comes to the Father except through me’ is the joyous affirmation of a religious community that does, indeed, believe that God is available to them decisively in the incarnation.”

      • It is important to understand that these words are directed at a particular community which is trying to shape its own identity.

    • “What is often labeled as excessively exclusionary would be described more accurately as particularism. That is, the claims made in John 14:6 express the particularities of the Fourth Evangelist’s knowledge and experience of God, and membership in the faith community for which he writes and which he envisions does indeed hinge on this claim.” (O’Day, p. 744, emphasis by author)

    • “To use these verses in a battle over the relative merits of the world’s religions is to distort their theological heart. It is dangerous and destructive anachronism to cite John 14:6-7 as the final arbiter in discussions of the merits of different religions’ experiences and understanding of God” (O’ Day, p. 744)

  • vv. 14:8-14

    • See God - we see God in Jesus

      • According to John - Jesus reveals God

      • Greater works

        • Carrying the message to the Gentiles?

        • Carrying on the message without the physical presence of Christ?

        • Trusting in the power of love and grace over the power of pragmatism and domination?

Preaching Thoughts

  • Where do you hang your troubled heart? On God and Jesus or on the details and our own strength?

    • God’s house has many rooms - God always has room for us, do we have room for others in our life?

    • How do we reclaim 14:6 as a text of comfort and grace not a litmus test for faith or a gate to salvation

Acts 7:55-60

Initial Thoughts

  • Stephen’s story begins at 6:8, when he stands out among the believers.  Opposition quickly rises against him.  They bring charges against him.  He is being tried for "We heard him insult Moses and God." Stephen’s testimony begins at 7:2.  His defense is actually aligning himself and Jesus within the Moses tradition.

  • Introduction to Saul , who would be converted in chapter 9.

Bible Study

  • Why was Stephen stoned?

    • The first Martyr - Gk - witness

    • Tells story of God’s saving actions, with people’s unwillingness to follow.

    • Connecting Jesus to Moses - just as the people rejected Moses, so they rejected Jesus.

    • Stephen preaching reform - of the Way of Jesus as being rightly Jewish over the Temple and the Law

      • “For the contemporary Christian audience, it is crucial to observe that in his speech, Stephen is not pitting Christianity over against Judaism as though they were two distinct religions. The debate depicted by Luke in Acts 6-7 is an intra-Jewish struggle over identity and the continuing role of Temple and Law; to label it otherwise is anachronistic.” Mikeal Parsons, (Working Preacher)

    • When Luke/Acts was written, the Temple had been destroyed, and the church was under persecution.

  • verse 56 Jesus is “standing at the right hand of God.”

    • John Calvin claimed this was a minor detail and nothing should be made of it.

    • Ambrose observed: “Jesus stood as a helpmate; he stood as if anxious to help Stephen, his athlete, in the struggle. He stood as though ready to crown his martyr. Let him then stand for you that you may not fear him sitting, for he sits when he judges”  Mikeal Parsons, (Working Preacher)

    • “He sits as Judge of the quick and the dead; he stands as his people’s Advocate”

  • Stephen’s and Jesus’s death parallels in Luke/Acts

    • False accusation

      • Jesus

      • Stephen

    • Trust in God

      • Jesus: “Into your hands, Father, I commend my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

      • Stephen: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

    • Right hand of God

      • Jesus during trial: “The Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the Father.” (Lk 22:69).

      • Stephen culminates his testimony; "I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" (Acts 7:56)

    • Forgiveness

      • Jesus on the cross: “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (luke 23:34)

      • Stephen being stoned: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”

    • Centurion watching Jesus, “Surely this man was innocent.” (Lk 23:48)

      • Saul watching Stephen (Acts 7:58)

  • What does the ugly violence of this act mean to us today?

    • “Death is not dead yet, neither is evil or pain.  They may be doomed, but they are still very pervasive realities, with which men and women must deal daily.” (Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching, Year A, p. 293).

    • Not all good works are met with joy and grace.

    • Death of Stephen though, is not one of evil triumphant - Stephen’s witness to Jesus occurs not in his trial, but in his death

      • Forgiveness

      • Trust in God  

      • Grace and forgiveness of Stephen has been a source of inspiration for two thousand years

    • What effect does this have?

      • Unknown - simply Saul approved of the killing

Preaching Thoughts

  • Awkward responses to the Spirit:

    • Response to Peter’s sermon is explosive growth and building of community.

    • Response to Stephen’s rise is jealousy, culminating in an ugly, violent act.

  • Response to the gospel is not always positive.  

  • Is the church prepared for an ugly and violent response to the Good News?

    • Just because the response is negative, doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong

  • Was Stephen stoned for blasphemy? Or for being prophetic and judgemental instead of pastoral and loving?

  • Jesus is placed in the same arc as Moses and the prophets, as the culmination - not as the replacement.


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”).