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Parish News

Introduction to Scripture Readings

Fri 20 Apr 2018

  • 4th Sunday of Easter

     21st April 2018

Acts 4: 5-12 

On these Sundays of Easter, the first reading is always from the Acts of the Apostles, a book which charts the growth and expansion of the church, in the days and years after the resurrection.  In last Sunday’s reading, we heard that when Peter and John healed a crippled man who joined them at the Temple to pray, the religious authorities arrested them. The Sanhedrin met the next day - the “elders” acted as religious and municipal judges; the “scribes”, mostly Sadducees – who did not believe in an afterlife – were experts in Mosaic law and its interpretation. “Annas” had been high priest, and now is the power behind the throne; five of his sons became high priest; “Caiaphas”, high priest 18-36 AD, was his son-in-law. “John” may be Jonathan, Caiaphas’ successor. We do not know of “Alexander”. John and Peter appear before the council, and are asked to explain their actions: who empowered you to cure the lame beggar? Peter’s answer “Filled with the Holy Spirit” recalls Luke 12:11-12, where Jesus says: “When they bring you before the ... rulers ... do not worry about ... what you are to say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you ... what you ought to say”.    

Psalm 23   The Lord is my shepherd.

1 John 3: 16-24 

Jesus is the great example of selfless love: far from taking life, he “laid down his life for us”. How can the love that originates in God be in a wealthy person who sees another in need and “refuses to help”? We need to love actively, “in truth and action”, not hypocritically (“in word or speech”). (Truth and faith are synonyms.) It is by “this” love that we will know that we are Christ-like (“from the truth”): our consciences (“hearts”) will be reassured whenever we are conscious of sinning (“our hearts condemn us”), for God knows us better than we do ourselves. But, when we know we are following God’s ways, we can boldly present ourselves “before God”. As Jesus promised (John 14), “whatever we ask” in his name (recognizing his power and authority), he will grant, because we follow God’s ways. Jesus has commanded that we believe in his authority and love one another. Obedience to Jesus guarantees our continued liaison with him. By this love and the presence of the Holy Spirit, given to us by God, we know that Christ “abides in us”.    

John 10: 11-18

Jesus continues to speak of himself as the good shepherd, an image familiar to his audience. True followers, he has said, recognize the good shepherd. “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved ... and find pasture ... the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have [spiritual] life, and have it abundantly”. Now he says that he is the “good” (i.e. real, proper) “shepherd”, the one who dies for his “sheep”, his flock. But the “hired hand” does not care enough to save the sheep from the “wolf”. (Old Testament prophets spoke of leaders of Israel in these terms, so Jesus probably speaks of them here – shepherds who are not worthy of the name.) Jesus’ relationship to people is like the Father’s to him. Who are the “other sheep”? We can only guess: perhaps they are non-Jews. They will have equal status with those who already follow Jesus, as part of one Church. Then Jesus has been given the authority to choose to die and the power to rise again from the dead. He is in control of his own death and resurrection.

 

‘I am the good shepherd,’ says the Lord. ‘I know my own and my own know me.’
John 10.14    
 

Next week.....

5th Sunday of Easter 

  Acts 8: 26-40     Psalm 22: 26-32     1 John 4: 7-21     John 15: 1-8