This coming Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, could be called “Good Shepherd Sunday”. As the Lectionary cycles through three years (Year A is dedicated to Matthew, Year B to Mark, and Year C to Luke) this Sunday squarely lands on Psalm 23 and John 10. The other readings will not have the shepherd theme but part of John 10 will be paired with Psalm 23 each year. Our readings this week are:
Acts 4:5-12 – After Peter and John’s testimony to the crowds following the healing of a crippled man, which we read last week, the authorities haul the two before the high council (verses 5-7). When they are asked by what authority or power they healed the man, Peter responds with a similar but shorter witness he gave to the crowds the day before (compare 3:12-26 with 4:8-12). The central point of both witnesses is “Jesus Crucified”, whom “God Raised”. It seems that when ever Peter gives a witness to the people of Jerusalem he points a finger of guilt by saying “Jesus whom you crucified”. Does he ever get the point that he was just a guilty when he denied Jesus? Do we ever get the point that we are just as guilty?
Psalm 23 – Try reading this Psalm from several different versions of the Bible. We know the King James Version so well even when we read it aloud we don’t truly hear it fresh. Then, try to write your own version. Mine might start “Jesus is my orchestra conductor . . .” and then I would play with that theme in each verse. As you read it, notice that the theme shifts from “The Lord is my shepherd” to “The Lord is my dinner host.” Perhaps your version could make a similar shift. (Some scholars think that there were originally two short Psalms that became one in the canonized version.)
1 John 3:16-24 – Have you read the entire letter called “1 John”? If you have not, why not today? It will only take you 15 minutes or so. The lectionary committee, for some reason, skipped over chunks that it may have been uncomfortable with. The verses preceding ours this week concern sin: those who sin belong to the devil and those born of God don’t sin. That is an uncomfortable concept that we should all struggle with. Our passage concerns love, but the lectionary committee skips the first three verses of the paragraph: the world hates us (vs. 13); we have transferred from death to life because we love (vs. 14a); those who don’t love remain in death (14b); and those who hate another are murderers (vs. 15). How do we know love and what should we do (vs. 16)? How should we love (vs. 18)? If our hearts condemn us (vs. 20) what is greater than our hearts? If our hearts don’t condemn us, what does that mean (vs. 21)? What are the commandments we are called to keep (vs. 23)? How do we know we remain in God (vs. 24)?
John 10:11-18 – To understand the flow of the narrative, you should probably read John 9 through John 10:10. Starting at John 9:39, Jesus is interacting with the religious authorities over his healing of the man who was blind from birth, which is the bulk of John 9. In the first part of chapter 10 Jesus talks about the sheep that follow the shepherd and about the gate for the sheep. These two chapters also contain several of the “I AM” sayings found in John: “I am the light of the world” (vs. 9:5); “I am the gate of the sheep” (10:7); “I am the gate” (10:9); and “I am the good shepherd” (10:11 and 14). Whom do the sheep follow and why? Whom won’t they follow? What is the characteristic of a thief and outlaw? What happens to those who enter through the gate which is Jesus? Why did Jesus come (to humanity? to earth?)?
May the good shepherd lead you to greener fields and cool waters this week as you read the Word of God.
Peace in Christ,