7 May | 4th Sunday of Easter | John 10:1-10 - The Good Shepherd
The first question to tackle here is why does it follow the story of the man born blind? There appears to be no connection as 10:1 introduces abruptly the shepherd theme, which is totally unexpected after the material of chapter 9. The reference to the cure of the blind in verse 21 ties this segment to the preceding chapter. More to the point, the discussion about the sheep and the shepherd is probably being used by John as a statement regarding the miserable shepherding being effected by such authorities as appear in the case of the man born blind. Blind guides themselves, they not only fail to recognize the leading light that is Jesus but cast out of the synagogue the one man who does accept the light. Verse 6 insists that they still just do not understand.
Crucial to the identification of the author’s purpose at this point is the necessary realization that he is writing about Jesus with the text of Ezek 34 in clear view. In that passage, Ezekiel, speaking God’s word, excoriates the authorities of his own time. They had become irresponsible and thieving shepherds, feeding themselves rather than their flock. So, God would take away their maladministration and become the shepherd himself. Finally, he would appoint another shepherd after the figure of David. John sees all of this coming true in Jesus. God has become the shepherd in Jesus, himself Messiah and Son of David. Jesus’ fidelity to his sheep, his sacrifice for them, stands out in contrast to the failure of the stumbling, blinded, bullying authorities in chapter 9.
14 May | 5th Sunday in Easter | John 14:1-12 - Faith in God
The Farewell Message of Jesus at his Last Supper is an expression of the dying Lord’s will for his community in those sacred last moments of his life. He calls for faith that will conquer the world. The way to such a success can be learnt through the Scriptures:
- The Exodus is the way to the Promised Land.
- Christianity was called ‘the Way’; John the Baptist’s call was “Prepare the way.”
- “Jesus is the way to the Father.”
The request of Thomas is ‘to know the way.’ Philip asks, “Lord, let us see the Father.” Jesus is the revelation of God; in him we see God. Our work is to believe in him, ‘the way, the truth, and the life.’
It is the down to earth Thomas who protests, “How can we know the way if we do not know where Jesus is going?” It produces Jesus’ most significant statement in the Gospel of John: “I am the way, the truth and the life.” While this does not exclude all knowledge of God apart from Jesus, it insists that he remains for us the touchstone of our Christian faith. His life, teachings, actions, and the values he embraced that led to his death and resurrection, are revelation of the God he called his Abba.
21 May | 6th Sunday in Easter | John 14:15-21 - Eternal Presence
It is this boomerang movement — Jesus’ departure and consequent return through the Paraclete/Spirit — that explains the “little while” in verse 19. Just as the disciples see Jesus now, so they will soon know of his union with the Father, which union he will share with them. The disciples who love will be loved by both the Father and Son, who (through the Paraclete/Spirit) will reveal himself to them. All they could have hoped for in the future will soon be now.
Loving Jesus means keeping his commandments and that comes about through taking on the values and life, teachings, actions mentioned last week. The basic requirement is to believe that Jesus is the revelation of the Father, enter into wholehearted communion of love of one another that in itself expresses the love Jesus had for them. This is brought about and is the expression of the Paraclete ‘advocate’ who stands beside us in difficult times to console, comfort, and strengthen.
28 May | The Ascension of the Lord | Matthew 28:16-20
All of Matthew’s gospel has been leading up to this point, the great commission to all the earth. Each piece is a summary of all that has gone before. Like a stone tossed in a pool, ripples flow back into the body of the gospel itself. All authority belongs to Jesus because he has fulfilled all that his Abba has asked of him. It is given him by the God he calls his Father, not by the empty promise of all power by the Satan in 4:9. The mission is to all nations of the Gentile world, as by the time the gospel of Matthew was written in the mid 80s, most of Israel had by and large rejected the call of Jesus. The rite of inclusion is to be baptism in the name of the trinity, a reminder of the baptism of Jesus, the Son, to whom the Father spoke as the beloved, and the Holy Spirit who became the driving force of his mission (4:1).
“Teaching all I have commanded” recalls the five great discourses of Jesus (Sermon on the Mount of chs. 5-7; the Mission teaching in ch.10; Parables of ch.13; Life and Leadership in the Community of ch.18; End times in chs. 24-25). For the first time in Matthew, the instruction of Jesus to teach (up to this point they were given authority over unclean spirits and to heal 10:1) is given to the apostles who have now heard it all. Four things are commanded: go out, make disciples of all the nations, baptise, and teach. A church that is not on mission is not church, nor is it faithful to the command of its Lord. However, as the work is that of the risen Lord, then his promise is to always be with those on that mission. We do not do the work on our own.
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