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Easter 2, Cycle C (2016)

God and the Resurrection have their way with us. In proclaiming how Easter has changed us, sermons will focus on Justification by Grace and Sanctification.

Psalm 118:14-29
We continue to consider this thanksgiving for deliverance in battle. As noted in last week’s analysis, this is one of the Egyptian Hallel Psalms (Psalms of Praise) used after the Passover meal. As previously noted, they are called “Hallel” Psalms because of their use of the Hebrew word halal which means “Praise the Lord.” Yahweh is identified as the psalmist’s strength [oz] and salvation/safety [yeshuah] (v. 14). Verses 15-16, praising works of the right hand of Yahweh may be an ancient victory song. Reference is made to not dying [muth] but living [chayah], to being punished but not being given over to death (vv. 17-18). This suggests the Cross-Resurrection sequence, as the concluding call to rejoicing (v. 24) invites an Easter reading. Reference to the gates of righteousness [tsedeq] and the gate the righteous enter, though originally intended to refer to entering the Jerusalem Temple in a procession (vv. 19-20), implies the outcome of Easter, the righteousness associated with Justification by Grace (Romans 3:21-26). We remind ourselves again at this point that the concept of “righteousness” even in an Old Testament context is not to imply that the believer lives in faultless conformity to some moral law. It has to do with living in right relationship with God (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 370-371). Reference is then made to the joy [gil] and awe that follow from this awareness of what Yahweh has done in becoming our salvation [yeshuah, safety, ease] (vv. 21, 23-24).

The Christological interpretation further reflects in verses 22-23 and its reference to the stone [eben] the builders rejected becoming the chief cornerstone [pinnah]. This along with verses 25-26 are frequently attributed to Christ in the New Testament (Matthew 21:42, 9; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7). The legitimacy of applying these texts to Christ and Easter, as living voices of the present, has been suggested by eminent Old Testament scholar Brevard Childs (Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p. 523). He notes that the final editors of the collection do not seem to have been concerned to present them as bound to their place of origin, for they could be sung any time.

The psalm continues with the admission of the supplicant into the Jerusalem Temple with a choral blessing, for he comes in the name of Yahweh, and the Yahweh is Elohim who gives light (vv. 26-27a). Liturgical directions are given, and the suppliant offers Yahweh thanks and praise (vv. 27b-29).

Application: Once again the psalm offers opportunities to proclaim that God gives life and salvation through death, he takes what seems to be of no account or a sign of defeat, and gives life and power through these means (Justification by Grace and Atonement) and also that he sets us on a life of living in right relationship with him (Sanctification).


Psalm 150
This alternative psalm is a hymn of praise marking the end of the book of Psalms. In each verse different modes of praise of Yahweh Elohim are commended. He is praised in the sanctuary and the sky, for his mighty deeds and for his greatness. The sort of instruments used to praise him are noted (vv. 1-5). Everything that breathes is to praise the Lord (v. 6).

Application: Sermons on this psalm might focus on how all Creation praises God and that we might join it in praise (Sanctification as a life of praise). Creation, Providence, and Atonement might all be themes stressed in occasioning such praise.

Acts 5:27-32
We turn again to the second half of the two-part early history of the Church attributed to Paul’s Gentile associate, Luke (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24). It is particularly concerned to affirm the universal mission of the Church (1:8), a theme reflected in this story of Peter’s confession of the gospel justifying his efforts to convert the Gentile Cornelius in Caesarea.

This lesson is the report of the proceedings of the Sanhedrin (the Council of Jewish elders and high priests) on the arrest of the apostles and Peter’s witness in that context. The high priest questioning the apostles notes the strict orders given them against teaching Christ’s name and yet this had been disobeyed (vv. 27-28). Peter responds that God must be obeyed rather than human authority (v. 29). He proceeds to note that the God of the patriarchs had raised Jesus whom Jewish authority had killed by hanging him on a tree (v. 30). God is said to have exalted [hupsoo] Jesus as leader [archegon] and Savior [soter] to give repentance [metanoia, a change of mind] to Israel for forgiveness of sins. On behalf of all the apostles Peter claims to have witnessed this along with the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey [peitharcheo, as in obedience to a ruler] (vv. 31-32).

Application: This lesson invites sermons proclaiming Justification by Grace, the work of the Holy Spirit, as well as the freedom and confidence this word offers to defy worldly authority (Sanctification and Social Ethics).

Revelation 1:4-8
The last book of the Bible is an Apochryphal document of the late first century expressing hope for salvation after a world-ending new creation. Although parts of the book may predate the fall of Jerusalem, it is likely that it achieved its final form during the reign of Domitian (81-96 AD) who is said to have persecuted Christians for refusing to address him as lord and god. Written by John (1:1, 4, 9; 22:8), whose identity is not clear despite the tradition’s identification of him with the disciple, the book’s Semitic Greek style suggests that its author was Jewish. It is the report of seven (the mystical Hebrew number for fullness) dreams. It relies heavily on eschatological images of the book of Daniel and other Old Testament texts (see 1:7 [cf. Daniel 7:13]; 1:12-16 [cf. Daniel 10:5-9]).

Our lesson is drawn from an introductory salutation to the seven churches of Asia Minor in prominent cities that would receive the seven letters exposited in the book (1:9–3:22). The typical Greek formula of salutation at the outset of the lesson refers to God in a tri-fold way (he who is, was, and is to come). Reference to seven spirits may allude to angelic beings or to energies of the Spirit (v. 4b). The greeting refers to Jesus Christ in a tri-fold way; he is identified as ruler of kings, is said to love, and to free/ loosed [lousanti] us by his love [agape]. Making us a kingdom of priests implies affirmation of the priesthood of all believers (vv. 5-6).

Poetic testimony follows (vv. 7-8). Reference to the coming with the clouds and as one who will make all the earth’s tribes wail is an allusion to Daniel 7:13 applied to Jesus’ Eschatological coming. God is said to be the beginning and the end.

Application: Sermons on this lesson will proclaim how Eschatology illuminates Christian life in the present (Justification and Sanctification), providing confidence and peace. A Classic View of the Atonement may also be introduced and/or explained.

John 20:19-31
Again we note that this book is the last of the four gospels to be written, probably not composed until the last two decades of the first century. It is very different in style in comparison to the other three (so-called Synoptic) Gospels. In fact it is likely based on these earlier gospels. The book has been identified with John the Son of Zebedee, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and this claim was made as long ago as late in the first century by the famed theologian of the early Church Irenaeus (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, p. 414). It is likely that it was written by a disciple of John.

Recently, though, some scholars have suggested an alternative account of the origins of John’s gospel. Appealing to the writings of a late-first/early-second century Bishop Papias, who may have implied that John’s gospel was the result of eyewitness origins, such scholars have argued that the book is in fact an authentic historical testimony to Jesus (Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, especially pp. 423ff; cf. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, pp. 154-155). Regardless of its origins, though, most scholars agree that the book’s main agenda was probably to encourage Jewish Christians in conflict with the synagogue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (20:31).

This lesson offers accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection Appearances and the story of Doubting Thomas which is unique to this gospel. The text begins reporting on the first Easter, a gathering of disciples locked in a house for fear of the Jews. The risen Jesus enters and gives them a greeting of peace [eirene] (v. 19). The disciples rejoice (v. 20). Jesus then commissions the disciples, gives them the Holy Spirit and the power to forgive [aphientai] and retain sins. In giving the Holy Spirit to his disciples by breathing [emphusao] on them John’s Jesus employs an image also used in the Old Testament to express the communication of natural life (vv. 20-23; cf. Genesis 2:7). Thomas was not present and expresses doubts about Jesus’ Resurrection (vv. 24-25). In a gathering the following week, Jesus appears and has Thomas feel his body. Thomas confesses his faith (vv. 26-28). Jesus asks him if he only has believed because he saw Jesus. The Lord adds his blessing for those who have not seen him yet believe (v. 29). The author notes that Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, not reported in the gospel (v. 30). The ones reported are provided, he writes, that readers may believe that Jesus is the Messiah [Christos], Son of God, and through believing have life/activity [zoe] in his name (v. 31). As noted above, this verse is understood as the gospel of John’s statement of purpose. This and verse 30 may well have been the original conclusion of the gospel.

Application: Sermons on this lesson will indict our Sin (including doubts like Thomas experienced) and proclaim forgiveness (Justification by Grace) as well as Sanctification (our mission to forgive sins) which often manifests in hidden ways.

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Authors of
Lectionary Scripture Notes
Norman A. Beck is the Poehlmann Professor of Theology and Classical Languages and the Chairman of the Department of Theology, Philosophy, and Classical Languages at Texas Lutheran University
Dr. Norman A. Beck
Mark Ellingsen is professor at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Mark Ellingsen