Keyword Search

  • Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company
    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

    Buy Direct from CSS Publishing Company

Easter 3, Cycle A

Amazing grace! Historically this has been a Sunday to celebrate the goodness of God. The focus of the sermons should be placed on what God has done and is doing for us in our daily lives (Atonement and Justification by Grace), with attention to how this is a word which alleviates our despair (Sin).

Psalm 116
As noted on Holy Thursday when it was assigned, this Psalm is a thanksgiving for healing and/or deliverance. God is praised for healing us, a witness made amidst the whole congregation in the temple (vv. 1-2, 18-19). The psalmist claims to love [aheb] Yahweh for hearing his cry. This is a God who is said to be gracious (channun, a term not prominent in the Old Testament, appearing most frequently in Psalms), righteous [tsaddiq], and merciful [racham] (v. 5). The relationship between these attributes makes sense when we remember that the righteousness of God refers in the Old Testament to the quality of relationships God has, and that he is on Israel’s side (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, pp. 371-372). Healthy relationships depend on love and mercy.

The rest of the Psalm makes clear that Yahweh Elohim is on the side of the faithful, for much of what is reported is a story of deliverance. He is said to have released the psalmist from death [sheol in vv. 3, 8 is the place of death for the Hebrews] and to have loosed bonds [moser] (v. 16). These images regarding God’s struggle against evil and death suggest the Christian concept of the Classic View of Atonement. God is said to protect the simple [pethi] (v. 6), which may indicate God’s identification with the lowly. No matter how bad things get we are to trust God more than the ways of human beings, for humanity’s ways lie — everyone is a liar [kazab] (v. 11).

Reference is made to lifting the cup of salvation (v. 13). This is probably a libation offered in fulfillment of the vow made by the psalmist when suffering (Exodus 29:40). But for Christians, the reference reminds us of the saving cup from which we drink in the Lord’s Supper. The psalmist identifies himself as a servant of the Lord, the child of a servant girl, who yet has been set free [pathach moser, loosed bonds] (v. 16). If read in relation to the New Testament this could also be applied to Jesus (especially the v. 15 reference to how precious the death of the faithful is to the Lord as well as the comment about the sacrifice in v. 17). Or it could be that the psalmist speaks for the faithful and is celebrating how precious Jesus’ death is. The Psalm ends with praise, as the phrase “Praise the Lord” is a translation of the Hebrew liturgical expression haleluyah (v. 19).

Application: The song affords opportunity for sermons on God’s love and deliverance when we are in anguish or need healing (Providence and Justification by Grace through Faith), his struggles with evil (Classic View of the Atonement), his concern for the oppressed or those outside the mainstream (Social Ethics), and also an opportunity to focus on the significance of the Lord’s Supper as an occasion for thankfulness and praise (Sanctification).

Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Again we consider the second half of a two-part history of the church traditionally attributed to Luke, a physician and Gentile associate of Paul (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24). There is some dispute about the date of composition, whether it was composed before Paul’s martyrdom (in 65-67 AD) or much later, after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD. In any case the author is concerned to stress the universal mission of the church (1:8) and so also makes an effort to validate Paul’s ministry. But this lesson is about Peter and part of his address to the crowds on the first Pentecost (v. 14a). His words are a call to repentance.

Having outlined what God has done for Hebrews in Jesus (vv. 14bff), it is claimed that Israel knows that the Jesus whom they crucified has been made Messiah [Christos] and Lord [kurios] by God (v. 36). This cuts the hearers of Peter to the heart, and so they ask what they should do (v. 37). He responds with a call to repentance [metanoeo] in the name of Jesus Christ, so their sins will be forgiven and they receive the Holy Spirit [hagios pneuma] (v. 38). This is typical of Luke, who inseparably connects repentance and salvation, while not identifying them (Hans Conzelman, The Theology of St. Luke, p. 228). (The reference to the work of the Holy Spirit at this point is not surprising, since the Spirit’s work is a crucial theme throughout Acts [Brevard Childs, The New Testament as Canon: An Introduction, p. 221].) It is declared that the promise is for the people, their children, and everybody called by God (v. 39). The last point is a reminder of how the stories of Acts and Luke are written so that by the Spirit, readers of later generations can discern the significance of the characters and accounts reported in the narrative for their generation (Hans Conzelman, The Theology of St. Luke, p. 230-231; Brevard Childs, The New Testament as Canon: An Introduction, p. 240). Peter is reported to continue to testify with other arguments and exhort people to save themselves from the corrupt generation of the present (v. 40). Those who welcomed this message were baptized, it was said to be 3,000 in number (v. 41).

Application: The text provides an excellent occasion for a sermon on repentance or a call to repentance. To make this point in a Lucan way entails that repentance is linked to sorrow for sin (v. 37), certainty of forgiveness (Justification by Grace) (v. 37) and baptism (v. 41), all transpiring by the Holy Spirit’s work (v. 38).

1 Peter 1:17-23
We have previously noted that this book was probably written between 70 AD and 90 AD. It is pastoral exhortation (circular letter) written by an elder in Rome claiming to be Peter to a Gentile church at the lower levels of the socio-economic spectrum in Asia Minor (modern Turkey). Apparently they were enduring some sort of suffering (2:19-24; 3:14-15; 4:12-19). The latter date and high-quality Greek make it unlikely to have been a work of the apostle. This lesson is part of an appeal for holiness.

In the context of exhortation to live in a holy manner (vv. 13-16), the author notes that the people should invoke the Father as the one who judges impartially according to deeds, and then live in fear [phobos] during this time of exile (v. 17; cf. Deuteronomy 10:17-18; in view of God’s impartiality it seems fair to interpret the Greek word for “fear” here in terms of the Hebraic equivalent yirah which includes the element of a fear occasioned by reverence to God). (The exile mentioned at this point is apparently a reference to the suffering alluded to above.) Recipients of the letter are said to know that they were ransomed/redeemed [eletrothete] from futile ways inherited from the ancestors, not with perishable things like silver and gold, but with the blood of Christ (vv. 18-19; cf. Mark 10:45). A comment about the lamb without defect in verse 19 may reflect Isaiah 53:7 or perhaps the Passover lamb of Exodus 12:5. Christ is said to have been destined before the foundation of the world but revealed at the end of ages only for the faithful. Through him the faithful are said to have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead (vv. 20-21). Now that the faithful have purified their souls by obedience to the truth so that they have a genuine mutual love, loving one another is exhorted (v. 22). This ethic is said to be grounded in being born again [anagegengennao], through the word of God (v. 23).

Application: The lesson invites reflection on the sense in which the faithful are in exile, suffering like the recipients of the epistle were (Sin). This opens the door to sermons exploring the awesomeness of a God who judges impartially and without bias, but judgments which have not our works but Christ’s eternally decreed mission as the means of salvation (Justification by Grace). Sermons on the atonement (the Satisfaction Theory) or how lives of holiness and love follow spontaneously from being born again (Sanctification) can also be developed from this text.

Luke 24:13-35
The first installment of a two-part history of the church traditionally attributed to Luke (see the First Lesson for details on the book’s origins and the author’s agenda). This lesson is the well-known story of the encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus, an account unique to Luke. Two travelers on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus (about seven miles from the capital) were talking about the Easter events (vv. 13-14). The risen Jesus approaches, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him, and Jesus asks what they are discussing. They are reported to look sad (vv. 15-16). One of the travelers, Cleopas, states in wonder if Jesus were the only stranger in Jerusalem who did not know of the events. The travelers respond with an indication that the events had to do with Jesus of Nazareth, whom they identify as a mighty prophet, and then refer to how chief priests and Jewish leaders handed him over to be crucified (vv. 17-20). Cleopas and his fellow traveler then express their hope that Jesus would have been the one to redeem Israel. They note that these events happened three days previously (v. 21). It is also observed that some women in the group who were at his tomb early on Easter did not find the body and have reported that they had seen angels testifying that Jesus was alive (vv. 22-23). This was also confirmed by others who went to the tomb, but apparently they did not see the risen Jesus (v. 24).

Jesus calls the men foolish and slow to believe what all the prophets have declared. He asks if it were not necessary that the Messiah suffer these things and then enter glory. This interpretation was said to be based in Moses and all the prophets (vv. 25-27). (For other texts testifying to the necessity of the Messiah’s suffering in God’s plan of salvation, see 9:22, 43b-45; 17:25; 18:31-34.) As they came to Emmaus Jesus seems to plan on proceeding, but those he met urge him to stay with them and Jesus acceded to their wishes (vv. 28-29). While at table, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and then it seems that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, at which time Jesus vanished (vv. 30-31). (This reference to breaking bread may have Eucharistic overtones, as it does in Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7; 27:35.) The travelers then noted to each other how their hearts had burned while talking to Jesus on the road and how he opened the scriptures to them. That same hour they returned to Jerusalem finding the eleven and hearing the testimony that the Lord had risen and appeared to Simon (an account not reported by Luke) (vv. 32-34). The two travelers then in turn reported what had happened to them.

Application: The text invites sermons on how we cannot find God. He is the one who finds us in our wandering and confusion. The themes of Sin and Justification by Grace are evidenced. We need to stop criticizing the spiritual blindness of others. We are as blind as the men on the Damascus Road. Another possible theme is to focus on how Christ comes to us most clearly in the celebration of meals with him (the Lord’s Supper).

Leave a Reply

  • Get Your FREE 30-day Trial Subscription to SermonSuite NOW!
    Chris Keating
    The Double-Dog Dare Days of August
    August’s lazy, hazy dog days quickly became a deadly double-dog dare contest between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the supreme leader of North Korea. Both nations have been at odds with each other for nearly 70 years. During his working golf vacation in New Jersey last week, President Trump responded to North Korea’s rhetorical sword-rattling by launching a verbal preemptive strike of his own.
         Call it the Bedminster bombast, or the putt that rocked Pyongyang. But the duel between the two countries is more than fodder for late-night comedians. It’s a deadly standoff with history-changing repercussions.
         There is no vacation from matters of national security, or the orations of war. Indeed, much of the war of words between Washington and North Korea seems to confirm Jesus’ counsel in Matthew: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.” The contrasts between these barbed exchanges and the biblical understanding of peacemaking offers an intriguing opportunity to hear Jesus’ words in a world filled with double-dog (and even triple-dog) dares....more
    Feeding The 5,000
    The assigned Gospel text for this week skips over a couple of sections in Matthew's story. Matthew 14:34-36 cites Jesus' journey to Gennesaret. The crowds of people recognized him immediately and all of the sick came to him for healing. Just a touch of Jesus' garment brought healing to many. The crowd in Gennesaret recognized Jesus. They came to him in their need....more
    Wayne Brouwer
    Religious balkanization
    One dimension of religious life we have in common across faith traditions and denominational lines is the incessant divisiveness that split our seemingly monolithic communities into dozens of similar yet tenaciously varied subgroups. A Jewish professor of psychology said of his tradition, "If there are ten Jewish males in a city we create a synagogue. If there are eleven Jewish males we start thinking about creating a competing synagogue."...more
    C. David McKirachan
    Jesus Is Coming, Look Busy
    Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
    I had a parishioner who would walk out of the sanctuary if he saw a djembe (African drum) out in front to be used in worship.  I asked him about it, in a wonderfully pastoral manner, and he told me that things like that didn’t belong in worship.  I said that it was in the bible to praise God with pipes and drums (I think it is).  He told me he didn’t care what the Bible said, he knew where that thing came from and he wouldn’t have it.  I asked him why things from Africa would bother him.  He told me that he knew I was liberal but that didn’t mean he had to be.  I agreed with him but cautioned him that racism was probably one of the worst examples of evil in our world and I thought he should consider what Christ would think of that.  He asked me who paid my salary, Christ or good Americans....more
    Janice Scott
    No Strings Attached
    In today's gospel reading, Jesus seemed reluctant to heal the Canaanite woman's daughter. He told her that he wasn't sent to help foreigners, but only his own people, the Chosen Race. The words sound unnecessarily harsh, but perhaps this is an interpretation unique to Matthew, for this story only appears in Matthew's gospel, which was written for Jews....more
    Arley K. Fadness
    Great Faith
    Object: Hula Hoop or circle made out of ribbon, twine or rope
    What an amazing morning to come to church today. I am so glad to see you and talk to you about a wonderful story from the bible. Let me begin by showing you this circle. Now let's get into this circle. (Physically, all move into the circle) It's fun for us all to be together in this circle. We don't want anyone to be left out. To be left out is to be sad. To be kept out is even more sad and painful....more

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