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Easter 3, Cycle B (2015)

Amazing grace.

The texts testify to God’s goodness, how amazing it is given our dire circumstances (Sin and Justification By Grace). The amazing character of this grace to change lives (Sanctification) is also a theme embedded in the pericopies.


Psalm 4
This is a lament attributed to David, a prayer for deliverance from personal enemies. It is good to remind ourselves that references to David in the Psalms like this one may have been a way of using him to represent the inner life of all his subjects and so of all the faithful (Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p.521). In that sense this song is about how we all face hard times but can count on God’s help. The Psalm begins with a cry for help, an appeal to God’s mercy/graciousness [chanan] to give room (v.1). There is a rebuke of those accusing the Psalmist of wrongdoing. Yahweh is said to set the faithful apart for Himself (vv.2-4). References to Selah are liturgical directions, probably indicating that there should be an instrumental interlude that that point in the singing of the Psalm. In turn, the accused is assured of the Lord’s help; this assistance is related to the performance of sacrifice [zebach] in The Temple (v.5). God puts gladness [simchah] in the Psalmist’s heart and grants peaceful sleep, for Yahweh alone gives safety/trust [betach] (vv.7-8). It is possible that reference to sleep is an allusion to permission given to the Psalmist to spend the night in The Temple. In any case, this is a Psalm about gratitude to God.

Application: The Psalm’s stress on gratitude to God and gladness in the midst of our struggles (Sin) certainly fits the Easter Theme and Theme of the Day (Justification By Grace). Once could also explore the theme of salvation as safety.


Acts 3:12-19
Once again we turn to the second half of the two-part early history of the Church attributed to Paul’s Gentile associate, Luke (Colossians 4:14; II Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24).  It is particularly concerned to affirm the universal mission of the Church (1:8). This Lesson is part of a sermon by Peter at Solomon’s portico on the east side of the Jerusalem Temple following the healing of a lame [cholos] man (vv.1-11). Peter begins by asking the crowd of Jews who had gathered after the healing why they seemed excited as if he and John had performed the miracle (v.12). Reference is made to the God of Abraham and the other Patriarchs Who have glorified [doxazo] Jesus His Servant [paida], the One rejected/denied [arneomai] by the people (v.13). Peter blames the Jewish crowd for the death of Jesus, identified as the holy and righteous One [dikaion], the author/founder [archegos] of life. His Resurrection is proclaimed (vv.14-15). The healing of the lame man is said to have happened by faith in Jesus’ Name [onoma] (v.16). Peter then notes that the Jewish crowd acted in ignorance (like their rulers) in Jesus’ death (v.17). For in this way God fulfilled the Prophecy that His Messiah/Christ would suffer (v.18). Reference is made here to Isaiah’s Suffering Servant (49:1-6; 50:4-11; 52:13 – 53:12). A call is issued for repentance [metanoeo] in order that sins might be wiped out (v.19).

Application: The narrative of Peter’s sermon opens the way to reflections on the implications for Christian life (helping, repentance, and witnessing) that flow from Jesus’ Atoning Work (Sanctification and Atonement). Another possibility might be to focus on Christology, on how Jesus fulfills the Prophecies of Isaiah’s Servant Songs.


1 John 3:1–7
Like the previous week, this Lesson emerges in a treatise or sermon by an unknown teacher of the Johannine tradition, probably aiming to clarify the proper interpretation of the Gospel of John. Since the end of the 2nd century the Epistle has been recognized as written by the author of the fourth Gospel or by another member of his circle. The Book addresses disputes over Gnostic or Docetic doubts about whether Jesus was truly a human being and whether His death on the Cross was a sacrifice for sin (1:1-3,7; 2:2; 3:16; 3:2,10; 5:6). This Lesson is a discussion of right conduct which must be associated with brotherly and sisterly relationships. It begins with an assertion of the profound love the Father has given the faithful that they should be called children [tekna] of God. The world does not know this because the world does not know [egno] Christ (v.1). Referring to readers as “beloved” [agapetos], the author notes that though God’s children, what we will be has not yet been revealed. But we do know that when God is revealed the faithful will be like [homois] Him, for they will see Him as He is (v.2). All with this hope in Him purify themselves, just as God is pure [hagnos] (v.3). All who commit sin are guilty of lawlessness, for sin in lawlessness (v.4). He [Christ] was revealed to take away sins; in Him there is no sin (v.5). No one who abides in sins, and everyone sinning does not know Him (v.6). Readers are urged to let no one deceive them. Everyone who does what is right [dikaiosune, literally “does righteousness”] is righteous [dikaios], just as God is righteous (v.7). It is helpful here to keep in mind what Paul and the Hebraic heritage (and so perhaps the Johannine tradition) mean by righteousness. Even in an Old Testament context, the concept of “righteousness” is not to imply that the believer lives in faultless conformity to some moral norm. It has to do with living in right relationship with God (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol.1, pp.370-371).

Application: The text invites sermons on Justification By Grace As a Union with Christ, God’s love changing the lives of the faithful (Sanctification), despite their Sin.


Luke 24:36b–48
This is the first half of the two-part early history of the Church attributed to Paul’s Gentile associate, Luke. This account of Jesus’ post-Easter Resurrection appearances is unique to Luke’s Gospel. The narrative begins with a report of the Disciples in Jerusalem conversing about the story of Jesus’ appearance on the road to Emmaus (vv.13-36a). It is then reported that He appeared to them with a peace [eirene] greeting (v.36b). Such a greeting was conventional for Jews, but since it entails unity and concord it may have been a sign of the Kingdom of God (2:14,29). The Disciples are startled, and Jesus asks them why they have been troubled/terrified [tarasso] or doubted the news of His Resurrection (vv.37-38). Jesus invites them to see and touch His Body (vv.39-40). Though joyful, they are still disbelieving (v.41a). He responds by eating fish in front of them (vv.41b-43). Jesus reminds His followers of the works He spoke to them, that everything written in the Hebrew Scripture about Him has been fulfilled (v.44). He opens their minds to understand these Scriptures (v.45). It is written, Jesus claims, that the Messiah/Christ is to suffer and rise on the third day, that repentance [metanoia] and forgiveness [aphesn] are to be proclaimed to all (vv.46-47; cf. Hosea 6:2). The Disciples are said to be witnesses [martus] (v.48).

Application: The text opens the way for sermons proclaiming the Easter Word of hope and Resurrection to those troubled, in fear and despair (Justification By Grace). Another approach might be to help parishioners struggling with the truth of the Resurrection, as Jesus helped the Disciples, to see that much of the events surrounding Easter have precedents (are prophesied) in the Old Testament.

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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