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Easter 6, Cycle B (2015)

THEME OF THE DAY:  God’s love brings us together

All the texts remind us that our unity and relating to each other in love flow from God’s love and grace (Church, Social Ethics, Sanctification, and Justification By Grace).


Psalm 98
This Psalm is a hymn proclaiming the future establishment of God’s Kingdom on earth.  It is one of the so-called Enthronement Psalms proclaiming God’s Kingship and was likely used at festivals.  The new song [shir] said to be sung (v.1) could be read as suggesting the New Covenant initiated by Easter.  References to God’s victory (vv.2-3) might imply Christ’s victory over evil.  A summons to all nations and the physical universe to praise God the King is issued (vv.4-9).  Reference to God judging [shaphat] the world/earth [tebe] in righteousness [tsedeq] and equity/uprightness [yashan] (v.9) reminds us of the Easter-event bestowing God’s righteousness on us and abolishing distinctions (Romans 3:21-26; Galatians 3:28).     

It is good to remind ourselves again 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 norm.  It has to do with living in right relationship with God (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol.1, pp. 370-371).  The Hebrew term for judgment in ancient Hebrew, mishpat, can refer to a sense of comfort, not just to punishment (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol.1, p.358). 

Application: This Psalm invites sermons on Justification By Grace which highlight the comfort it brings and its implications for Sanctification and Social Ethics (bringing people together in God).  Sermons of the Atonement (Christ’s conquest over evil), the beauties of Creation, Eschatology, and Christian life as praise are all viable alternatives.     


Acts 10:44-48
This Book is 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).   Along with Luke’s Gospel, the author’s intention was to stress the universal mission of the Church (1:8).  Addressed to Theophilus (1:1), it is not clear if this means that the work was written for a recent convert or for a Roman official from whom the Church sought tolerance.  But since Theophilus means “lover of God” it is possible that the author addressed all the faithful.  This Lesson describes the Spirit-filled reaction of Jewish Christians to Peter’s sermon in Caesarea after he came to accept the conversion of Gentiles.

Speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit [pneuma hagios] (presumably recognized through speaking in tongues), which fell on all His hearers, Jewish Christians were astounded that the gift of the Spirit had been poured on Gentiles/nations [ethnos] (vv.44-45).  The Gentiles, it seems, were also speaking in tongues [glossa] and praising God (v.46).  Peter concludes that none therefore could withhold Baptism from the Gentiles since they had received the Spirit, and so he orders their Baptism (vv.47-48a).  Luke wants to clarify Peter’s support of the admission of the Gentiles.  When the baptized Gentiles invite Peter to stay with them it is another example of the Jewish-Gentile barriers breaking down (v.48b).         

Application: This text invites sermons pointing out that the gift of the Holy Spirit provides the final and irrefutable evidence that the inclusion of all is God’s Will.  Doctrines of Holy Spirit, Social Ethics, and Church warrant attention.


I John 5:1–6
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.  In fact it may have been written in order to refute opponents who had departed from the community’s beliefs about Jesus (2:24).  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 the victorious faith.

The author refers to those who believe that Jesus is the Christ are regenerated [gennao, born of God], and that everyone who loves the parent loves the child (v.1).  It follows, then, that we know we love the children of God when we love and obey His commandments (v.2).  The love [agape] of God is that we obey/keep [tereo] His commandments [entole], and they are not burdensome since being born/begotten [gennao] of God entails that the world is conquered/overcome [nikao] (vv.3-4a).  This phrase suggests the theme of being regenerated or changed into the inheritance Jesus has obtained.  So faith in Jesus conquers the world (vv.4b-5).  Jesus is said to have come with water and blood.  The Spirit is the One Who testifies/witnesses [mart], for the Spirit is truth [aletheia] (v.6).      

Application: Sermons on the Christian life and love (Sanctification), rooted in God’s love, what Christ has done, and the testimony of the Holy Spirit emerge readily from this text.  


John 15:9–17
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 probably 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.  Hints of that possibility are offered by the first post-Biblical Church Historian Eusebius of Caesarea who claimed that the Book was written on the basis of the external facts  made plain in the Gospel and so John is a “spiritual Gospel” (presumably one not based on eye-witness accounts of the author) (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol.1, p.261).  More recently, as we have observed, scholars have rediscovered the assessment of another early writer of the Church, Papias, who claimed that John was an eyewitness.  This has led such scholars to suggest that this Gospel may have been eyewitness testimony after all ( Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, pp.423ff.; cf. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol.1, pp.154-155).   Its 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).     

The Lesson is a continuation of the previous week’s Gospel Lesson recounting Jesus’ Farewell Discourse (esp. His discussion of the pattern of the Christian life), unique to this Gospel.  This is the teaching of the New Commandment and Jesus’ declaration of friendship with the faithful.  Jesus says that as the Father loved [agapao] Him, so He loves the faithful.  He exhorts them to abide/continue [meno] in His love [agape] (v.9).  To keep His Commandments [entole] is to abide in His love, just as Jesus is in God’s love as He abides in His commands (v.10).  These things bring joy (v.11).  He gives The New Commandment – to love one another as He has loved us (v.12; 13:34).  There is no greater love than laying down [tithemi] one’s life for friends [philos] (v.13).  Those who do what Jesus commands are His friends (v.14).  They are friends, not servants, because they know what the master is doing (v.15).  The faithful did not choose Jesus, because He chose [eklego] them, appointing them to go and bear fruit that will last.  He adds that the Father will give them whatever they ask in His Name (v.16).  He gives the Commandment that His followers will love one another (v.17). 

Application: Sermons on this Lesson open the way to an examination of the character of love (Sanctification) in the Christian life and how it has its roots in God’s love and so in Justification   By Grace. 


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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