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Easter 7, Cycle B (2015)

THEME OF THE DAY: The awesome ways of God.

These Lessons clearly have The Ascension in view, Christ’s ongoing Presence among the faithful and God’s benevolent Power over them and us.  Providence, the Holy Spirit, Justification By Grace, and Sanctification receive attention.   


Psalm 1
This is a Wisdom Psalm contrasting the fate of the righteous and the wicked.  Those who delight (take pleasure) [chephets] in the Law [torah], it is said, are happy/blessed [ashere] (v.1).  The Law is indirectly praised (like Psalm 119), as righteousness [tsedeq] is associated with obedience to the Law (v.2).  We should be reminded that in ancient Hebraic thinking the Law is not merely a set of rules.  It is regarded as the complete revelation of what God instructs us to do, the complete guide to life (Leo Trepp, Judaism: Development and Life, p.2).  And likewise the stress on righteousness might here as it can elsewhere be understood not just in legalistic terms, but in relation to God’s Work (v.6) in accord with the Easter Word (see Gospel, vv.17,19; Romans 3:21-26).  The righteousness planted in God spontaneously bears good fruit (v.3).  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).  By contrast the wicked are said to be like chaff that the wind drives away, cannot stand in the judgment [mishpat] (vv.4-6).  Keep in mind that the Hebrew term for judgment can refer to a sense of comfort, not just to punishment (Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol.1, p.358).

Application: Several sermon options emerge from this text.  It opens the way to possibilities of relating the references to our righteousness and good works that follow from it to the Easter-Event, as the result of God’s Work (in Christ) (Justification By Grace and the spontaneity of good works or Sanctification).  Other options would be to preach on the pleasure and joy that comes from living the Christian life and being instructed by God (Sanctification) or to appreciate the Jewish concept of Law [torah] as a guide to life (the essence of Wisdom) and judgment [mishpat] as comfort.  


Acts 1:15-17,21-26
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).  It is concerned to affirm the universal mission of the Church (1:8).  This Lesson is comprised of two of Peter’s sermons.

The account begins soon after Ascension, with Peter addressing a crowd of 120.  He claims that Scripture [graphe] has been fulfilled as testified by the Holy Spirit [pneuma hagion] through King David concerning Judas Iscariot (1:15-17).  (It is not clear whether Luke is referring here to the Old Testament in a general sense or specifically to the relationship between Psalm 69:25 and 109:8 which are subsequently cited [v.20] and the death of Judas Iscariot and the field bought with his money to bury foreigners [Matthew 27:3-10].)  After an account of Judas’ death, the selection by lot [kleros] of Mattheus as his successor is described (vv.21-26).

Application: This text assures us that Christ is Present in all dimensions of our lives through the Holy Spirit, that even decisions about leaders of the Church and the nature of their leadership are in God’s hands (Holy Spirit, Ministry, Sanctification).


1 John 5:9–13
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).

In this Lesson we read a concluding discussion of victorious faith.  After referring to the testimony/witness [marturia] of the Spirit [pneuma] (vv.6-8), it is noted that human testimony is not as great as the testimony of God (v.9).  Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts.  Those who do not believe have made Him a liar [pseustes] (v.10).  The testimony is that God gave us eternal life [zoe aionios], a life in His Son [living in union with  Him] (v.11).  Whoever has the Son has life; without the Son there is no life (v.12; cf. 2:23; John 3:36).  The author claims to be writing to those who believe in the Name of the Son of God so they know they have eternal life (v.13).

Application: A sermon on this text should call us away from other brands of spirituality (human testimony) to focus instead on the testimony of the Spirit.  In so doing it is also possible to proclaim Christ’s Presence in our lives, how He binds Himself to us and in so doing gives us eternal life (Justification By Grace As Union With Christ and Eschatology)  


John 17:6–19
We have previously noted 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).  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).

Recently 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, esp. pp.423ff;; cf. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol.1, pp.154-155).         

This Lesson is the Conclusion of Jesus’ Farewell Discourse with part of His High-Priestly Prayer.  Jesus prays, reminding His Father that He has made the Father’s Name [onoma] known to all those He has been given, the followers of Jesus are the Father’s (vv.6,10).  They have been taught that all Jesus has comes from the Father, that He came from the Father, and this they have believed (vv.7-8).  Jesus claims that His petitions are on behalf of His followers, not on behalf of the world (v.9).  He urges that the Father protect His followers in the Father’s Name, since all that He has is the Father’s and vice versa.  Jesus would have His followers be One [heis], as He and the Father are One (vv.10-11). 

Jesus next notes how He had protected His followers whom the Father had given to Him in the Father’s Name, while He was with them, losing only one [Judas Iscariot] in order to fulfill Scripture (v.12).  Jesus then says that since He is coming to the Father He speaks these things in the world so His followers may have His joy and become complete in themselves (v.13).  He adds that He has given His followers the Father’s Word [Logos], and the world hates them and Him because they do not belong to the world (vv.14,16).  The Greek world translated “world” is kosmos, literally referring to present human reality.  Jesus does not petition that His followers   be removed from the world, but that they be protected from evil [ponerou] (v.15).  He asks that they be sanctified [hagiazo] in truth [alethia]; the Father’s Word is said to be truth (v.17).  Jesus notes that He was sent into the world by the Father, so He has sent them into the world (v.18).  For their sake Jesus sanctifies Himself so His followers may be sanctified in truth (v.19).

Application: Sermons on this text might explore how the Christian life (Sanctification) is a world-denying (set-apart) mode of being, not dependent on ourselves, but on God’s Word and grace.  Sermons on Christology (on Christ as divine and so having power over evil to protect the faithful [Atonement]) are also appropriate.  

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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