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Sixth Sunday of Easter, Cycle A

Perhaps the most usable theme that is present in all of these texts selected for us for the Sixth Sunday of Easter in Series A is expressed in Psalm 66:16: “Come and hear, and I will tell you what God has done for me!” There is personal testimony in each of these texts, and there should be personal testimony in the message that we proclaim on Easter 6.

Psalm 66:8-20
Psalm 66 is an excellent example of an individual Hymn of Praise. It illustrates the essential elements of worship among the ancient Israelites, and we can readily see that our worship of God as Christians does not differ greatly from the elements of worship depicted here. Since Psalm 66:8-20 serves so well as individual preparation for worship, it could be sung by a choir or soloist at the conclusion of the organ prelude.

The Newer Testament selections for this occasion provide a strong personal testimony of the message of the resurrection of Jesus within history, as an event from the past that has great significance for the present and for the future. More than anything else, this is what is distinctive about Christianity compared to Judaism and Islam, two religions in which resurrection is also anticipated, but primarily at the end of this world of time and space, on the “judgment day.” The selections from Acts, 1 Peter, and John come to us from different segments of the developing Church from approximately the same time period, around 85-95 CE. In these Newer Testament texts, we have good indications of what the resurrection of Jesus meant to various individuals and groups of followers of Jesus near the end of the first century. Perhaps we will want to incorporate something from each text into our proclamation of the Easter message this weekend as we share our personal testimony of the resurrection of Jesus.

Acts 17:22-31
Perhaps in every congregation there are some persons who, like the Athenians represented in this text, perceive that God is basically “unknown.” In a style reminiscent of classical Greek oratory, the Lukan playwright has Paul address such people skillfully, beginning by meeting them where they are and proclaiming God as known through Jesus, a man chosen by God, raised from the dead, and assigned the responsibility of evaluating the entire inhabited world for God. In these few verses, therefore, the inspired Lukan writer encapsulated what must have been an important aspect of early Christian mission, the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus to intelligent, critically thinking Greeks apart from the context of the Jewish synagogues. By means of the literary drama that we have in Acts 17:16-34, the Lukan writer provided for us a thumbnail sketch of that aspect of the mission.

Even though our own proclamation of the good news of the resurrection of Jesus to people today who are similar in their thinking to the Athenians depicted in this text may be as lacking in outward evidence of success as was the proclamation of the Lukan writer’s Paul in Athens, this kind of proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus remains vitally important. Since Acts 17:22-31 addresses this important aspect of Christian mission more directly than any other Newer Testament text, we should share our personal testimony of the resurrection of Jesus to the “Athenians” where we are this coming weekend. To the people today who are similar to the Athenians depicted in Acts 17, we should admit that from the standpoint of reason God is basically unknowable and unknown to us, but that we “know” God through faith, more specifically here by faith in God as the Risen Christ. To put this in another way, God is known through Jesus in a unique way. We “know” God not by irrefutable reason, but through God-given faith by which we feel God’s presence and God’s actions in our lives. The person of Jesus chosen by God, raised from the dead, and assigned the responsibility of evaluating the entire inhabited world is central in the Christian proclamation.

1 Peter 3:13-22
The reading actually should begin with 1 Peter 3:8. There are five important issues in this text. First, there is the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus as the Christ (3:18). Second, there is the proclamation of where Jesus as the Christ is now, in heaven, “at the right hand of God” (3:22). Third, there is the proclamation that after Jesus had been raised from the dead he spoke to the spirits of those who had been destroyed at the time of Noah (3:19-20). Fourth, there is the somewhat obscure analogy between salvation on Noah’s Ark and salvation now through Baptism in the name of Jesus as the Christ raised from the dead (3:21). Finally, there is the insight into the effectiveness of suffering, if necessary, as those being addressed are revering Jesus raised from the dead as Lord rather than Caesar as their Lord (3:8-17). Obviously, there is much in this text for us to proclaim.

John 14:15-21
This selection is certainly one of the most beautiful and most meaningful portions of the basic John 14 “farewell discourse” of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. Especially beautiful and meaningful is 14:19c, “Because I live, you too shall live!” Those who hear this message and respond to it will not be left as orphans. Instead, the Spirit of Truth, who is another Paraclete like Jesus, will be with them forever in order to provide for them whatever they may need. In 1 Peter 3:8-22 and in John 14:15-21 God and the People of God are said to be mutual advocates of each other. We are called to proclaim this on the Sixth Sunday of Easter.

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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