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Easter 2, Cycle B (2015)

The Resurrection gets us all together.

Because since ancient times this was the first Sunday during which newly baptized members (who in the first centuries were baptized on Easter) would be admitted to Church fellowship as full members, the theme of unity among Christians (Church and Sanctification, rooted in God’s love [Justification By Grace]) is most appropriate. Addressing Social Ethics is also implied in some of the assigned texts.


Psalm 133
This is a Song of Ascent extolling the joys of harmony in the family (probably with reference to the extended family culture of clan and family groups living in close proximity to each other, as we see in Deuteronomy 23:5). Such Psalms were likely songs of pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem and its Temple, which was located on Mount Zion and so involved an ascent to get to the sanctuaries. This is a Wisdom Psalm (maxims of everyday life) comparing good relations (living in together in unity [yachad]) to the oil for honored guests or used at ordination which was administered to the head, just as such oil might run down on Aaron’s beard [zaqan] eventually saturating his whole gown, so good relations are said to saturate the whole body (vv.1-2). Mount Hermon was the highest mountain in Syro-Palentine, which of course had dew [tal]. And like unity this dew is said to spread everywhere (v.3). Given the Psalm’s likely origin in the Exiles return from Babylon, the harmony extolled may have to do with restored Israel or the people of God.

Application: The text invites sermons on how human (family and communal) unity spreads easily and saturates all (Social Ethics). The Psalm could be related to this Sunday’s theme of Jesus’ Resurrection, that this unity only spreads so readily because of Christ (Sanctification).


Acts 4:32-35
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). The Lesson provides a description of the early Jerusalem church’s polity — the sharing of goods. Following a description of an early prayer service in which the Holy Spirit had worked to shake the faithful (v.31), the exposition continues with a description of the unity of the faithful (they were one [mia]), with no one claiming private ownership for all things held in common [koinos] (v.32). With great power [dunamis] the Apostles gave testimony to the Resurrection. Grace [charis] was upon them all (v.33). There were no poor among them and all that had been owned was given to the Apostles to distribute to those who had need (vv.34-35; cf. Deuteronomy 15:4). We only have record of this sort of communal living being practiced among the Christians in Jerusalem.

Application: This text invites sermons on the unity and harmony of the Church or Social Ethics (the alleviation of poverty with generous and safety-nets for the poor).


1 John 1:1 — 2:2
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 (Eusebius of Caesarea, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2/1:170-172). Unlike the Gospel of John, this sermon is not concerned to address the relation of Christian faith and the Jewish traditions, but the proper testimony about Jesus in the Christian tradition. The Book addresses segments of the Johannine community who had broken away (2:19; 4:1; 2 John 7). The dispute was 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).

The Lesson is the introduction to the Epistle (including a statement of its purpose and a confession of faith) followed by a discussion of the right attitude toward sin and the beginning of an exhortation to obedience. There are important similarities between vv.1-4 and the Prologue to John’s Gospel. The author claims to declare what was from the beginning, things he says he has seen and touched. He declares that the eternal life [zoe] that was with the Father has been revealed (1:1-2). This declaration can establish fellowship [koinonia] with the Johannine author, a fellowship, which is ultimately with the Father and the Son. The author notes that this is his purpose in writing (1:3-4). It is asserted that God is light [phos] in Whom there is no darkness [skotia]. Thus the faithful cannot have fellowship with Him while walking in darkness (presumably sin) (1:5-6). It is claimed that if we walk in the light, we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus cleanses [katharizo] us (1:7). If we say we have no sin we deceive [planao] ourselves (1:8); we also in turn made God a liar and reject His Word [logos] (1:10). But if we confess [homologeo] our sin, God will forgive [aphiemi, or “send away”] and cleanse [katharizo] us from unrighteousness (1:9). The author then claims to write these things in order that recipients of the Epistle not sin. But he reminds them that they have Christ as an Advocate [paracletos] (2:1). He is the atoning sacrifice [hilsamos, literally “propitiation”] for sin, not just of the faithful but of the whole world [kosmos](2:2).

Application: The text’s emphasis on the fellowship among the faithful and between Father and Son links with the Theme of the Day (Trinity and Church). This has been created by Christ’s Atoning Work (also Justification). The claim that this gift is for all also opens the way for sermons on Single Predestination.


John 20:19–31
Again we receive a Lesson from the last Gospel to be written (probably in the last decade of the first century), and so not written by John the son of Zebedee, but perhaps by a disciple of his in order to address a community of Jewish Christians who had been expelled from Jewish society. These verses, accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection and the story of Doubting Thomas, embody the Gospel’s primary concern with testifying that Jesus is Messiah, but also its characteristic emphasis on faith. (The word “believe” [pisteuo] appears far more in John than in any of the Gospels.)

The text begins by reporting on a gathering of Disciples on the first Easter, locked in a house for fear [phobeo] of the Jews. The Risen Jesus enters and gives them a peace greeting. The Disciples rejoice [chairo] (vv.19-20). He came to those with weak faith. Jesus is then said to commission the Disciples, give them the Holy Spirit [pneuma] as well as the power to forgive [aphiemi] and retain sins. A reference is made to Jesus “breathing on” [enephusao] His followers, the same phrase used to describe the communication of natural life (Genesis 2:7). The author thereby expresses that what the Risen Jesus does is to give new life (vv.20-23). Thomas (called the Twin [Didymus]) was not present and expresses doubts about accounts of Jesus’ Resurrection (vv.24-25).

In a gathering the following week, Jesus is reported again to appear and has Thomas feel His Body. Thomas then confesses his faith (vv.26-28). Jesus asks him if he only has believed because he saw Him. The Lord adds His Blessing for those who have not seen Him but yet believe (v.29). The author then reports that Jesus did many other signs [semeion] in the presence of the Disciples that have not been reported in the Gospel (v.30). The ones reported are provided, he writes, so that readers may believe Jesus is the Messiah [Christos], Son of God [huios tou theou], and through believing have life [zoe] in His Name (v.31). This last verse is understood as the Gospel of John’s statement of purpose.

Application: Several sermon alternatives emerge from the text. One alternative would be to focus on the purpose of John’s Gospel, how Christ and His Resurrection give life (Atonement and Justification By Grace). Other options are to focus on the transforming power of God’s love, overcoming doubts (Thomas) and forgiving sins (Sanctification). This is also an opportunity to focus on the Work of the Holy Spirit or the nature of faith.

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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