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Easter 3, Cycle C (2016)

Amazing grace. The Easter theme of God’s love could appear in the proclamation of Justification by Grace, Providence, or Eschatology.

Psalm 30
As noted several times previously, Psalms is a collection of prayers and songs composed throughout Israel’s history. It is organized into five collections of books, perhaps an analogy to the five books of the Torah. The authors of each of the psalms are largely unknown, as in this case. This loosening of them from their historical origins entails the validity of their use today in very different contexts from their origins (Brevard Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p. 523). The actual title of the book is derived from a Greek term meaning “Song” [psalmos]. The Hebrew title of the book, Tehillim, means “hymns” or “songs of praise.”

This is a personal psalm of praise, attributed to David, offering a thanksgiving for healing as a song of dedication for the temple. It was probably used at Hanukah, and David is likely not its author. Of course as we have previously noted it is unlikely that David is the author of the psalms attributed to him (Childs, Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture, p. 512). In fact some scholars conclude that references to David in the psalms may be a way of using him to represent the inner life of all his subjects and so of all the faithful (Ibid., p. 521). In that sense this psalm of praise highlights that all the faithful are to praise God.

Yahweh is praised for healing the psalmist, bringing him up from Sheol (bor, the pit, removed from God’s presence) (vv. 1-3). Reference to foes [oyebh] probably is a comment about those who declare the suffering of the psalmist to have been caused by God. The congregation is invited to join in the thanksgiving. God’s anger [aph, or snorting -- a removal from God’s presence] is said to be for a moment [rega], but his favor a lifetime (vv. 4-5). The story of what happened to the psalmist follows (vv. 6-12). Before he became ill he had been secure. God is said to have hidden his face [panim], withheld his favor (vv. 6-7). The psalmist claims that there was no profit in his death or going to the pit, for the dust cannot praise [yadah, confess] God (v. 9). The Lord has turned the psalmist’s mourning into dancing [machol], removed his sackcloth (the attire of mourning), clothing him instead with joy so he could forever sing praises [zamar] to the Lord (vv. 11-12).

Application: The psalm affords a fine opportunity for sermons on how God cares for us and heals even when things seem most difficult and grace most hidden. Providence and Justification by Grace are the themes to emphasize.

Acts 9:1-6 (7-20)
As we have previously noted, 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; 2 Timothy 4:11; Philemon 24). It is particularly concerned to affirm the universal mission of the Church (1:8).

This is an account of Paul’s conversion (slightly different versions are found in 22:4-16 and 26:9-18; cf. Paul’s version in Galatians 1:13-17). At the outset of the account, he is still known as Saul, a persecutor of Lord’s disciples (Christianity). It is reported that he asked the high priest in Jerusalem for letters of introduction to synagogues in Damascus, so if he found any belonging to the Way he might bring them to Jerusalem (vv. 1-2). Near Damascus a light flashes round him and a voice questions why Saul has persecuted him (vv. 3-4). Light is often used in the New Testament to describe the glory of God (2 Corinthians 3:8; 4:6). Saul asks who the Lord is and learns it is Jesus, who instructs him to proceed to Damascus and do what he is told to do (vv. 5-6). Those traveling with Saul were speechless, having heard the voice but seen no one (v. 7). Saul’s vision was gone, for three days seeing nothing and not eating or drinking (vv. 8-9).

In Damascus a disciple named Ananias dwelt. In a vision the Lord summons him to go to the house of Judas where Saul was residing (vv. 10-11a). Saul while praying had had a vision that Ananaias would heal him (vv. 11b-12). Ananaias protests knowing the persecution Saul had led in Jerusalem (vv. 13-14). God responds, indicating that Saul will be his instrument/vessel [skeous] of election [ekloges] to bring his name to the Gentiles (v. 15). Ananaias responds to the command and the healings take place with the promise made that Saul be filled with the Holy Spirit [pneumatos hagiou] (vv. 17-20).

Application: This lesson should give rise to proclamation that God saves us, like Paul, by his forgiving grace (Justification by Grace) and will help us like he did with Paul to get this word out (Sanctification and Evangelism).

Revelation 5:11-14
We note again that this is an Apochryphal book written in the last part of the first century expressing hope for salvation after a world-ending new creation. Although parts of the book may predate the fall of Jerusalem, it is likely that it achieved its final form during the reign of Domitian (81-96 AD) who is said to have persecuted Christians for refusing to address him as lord and god. Written by John (1:1, 4, 9; 22:8), whose identity is not clear despite the tradition’s identification of him with the disciple, the book’s Semitic Greek style suggests that its author was Jewish. It is the report of seven (the mystical Hebrew number for fullness) dreams. It relies heavily on eschatological images of the book of Daniel and other Old Testament texts (see 1:7 [cf. Daniel 7:3]; 1:12-16 [cf. Daniel 10:5-9]). This lesson is part of the author’s vision of the glory and God and of the lamb.

Reference is made to hearing the voice of angels and elders and living creatures (the Greek word dzwoan is used here and in v. 14) surrounding God’s throne. They are said to number in the thousands (v. 11). They sing of the worthiness of the lamb that was slaughtered, worthy of power and honor (v. 12). Every creature in heaven and on earth and under the sea sings of blessing and honor the lamb and the one seated on the throne (v. 13). This testimony implies that Creator and Redeemer are equal in majesty. Four living creatures/animals say “Amen,” and the elders fall down and worship (v. 14).

Application: Sermons on this lesson will proclaim that the unconditional love of God is evident in Christ’s Atonement and Justification by Grace. This inspires the praise of all creation. Such a focus could lead to an appreciation of the goodness of Creation and ecological concern (Social Ethics).

John 21:1-19
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 likely 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.

Recently, though, 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, especially pp. 423ff; cf. Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1, pp. 154-155). Regardless of its origins, though, most scholars agree that the book’s 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).

This lesson narrates post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus, including his role in a miraculous catch of fish and his confrontation with Peter, testing him to renounce his previous failures to confess him. Differences in language and style of this chapter and the fact that 20:30-31 seem like the end of the book, have led many scholars to believe that this is an epilogue added to the gospel by a later editor. The appearance occurs in Galilee by the Sea of Tiberias (v. 1). Those present (Peter among them) are noted (v. 2). Simon directs the disciples with him to go fishing, but they caught nothing that night (v. 3). Peter’s leadership of the disciples is suggested at this point. After daybreak Jesus appears, but the disciples did not recognize him (v. 4). He dialogues with them and is told that they had caught no fish (v. 5). Jesus instructs the disciples to cast their net on the boat’s right side. They did so and were not able to haul the net in because of so many fish (v. 6). The disciple whom Jesus loved (also see 13:23; 19:26-27, either referring to John or to the community he was addressing) recognizes Jesus and tells Peter, who immediately clothes himself having been in the water. The other disciples present drag in the full net of fish (vv. 7-8).

On shore, all see a charcoal fire with fish and bread on it (v. 9). Jesus directs some of the fish just caught be brought to it (v. 10). With 153 fish in the net Peter brings them (v. 11). Jesus directs that they have breakfast. He gives them bread and fish, but it seems the disciples remain uncertain who he is (vv. 13 [or 31] 12). It is reported that this is his third Resurrection appearance to the disciples (v. 14).

After breakfast, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. Peter is reported to feel hurt (vv. 16-17). (This is reminiscent of Peter’s triple denial of Jesus [18:17, 25-27].) Jesus says to Peter to feed Jesus’ sheep (v. 17b). Jesus continues to tell Peter that while in his youth he fastened his own belt and went where he wished, but in growing older he would stretch out his arms and someone else would fasten a belt around him (v. 18). This was said to indicate the kind of death Peter would endure (under Nero in 64-68 AD) (v. 19).

Application: The account invites sermons that provide glimpses of the realities of our resurrected bodies (Eschatology) or the proclaim how Christ’s forgiving love miraculously sends us out to witness to the world (Justification by Grace and Sanctification).

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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