Reflections on the Readings for the 4th Sunday of Easter
The transformation from a cowered group, hiding in the Upper Room behind locked doors, for fear of what the Jewish authorities might do to them is now a thing of the past. In today’s extract from the Acts of the Apostles we find Peter giving witness to his faith in the risen Lord in front of the Jewish Council (the Sanhedrin) itself. He is even sufficiently emboldened to refer to “Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you had crucified”! This is quite some journey from those days of fear and trembling for their own safety after the Crucifixion. It is clear that one of the gifts of the Spirit given them, on that Day of Pentecost, is courage to witness to the one, “the only one by which we can be saved.” We have been given the gift of that same Spirit and are called to witness to Jesus, risen from the dead, in our own time and place.
1 John 3:1-2
In just two verses of this letter we have enough material for a lifetime of reflection! We are God’s children on whom so much love has been, is being, “lavished”. The writer is saying that if we have been lavished in such a way already, we can be assured that even more is to come our way: nothing less than seeing him “as he really is”! The possibilities are limitless. In such a context it is difficult to understand why Christians look so dour and gloomy at times! As one commentator put it, “These people are redeemed, are they? They don’t particularly look it!”
This Sunday is often referred to as “Good Shepherd Sunday”. In each of the three years of our cycle of Readings the Gospel Reading always comes from this tenth chapter of St John’s Gospel and his discourse on being the figure of the Good Shepherd. In the precincts of the Temple Jesus had just cured a man born blind. Since he done this on the Sabbath it is enough for the Jewish authorities to challenge him. Jesus turns the tables on them and calls them the ones who are actually blind to the workings of God. This is quite some challenge to the very people who considered themselves the arbiters of all things to do with God on behalf of the Jewish people! In talking about a flock of which he is shepherd, appointed by no less a person than his Father, he is telling them quite plainly that they – these very (in their own eyes, at least) religious people – are outside, not part of the flock at all! This is a warning to all potentially self-righteous people who claim to be Christian while at the same time designating that others do not belong to the flock. That is not our decision to make.