Year A – Easter Day – John 20:1-18

John 20:1-18: Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ‘ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Summary – John describes the events in the darkness of this very “first day of the week.” Mary is fearful in her report, upon finding the tomb empty: “they have taken the Lord…” At this point Mary is sentimentally attached to Jesus, but thinking He is dead. In the next few verses (vv3-10), John outran Peter after the fearful report. They also find the tomb empty.  They notice the burial clothes and John sees the shroud over the face folded/wrapped neatly and gains insight from this. In the last section (vv1-18), Mary encounters the risen Christ, but Christ does not reveal Himself to her immediately. He is taken by her to be the Gardener. Then when He speaks her name, she sees Him and holds Him. Jesus gives her a task, to announce His resurrection to the disciples.

Insight – All of history has been expecting something more impressive than the nice smelling corpse of a mild moral lecturer. So here we are. Now the tomb is empty and a “deeper magic” (CS Lewis) was at work to break the cold stone table of death and the power of Satan. Do not fear, Jesus is not dead, He is alive forevermore (Rev. 1:18). This most important event of human history is described in this passage and 3 of 18 verses (vv6-7) are spent on details about the wrappings of the corpse. Why? The facial veil/shroud is both real and symbolic for John, like the “third day” (2:1), “behold the man” (19:5), and “153 fish” (21:11). The text says, “[Peter] saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.” When John “saw [this] and believed” (v8). Why is much made of this? It alludes back to Lazarus coming from the tomb and the image of the facial shroud fulfills prophecy (Is. 25:7; 1Cor. 15:54). When Lazarus came forth, he was “bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth” (John 11:44). Since others were to “unbind him” – i.e., feet and hands, this suggests that Jesus removed the facial shroud on Lazarus. It may be that the way Jesus rolled or folded it provided a clue to John that Jesus had also folded/wrapped his own facial shroud and placed it neatly by itself. Or, that when Jesus removed it from Lazarus, the wrapped linen was lifted directly from his head and retained its shape. Whatever the precise meaning, the empty tomb was not empty because grave robbers came in and hurriedly removed the body (since they would have hardly unwrapped it). John perceived that Jesus had arisen.
Then we read of the encounter of Mary with the risen Lord (v14ff). This too was quite real, but also implying something greater. Jesus eludes her recognition just long enough for her to think that He is the Gardener. This is true. Christ is the new Gardener, i.e., the New Adam who will cultivate a new creation. After Jesus reveals Himself in this way and for this purpose, Mary is sent to “announce” (angelo) His resurrection to the Apostles. On this first day of the new creation, His resurrection begins restoring the world.  He opens a way back into the presence of the Father (v17), since He will prepare a place for His followers (John 14).

Child’s Catechism -What happened on the first Easter? Jesus rose from the grave, leaving behind His grave clothes in the empty tomb, in order to make a new creation.

Discussion – Do you believe you are in a world of death or a world of new creation life?

Prayer – O God of glory,
in the Easter dawn
you raised Jesus from death to life.
As we are united with him in death,
so unite us with him in resurrection,
that we may walk in newness of life. Amen.

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Year A – Easter Day – Colossians 3:1-4

Colossians 3:1-4 – So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Summary – Paul explains that we are to a) Put on Christ (vv1-4). Since we are spiritually united with Christ in His death, resurrection and ascension in baptism, we are to see life from that point of view. He contrasts the heavenly (rule) and earthly (slavery) (v2). We have died with Christ through our union with Him (Rom. 6), so the life we live is hidden in Him (Gal. 2:20) (v3). “Christ who is our life…” (v4).  In the next verses we are to b) Put off sin (vv5-8). Setting our minds on Christ leads to repentance and obedience. Paul uses “members of your earthly body” (sacrificial image of body parts), as a more graphic way to say “your person”  (e.g., Dt. 6: heart, soul and might). Don’t offer any part of yourself to immorality (porneia), impurity, passion, evil desire (v5). These are greed-desires for more and more, rather than contentment in Christ alone. Greed is idolatry since it values and appraises something higher than God. These internal desires are paralleled with “expressive” or “reactive” sins: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech which must also be put aside.

Insight – Do you have relatives that live in another city? Do have a close relationship with them? My brother and sister live in different states and only see each other every year or so. However, I am still united to them as members of my family (both children of my parents). This is one example of objective “union.” The NT teaches everywhere (especially Paul’s epistles) that we are united with Christ through our baptism into Him and we are to activate that union in faith and obedience. We are to believe that in our union with Christ, our true identity is “hidden with Christ” and we are “in Christ” at the Father’s right hand. Every first day of the week (Sunday) is an Easter, but on Easter proper, we celebrate the Resurrection annually, taking into account the events of Holy Week. Paul wants us to see in this passage that every day is Easter and every day is Ascension. In order to apply this, memorize verses to keep your mind on Christ. Recite truth (like Gal. 2:20, 2 Cor. 5:17, Col. 3:4). Galatians 2:20 (NASB) – “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Meditate on Christ’s reign over the world. Establish a daily routine of prayer praising Christ’s rule and supremacy. For He is Risen! He is Risen, Indeed! We are Risen with Him! We are Risen with Him, Indeed!
Child’s Catechism – What is our relationship with Christ? We are united to Christ in baptism and through faith.

Discussion – Can you think of other examples of “union” in ordinary life? In what groups are you united?
Prayer – Mighty God, our heavenly father, we thank you that we have a relationship with the risen Christ spiritually and covenantally and that because of this we receive every benefit of Christ’s life and work. Grant that we may ever trust and obey in light of our union with Jesus Christ in His death and resurrection and ascension. In His name, Amen.

Year A – Easter Day – Psalm 118

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24: Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; *  his mercy endures for ever. Let Israel now proclaim, *  “His mercy endures for ever. “The LORD is my strength and my song, *  and he has become my salvation. There is a sound of exultation and victory *  in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD has triumphed! *  the right hand of the LORD is exalted!  the right hand of the LORD has triumphed!” I shall not die, but live, *  and declare the works of the LORD. The LORD has punished me sorely, *  but he did not hand me over to death. Open for me the gates of righteousness; *  I will enter them;  I will offer thanks to the LORD. “This is the gate of the LORD; *  he who is righteous may enter.” I will give thanks to you, for you answered me *  and have become my salvation. The same stone which the builders rejected *  has become the chief cornerstone. This is the LORD’S doing, *  and it is marvelous in our eyes. On this day the LORD has acted; *  we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Summary – This Psalm was sung by travelers coming to Jerusalem to worship (after the exile). It focuses upon the goodness of the Lord for those entering into His presence in His House. It is used by worshipers on the original Palm Sunday and since then in the Church to mark this time. Psalms 118:25–26 – “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; We have blessed you from the house of the LORD.” This Psalm includes some marvelous prophetic words that Jesus cited in the temple area during Holy Week. Jesus was the chief cornerstone, but the builders rejected Him. Yet through this rejection, God has acted.

Insight – The latter verses in the Psalm make it clear that God was doing something marvelous by the rejection of Jesus. The rejection of the chief cornerstone, means the building will be rebuilt. The religious leaders of Jerusalem in the first century rejected Jesus as the cornerstone of the holy temple of God. They were trying to build a different building. Their foundation was their works done in self-righteousness, their dead rites, and their political collusion. They white-washed tombs filled with dead men’s bones. Their unrighteousness becomes clearer and clearer as they successfully plot the murder of Jesus. When Jesus went to the temple in fulfillment of Psalm 118, He announced in the words of Jeremiah 7, this temple would be no place of refuge for them. Not one stone would be left standing on the other. Jesus was intent on building another house, another temple, the Church from all nations. 1Corinthians 3:16 “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

Child’s Catechism – Who is Jesus? Jesus is the cornerstone of God’s holy temple, his Church.
Discussion – From your knowledge of history, why do you think God let Jerusalem’s temple be destroyed in 70 A.D.?

Prayer – Almighty God our heavenly Father, we give you praise because you sent Jesus as the chief cornerstone of your new holy temple, your Church. Grant that we may be aligned with Him purposes and His will so that we may ever please you in service in your house. In Christ’s name. Amen.

Year A – Easter Day – Acts 10:34-43

Acts 10:34-43 – Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ-he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’
Summary – Peter is addressing Cornelius and his household, speaking about how Jesus was anointed the Spirit, did miracles and died and rose again. Cornelius will become the first Gentile (and household) to become Christians. The larger purpose of this passage is to induct Gentiles as Gentiles into the Church, and not requiring them to undergo circumcision as proselytes to Judaism. Peter himself needs to see the Spirit baptize these uncircumcised Gentiles, so that he will give testimony that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised prior to baptism (see Acts 15). This becomes clear in the next two verses after our reading: Acts 10:44–45 – “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”

Insight – Have you ever watched a Jesus film? Around Easter they tend to play on various TV channels. I have not seen them all and I am always a little uncomfortable with the whole depiction of Jesus in film, anyway; but one serious problem is how Christ is shown after the resurrection. Many times Christ makes a mere appearance and has a kind of ghostly sheen. But look at Peter’s testimony: “God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses….” At first glance this sounds like the films get it right, Jesus magically appeared to a few people. But keep reading: “and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” They ate and drank with Jesus after the resurrection. The risen Jesus was no ghost, as He Himself assured the disciples. He was completely able to eat and drink in His resurrection body. In fact this is proof that the kingdom had come because Jesus said of the whole passover meal: Luke 22:16 – “I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” And He said of the cup: Matthew 26:29 – “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” On Easter Sunday, Jesus  “had been made known to [the disciples on the Emmaus road]  in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). It was specifically the resurrection day eating and drinking that would confirm the kingdom had come in Christ and it was specifically in the breaking of bread that Jesus may be recognized. This is still true, Jesus has pledge His presence in the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

Child’s Catechism – What did Jesus do to prove His kingdom had come? He ate and drank with the disciples after His resurrection.

Discussion – How is feasting a proof of the kingdom?

Prayer – O God, the risen Christ revealed himself to his disciples in the breaking of bread. Feed us with the bread of life and break open our hearts, that we may know him not only in the good news of the scriptures, but risen in the midst of your pilgrim people. Amen.

Year C – Seventh Sunday in Easter – Psalm 97

Psalm 97 (NRSV)

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him,
and consumes his adversaries on every side.
His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness;
and all the peoples behold his glory.
All worshipers of images are put to shame,
those who make their boast in worthless idols;
all gods bow down before him.
Zion hears and is glad,
and the towns of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O God.
For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The Lord loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful;
he rescues them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light dawns for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!

Summary – Psalm 97 triumphantly declares God’s kingly reign over the whole earth, demonstrated in the mighty working of the Holy Spirit in bringing false religion to an end, providing justice and deliverance for God’s people, which results in their joy and gladness. The psalm divides itself into four portions, each containing three. The psalm is divided into four portions, each containing three verses. The reign of God and the coming of His kingdom in the earth is described (Ps 97:1-3); its effect upon the earth is declared (Ps 97:4-6); and then its influence upon the heathen and the people of God is illustrated (Ps 97:7-9). The last part urges us to holiness, gladness, and thanksgiving (Ps 97:10-12).

 

Insight – Verse 2 says, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” What is righteousness, and what is justice? When the Bible talks about God’s righteousness it refers to God’s goodness and moral perfection. God is the source of all good, and there is no evil or wrong doing in Him. All that He does, and all that He is, is good. Righteousness also means that God is faithful. That means that God keeps His promises. He always tells the truth, and He does what He says He will do, and He means what He says and says what He means. So righteousness means God is good, and he always tells the truth. Justice is very similar to righteousness. Righteousness refers to who God is in Heaven, and Justice is the outworking of God’s righteousness on earth. God judges our thoughts, words, and actions based upon His own perfection. God is fair.

The problem for us is that we are sinners, and we have told lies, and we have done wrong. So if God is going to judge us according to His righteousness, and if we are to get justice, then that means we will all be punished, because none of us are perfect.

But God provided a substitute for us, Jesus Christ, to stand in our place. Instead of God judging all of us, He judges one person for us all. We all deserve to be punished, but because God is fair, God has to punish someone. And Because God is merciful, He punished Jesus instead of us. Because Jesus took our punishment, our punishment is now gone! And Because He lives forever, we will live forever too. We can see that the foundation of God’s throne is righteousness and justice, and that is because Jesus Christ Himself is the righteous one who satisfies God’s justice.  Praise God for His amazing grace and mercy for providing a way for sinners to to be right with Him.

Catechism – What is the foundation of God’s throne? Righteousness and justice.

Discussion – Discuss further how Jesus satisfied God’s demand for justice. Discuss how God’s goodness and truthfulness (righteousness) are important to the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Prayer – O Holy, Righteous Judge of all the earth, You have created the world in order that you might save it. You have demonstrated your love to us by sending forth Your Son Jesus to be our Savior. Please grant us Your Holy Spirit, that we would trust in Jesus and in Your promises, which You have made to us in Your Holy Word, that we would rejoice and be glad at your righteousness and justice, and thus be saved. In Jesus name. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – 6th Sunday of Easter – John 5:1-9

Text–After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades.  In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed.  One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”  The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”  Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”  And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.  Now that day was the Sabbath. (John 5:1-9)

Summary–Here we read John’s third account of a miracle by Jesus during his earthly ministry.  Remember that John doesn’t write a full biography of Jesus.  That would simply not be possible.  He tells that the whole world could not contain the books if everything had been recorded.  Rather, John writes to confirm that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  The miracle of the healing of the man at Bethzatha shows us two aspects about Jesus that are important.  First, this miracle highlights the love of Jesus in his humanity.  He came to save the weak and the suffering.  Those waiting at the pool near the sheep gate in Jerusalem were described as blind, lame and paralyzed.  They could not heal themselves and were getting no help from the world around them.  They needed a savior to heal them.  Second, this miracle shows us the power of Jesus in his divinity.  This miracle validates Christ as the Son of God who cares and heals the sick.  Jesus being fully human in his compassion and fully divine in his power intersects at this miracle to tell each of us that apart from him, we are equally lost and without hope, like the beggar at the well.

Insight–The beggar at the well is a pitiful sight.  He is surrounded by others equally pitiful and without hope.  Maybe you think that this picture at the well is sad but not relevant to your circumstance.  After all, you can see the world around you.   You can run with your friends.  You can feel pleasure and pain; your not paralyzed at all. Friend, you must realize that apart of the saving work of Jesus Christ, you too would be blind, lame and paralyzed.  The beggar represents the whole human race apart from Christ and his righteousness freely offered to you through grace by faith alone.  How does God see people before he saves us?  Romans 5:6 tells us that it was when we were “powerless”, Christ died for the ungodly.  Powerless here means, “infirm, feeble, unable to achieve anything great, destitute of power among men, sluggish in doing right.”  In other words, God tells us that when we could not do a thing for ourselves spiritually, Christ died for us.  Before Christ called you to himself, you too were blind.  Jesus said this to Nicodemus in John Chapter 3 when he said, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.  Before God saved you, you were lame.  In Matthew 9 we read of the paralytic man who could not come on his own to be healed.  Finally, Romans 7:18 explains that you are paralyzed.  “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”  But take hope, it is at the time of your greatest weakness that Christ came to save you.  He came to save the blind, the lame and the paralyzed.  He came to find you.  Will you argue that you are not helpless, that you are able to come before God on your own and be judged righteous?  There will be only one verdict apart from trusting in Christ for your salvation.  Know that your sins have been dealt with in Christ and that he gives you new life when you put your trust in him.  What a glorious God we serve!

Catechism–(Q) Who did Christ come to save? (A) The blind, the lame and the paralyzed.

Discussion–Who is suffering in your neighborhood that you need to share this message of joy with?  Can you think of anyone who needs to be picked up and carried into the water of salvation? 

Prayer–Father God we magnify your glorious son who you sent to save us from our hopelessness.  Lord, open our eyes to your beauty.  Give us new hearts to live in a manner worthy of your calling which you have called us.  We praise you, Father, in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, one God world without end. Amen

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – 5th Sunday of Easter – John 13:31-35

Text–31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:31-35 ESV)

Summary–Up to this point in the upper room, Jesus’ teachings to his disciples had been veiled and somewhat guarded.  Not all of those who were present with him were of the same spirit.  Judas was about to give Jesus over to his enemies.  As long as Judas was there, Christ seemed to hold back his teaching until the traitor departed.  With Judas gone, the die was cast and the atmosphere was cleared.  Jesus could tell them more clearly what was about to happen in his coming glory and what that would mean for them.  Christ was going to be cruxified, and they would not be able to follow him.  But as we shall read, the pattern of self-sacrificial love will be set for his disciples to follow in a way previously not asked of them.  They would receive a “new commandment” to love one another as Christ loved them to the glory of the father through the Christ the son.

Insight–So much confusion surrounds the idea of love.  What does it really mean anyway?  Is it mutual affection between two parties?  Our government would define love in these terms as it walks down the path to destruction on defining marriage.  Who cares who the parties are in the marriage bond, so long as they love each other.  Do you love him or her or them or it, then go right ahead and marry them.  But this is where they get it all wrong.  Love is not about being able to do whatever you feel like so long as it makes you happy.  Jesus is love and defines it for us here in this text.  John calls this a new commandment which really isn’t new at all.  The summary of the Old Testament law is to love God with everything we have and love our neighbor as ourselves.  So what is so new about this commandment?  The answer in large measure comes from John’s first epistle.  He tells us in 1 Jn 3:16-18, “This is how we know what love is; Jesus laid down his life for us.  And we out to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity for him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and truth.”  By Jesus coming into this world and taking on our nature, and dying on the cross, his example is a new commandment.  Up to this point, all was shadow and pointed to a future understanding of love.   This is what makes it new.  Here is the new pattern; we love sacrificially and by our actions will we show ourselves truly to be Christ’s disciples.  God grant that we stop loving ourselves and start loving according to Christ’s new commandment. 

Catechism–(Q) How does the world know you are a Christian? (A) That you love one another.

Discussion–What ways can you love those around you as Christ loved his disciples?  Do you have to die for your neighbor in order to love him like Christ describes in this text? 

Prayer–Father God how amazing it is to realize how much you loved us by sending your own son to leave the majesty of heaven to save us from your wrath.  Lord God give us new hearts to love what we previously hated.  Awaken us to love you by loving our neighbors as Christ loved his church.  Let the world glorify you in seeing how we love one another.  Father it is in your name that we pray through the mediator of your Son by the power of the Spirit.  Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – Fourth Sunday in Easter – Psalm 23

Psalm 23 NRSV

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
    he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.

 

Summary – This psalm is probably the best known passage of the Old Testament. Here David sings of God’s  faithfulness throughout his life. The Psalm confidently describes the Lord as David’s Shepherd, King, and Dinner Host. Jesus said in Luke 24:44 that the Psalms were written about him. Let us read this passage and see how it speaks about Christ. Jesus totally trusts in God for his provision (v. 1-3), Jesus trusts in God for his protection (v. 4-5), and Jesus trust that God would be faithful to his promises (v. 6).

Insight – Interestingly, in the Old Testament there is a very close connection between shepherds and kings, often being understood as synonymous terms (Ezek. 34). David was a shepherd, and he became a king. In this Psalm, David, the king of Israel,  is expressing his confidence in God as the true King, and as the true shepherd of Israel. The Lord protects him and guards him from his enemies. Jesus is the greater David, and as such, he himself is the greater shepherd-king (John 10). The Good Shepherd lays his life down for the sheep, and that is exactly what Jesus did. Even though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, he feared no evil, because God was with him on the cross. And as a result of the shepherds death for his sheep, “surely goodness and mercy follows him” all the days of his everlasting life. And because Jesus is our Shepherd, we too shall not fear any evil. For God with us, and he will protect us, and even prepare sweet communion with him in the presence of our enemies, the greatest one he has already defeated – death.

Catechism – Who is our Shepherd? The Lord is my Shepherd.

Discussion – How does this psalm refer to Jesus? Discuss shepherds and kings, and dinner hosts, and explain how Jesus is all of these, and how that relates to the Lord’s Supper.

Prayer – Almighty and Heavenly Father, you have sent your Son Jesus to be for us our Shepherd King who prepares a table for us in the midst of our enemies. Give us the grace to trust that you will guide and protect us, and that your goodness and mercy will be with us all the days of our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

 

Year C – 4th Sunday of Easter – John 10:22-30


Text–
22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” (John 10:22-30 ESV)

Summary–John often uses scenes and seasons to build on his explanation that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God.  Here in our text, John uses the timeframe of the feast of lights or Dedication to teach how Jesus’ enemies misunderstood all the words and works of Jesus.  While celebrating a festival surrounded by light, these Jews were in the dark and completely missed what Jesus taught and did about himself.  The scene begins “at the time the feast of Dedication took place in Jerusalem” (vv.1) which commemorated the purification of the temple by Judas the Maccabee in the year 165 B.C. after it had been defiled by the wicked Antiochus Epiphanes.   By keeping lamps lit seven days when there was only enough oil for one day, Jews remembered God’s protection for them.  By this one miracle, Jews looked to him coming back to rescue them from their enemies.  With this backdrop in mind, John recounts the confrontation between the Jews who wanted another miracle, and Jesus, who for the past three years gave enough miracles to fill the candlesticks of the temple 70 x 7 days.

Insight–When was the last time you spoke to an unbeliever who just wanted some clear evidence for the existence of God?  “I want to believe”, they say, “but their just isn’t enough proof for me to believe.  These questions might be valid if evidence or plain speech were lacking.  But if there is enough evidence and they still don’t want to believe, then all that is going on here is an attempt to avoid responsibility and shift blame away from their prideful rebellion.  This is exactly what is going on in the text before us.  John’s gospel is filled with evidence (what he calls signs) to  make his point that Christ is indeed the Son of God.  John records the miracle at Cana of changing water into wine (2:1-11).  He told of the healing of the nobleman’s son (4:46-54).  He told of the feeding of the five thousand (6:1-14) as well as the healing of the blind man from birth (9:1-41).  The greatest miracle up to this point was the raising of Lazarus (11:1-44).  Each miracle pointed to Jesus that he was the Messiah.  Yet this is not enough, the Jews wanted more.  “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (vv.24). 

People in our day want the same evidence.  They can’t believe the Scriptures because they are full of error and can’t be proven.  How blind these people are to the truth.  There are more than 24,000 manuscript copies of various books of the Bible, manywithin 50-150 years of the original documents being written, yet there is not enough proof.  But how much evidence do we have for Plato’s works?  The earliest copy we have for Plato was written 1200 years after he lived and there are only 7 copies of his works in exidence  and yet there is no question that these texts are true. 

If the evidence is so plain, why doesn’t everyone believe?  The Jews ask for a plain answer, and Jesus gives it to them.  He tells them that on their own, they will not believe that he is God.  Only those who are called by him graciously will ever believe this to be true.  We are blinded by our sin until he calls us.  We can’t see until the Holy Spirit opens our eyes.  Do you believe?  Are you His sheep?  Have you been baptised into his body and called into his fold?  If you have, trust the words of the Bible and the works of our Lord.  If you are not, then ask for mercy and grace to see this reality.  Jesus is the Christ.  God grant that it might be so increasingly for Jesus’ sake.

Catechism–(Q) How do we know that Jesus is the Christ?  (A) By his words and works we plainly know that he is God.

Discussion–Why did Jesus answer John the Baptist the way he did in Matthew 11 when asked if Jesus was the Messiah?  Why didn’t he just plainly say, “yes”? 

Prayer–Father God, we thank you for calling us out of darkness and into the light of your son.  Lord give us the strength to proclaim your love to our friends and neighbors knowing that you alone can heal their blind eyes and break their hard hearts.  We pray for a more manifestly glorious church that would confidently take your image to the world, that your glory would fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – Third Sunday in Easter – Psalm 30

Psalm 30 NRSV

A Psalm. A Song at the dedication of the temple. Of David.

I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O Lord, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger is but for a moment;
his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.

To you, O Lord, I cried,
and to the Lord I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?

10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

 

Summary – The theme of this Psalm is fitting for the Easter season – Resurrection! In vss.1-3 David praises God for drawing him up (v.1), healing him (v.2), and bringing up his soul from Sheol, and restored his life from the pit (v.3). Sounds like a resurrection!

Verses 4-5 David commands us to sing praises to God because even though God gets angry, it is only for a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping is for a night, but joy comes in the morning. With the theme of resurrection on our mind, we can think of the Jesus absorbing the anger of God for a moment on the cross, and with His death we will weep. But in the morning there is joy, because God is no longer angry, his wrath has been satisfied, and now his favor rests upon us for our entire lives, because Jesus is alive forevermore. Amen!

Verses 6-10 I think is a lament from David. David had God’s favor, but something happened to make God “hide His face” from him, that is, remove His favor from him. Perhaps this event was  David’s census in 2 Sam. 24, which brought the Lord’s judgment upon Israel and seemingly almost led to David’s death (v. 9). David then bought the threshing floor of Araunah and built an altar on it so that he could make sacrifices for sin (2 Sam. 24:18-25). God responds with forgiveness and removes David’s sackcloth (the clothing of repentance) and clothes him with joy – resurrection!

Insight – David built an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah. There he offered up sacrifices, and was raised again to life, symbolically. This is the same place that Solomon built the temple (2 Chron. 3:1), which is located on Mount Moriah.  Mount Moriah is the same place that Abraham offered up Isaac as a sacrifice, and where God, in a sense, “raised him from the dead” (Heb.11:19). Jesus talks about his own resurrection as the rebuilding of the Temple (John 2:19-21). In the Bible, death, resurrection, and temple building seem to all fit together. Let us be reminded once again that Jesus in His death and resurrection has made us to be a living Temple with Him as the chief cornerstone. The Temple was created for the purpose of praising and worshiping God. Let us then, as the living temple of God, be diligent to offer up sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ!

Catechism – How long will God favor you? For my whole life.

Discussion – Discuss the Jesus as the Temple. Discuss the Church as the Temple. How does Jesus’ resurrection like building a Temple? Discuss how repentance of sin is like a death and resurrection.

Prayer – Almighty and Victorious Savior, we praise you for going down to death for us, and there killing sin and death, and the Devil. Up from the grave you arose, with a mighty triumph over your foes. You arose a victor from the dark domain, and you live forever with your saints to reign. Therefore Most Blessed Savior, we praise you forever, for obtaining God’s eternal pleasure for us. In your name we pray, Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover