Year A – Second Sunday of Easter – John 20:19-31

The Resurrection Manifest in St. John’s Gospel (02) – Unbelief and Evidence

John 20:19–31 – So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and *said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”  24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 26 After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus *came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then He *said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” 30 Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

Peace in Place of Fear (vv19-23) – The disciples were afraid. They cowered in hiding, “for fear of the Jews” (v19). Jesus “came” in their midst or “appeared” (Acts 1:3). Jesus’s very first action was to confer peace to them (twice to make the point): “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you’” (v21, also Lk. 24:36). Through Christ’s victory, the ground of peace was accomplished on the Day of Resurrection. From this we have mission: “as the Father has sent Me, I also send you” (v21). By this peace we are duly and actually empowered in His presence to be “sent” to the world. From this account we have peace and purpose: a) we have peace with God through Christ (Rom. 5:1) connected to the forgiveness of sins (v23). This is the reason and the rationale for relational peace with others. b) We have purpose to declare this forgiveness leading to peace in the world, being commissioned by Christ (v21ff).

Faith in Place of Unbelief (vv24-31) – On the next Lord’s Day (2nd Sunday of Eastertide), enter “unbelieving” Thomas, who was not present on Easter 1. He was unbelieving (not merely doubting) in the face of many credentialed and credible witnesses, namely: at least twelve other men (ten original disciples, less Judas and Thomas, plus the two on the road to Emmaus) and several women, especially Mary Magdelene who hugged Him. Jesus had eaten broiled fish in front of ten men (Luke 24:42). Peter testified that Jesus “ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead” (Acts 10:42). They had all “seen” Him, “heard Him,” and “handled Him” (1 John 1:1). This is a large number of eyewitnesses to Christ’s bodily reality. Jesus, however, met Thomas’s evidentiary demand, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands.” God has provided sufficient evidence for all the world to be “without excuse” (anapologetous – “without an apologetic” Rom. 1:20), since He has “furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

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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 – 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 – 3rd Sunday of Easter – John 21:1-19

Text–(John 21:1-19 ESV) After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Summary–Here is the book end of John’s gospel to the church.  The key to understanding this chapter is to see it as a parallel to the first part of chapter 1.  John 1:1-14 is the prologue in which the pre-incarnate activity of the Lord is summarzied.  John 21 is the epilogue which emphasizes the post-resurrection ministry of the Lord in which he rules his church and directs its members in their Christian growth and service.  Here we read of Peter’s restoration to Christ after rejecting him during Christ’s trial and crucifixion.  Here also we learn that, like Peter, we must never rely on our own strength in serving Christ for without our Lord, we will fall.  With our Lord, we will have the strength to follow him in righteousness to glorify the father and serve our neighor. 

Insight–Church history is full of stories about heroic figures who stand in the face of God’s enemies without faultering.  How many Christians went to their deaths being burned at the stake, eaten by lions, torn to pieces all for the sake of Christ?  But Church history also records those who refused to stand under the pressure of persecution.  How many Christians chose to bow before Ceasar so as to avoid the hungry lions?  These don’t make good stories to tell our children but they must be told.  Otherwise when we face challenges and fail in them, we feel as if there is no way back into God’s favor.  But there is a way back.  We read of such a path in this last chapter of John.  To understand why Jesus asks Peter what he does, and asks him the way he does it, we need to see that Peter failed him.  Headstrong Peter told Christ that he would follow him anywhere, even to death itself in need be.  Matthew records Peter’s claim, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will” (Matt 26:33).   But while Christ faced his accusers that would eventually lead to his death, Peter waited next to a charcoal fire and denied him.  He denied him three times.  Peter’s self-confidence was toppled in a matter of minutes when he said, “I don’t know the man, I don’t know what you are talking about, I am not his disciple.”  Christ stood next to another charcoal fire and asked Simon, son of John, three times, “Do you love me?”  Christ restored Peter to service of his flock by reversing the three denials with three affirmations.  Headstrong Peter was humbled.  He was stripped of his selfish pride and showed what it takes to truly follow Christ.  There will be times when you will be asked to stand firm in your faith.  When that happens, what will you rely on?  Will you lean on your own strength?  If you do, be ready to fall.  Your own strength did not give you the ability to trust Christ and it won’t get you through whatever trial you may face.   If  you follow Peter’s example in John’s account, and love the Lord above everything else, you will be able to stand even if you stumbled in the past.   

Catechism–(Q) How many times did Peter reject Christ and how many times did Christ restore Peter? (A) Three times

Discussion–What do you do when you stumble in your faith?  Do you go fishing like Peter?  How can Christ restore you to himself when you fail in your faith?

Prayer–Heavenly Father, you are our rock and our fortress.  Before you spoke the world into existence, you chose us and adopted us throught Jesus Christ by the good pleasure of your Holy will.  While we rebelled against you, you loved us.  Lord, grant us the grace to reflect your love to the world by serving you with our whole hearts.  Lord, we ask this in your perfect name, through Christ our Lord and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – 2nd Sunday in Easter – John 20:19-31

Text–19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Summary–This narrative concerns the meeting of Jesus and Thomas a week after Christ’s resurrection.  Thomas had not been present with the other disciples when Christ first appeared to them in the upper room.  Upon hearing that Christ had indeed risen from the dead and had appeared to the rest, Thomas doubted.  He replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers into his side, I will not believe it” (vv. 25). Jesus appears to Thomas and offers up proof that he was raised from the dead.  In a glorious transformation from doubt to joy following Christ’s appearance to him, Thomas professes his faith that Jesus is his Lord and his God.  This declaration is the greatest profession of faith recorded in the gospels. 

Insight–Are there ever times in your Christian walk when you question God?  Are you ever suspicious about what you read in the Bible, especially in such matters as the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ?  Well you are not alone in this.  Thomas questioned God at this very point.  He doubted what everyone else seemed to believe, that Jesus was risen from the dead.   He had the gall to ask for a sign on what the disciples were claiming.  He went so far as to say that he wouldn’t believe it until he personally placed his fingers into the very wounds that secured Christ to the cross.  How much patience and love does Christ show when we doubt him?  For he could have let Thomas falter in his unbelief, writing him off that he should have known that the tomb would be empty.  But instead, our Lord fixed his eyes on Thomas and told him to go ahead, put his hands into the nail holes; put them into his side where others had thrust a spear.   The great preacher, Charles Spurgeon argued, “Our Lord does not always act towards us according to his own dignity, but according to our necessity; and if we really are so weak that nothing will do but thrusting a hand into his side, he will let us do it.”  Thomas was given the chance to put his fingers into the nail prints in order to cure his doubt.  Maybe you want the same opportunity.  Maybe you ask for just one visible sign that will remove all doubt.  You have that sign at your fingertips.  Quoting Augustine, “take up and read”.  Reread the gospel account of Christ’s suffering and death for your sake.  Picture the very holes that Christ offered to Thomas to alleviate his doubt.  Be strengthened that Christ did this for you.  John wrote this account so that you would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that you would have life in His name.

Catechism–(Q) Why was the book of John written? (A) So that we will believe that Jesus is the Son of God.

Discussion–Where can you turn when you doubt that Jesus was raised from the dead for you? 

Prayer–Heavenly Father, we praise you that you raised your Son from the dead that we would live.  We thank you for your Word that strengthens us when we doubt.  Keep us in your hands, Lord.  Let us grow in faith every day as we read your Word and pray to you.  We ask this in that name of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.  Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – Easter Sunday – Luke 24:13-49

Luke 24:13-49 (ESV)

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33 And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Summary–Up to this point in his account of that first Easter Sunday, Luke has reported the empty tomb, the message of the two angels in dazzling robes (“He is risen!”), and Peter’s visit to  the tomb.  He has not yet reported any appearance of the Risen Christ to his disciples.  He now picks up the story with Christ’s first appearance to his disciples.  It is a stirring and joyful account of the Risen Savior appearing to two of Christ’s disciples as they walked home to Emmaus from Jerusalem.  While recounting all they had seen over the past two days, a stranger caught up with them asking what they were talking about.  Surprised at the strangers ignornance of the events, they explained what had happened to Jesus of Nazarath and how their women went to the tomb and returned with the report of what the angels had said.  The stranger then explained to the two that according to the entire Old Testament it was the path of suffering that would bring the Messiah to glory.  Arriving in Emmaus, the two asked the stranger to dine with them.  While breaking bread they suddenly realized that it was Jesus himself, risen from the dead!  The two run all the way back to Jerusalem to tell the Eleven what they saw.  Jesus then appeared to others, including his apostles who just hours before despaired over the loss of their savior.  The narrative concludes with Christ’s words that he would send them out to do what his father had promised and to be ready to receive power from on high.

Insight–In the early morning of that first Easter Sunday, where was the hope?  Who waited in anticipation for all that was promised by Jesus and the prophets?  What about those apostles who walked with Jesus those past three years, witnessing many miracles and marvelling at his teachings?  Did they have any hope?  No, not one of them.  Not one of the apostles expected Jesus to arise from the grave.  That thought was the farthest thing from their minds.  Jesus was dead!  He was not coming back.  Happy days of fellowship with the mighty prophet of Israel would never return.  What about these men that Luke describes in our text?  These two men who saw so much and had such hope.  Did they have any hope left?  Hear their words, “…we hoped that he was the one who would redeem Israel…We hoped (past tense) but now all hope is gone.”  There was no hope that morning in Jerusalem; but there should have been.  They missed what was clearly told in everything that the prophets had spoken.  They missed the whole story of the Messiah  receiving glory and victory through suffering.  They missed Genesis 3:15 that in the process of crushing the head of the serpent, Messiah’s own heal would be bruised.  They missed Ps. 118 vs 22 in how the rejected stone becomes the cornerstone.  They missed Isa 53, 55, and 59; Jeremiah 23, Ezekial 17; Daniel 2; Mic 5; Hagai 2; Zechariah 3, 6, 9, 11, 12, and 13.  They missed Malachi 3.  They missed all the Scriptures explaining this simple fact, that the Messiah would suffer to enter into his glory.  We must not miss what Christ came to do.  He came to pay for our transgressions, to redeem us from our sins.  We have hope in this, that Jesus was truly and bodily raised from the dead.  The world needs this hope.  Your neighbor despairs in their circumstances.  But fear not, Christ is truly risen.  Tell them this for there is no other hope found in the world from than this truth.  Jesus is risen, he is risen indeed!

Catechism–(Q) Is Jesus raised from the dead? (A) He is risen indeed!

Discussion–What ways does the world try to discredit the bodily resurrection of Christ? (Body taken from tomb; story a myth; Apostles lied).  What evidence is there to the bodily resurrection?  (The explosion of the 1st Century Christian Church; the life stories of each of the apostles, the testimony of all of the Scriptures, both Old and New; etc.)

Prayer–Father God, we praise you for vindicating your son in raising him from the dead.  We rejoice with great gladness and look forward to the day when we will eat with him in heaven at the banquet held in his honor.  Give us the persistence to remain in hope for this coming that you would be glorified in us through your son.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Contributed by Michael Fenimore

Year C – 5th Sunday In Lent – John 12:1-9

Gospel Lesson – John 12:1-9 NRSV

Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?” (He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

Summary – It was six days before the Passover, and Mary and Martha and Lazarus had Jesus over for dinner. Many of the Jews were looking to kill Jesus because he had raised Lazarus from the dead, and as a result, many were believing in him. So this was most likely an intimate and low profile Sabbath dinner. Martha served, like usual, and Mary sat at Jesus feet, like usual (Luke 10:38ff). Here, Mary shows her love and devotion for Jesus by pouring a very expensive perfume onto his feet and wiping his feet with her hair. The scent of the perfume filled the house, much like Mary’s love for Jesus. Judas grumbled, saying that she should have sold the ointment and given the money to the poor. He didn’t actually care about the poor, he wanted the money for himself. Jesus tells Judas, “Leave her alone, she intended to keep it for the day of my burial.”  

Insight – “The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.” Mary’s love for Jesus was known to all in that room that evening. It was so real you could smell it. Her heart was so overwhelmed with love that she freely and joyfully took her most precious and expensive gift and lavished it on Jesus. But contrasted with Mary’s love, is Judas’ heart, which is found cold and calculating, diabolical and thieving. His is a love of self. Not thinking about giving, only about taking. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 – “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” By entertaining Christ in our hearts and homes, having Him always as the guest of honor, we spread the beautiful fragrance of His love everywhere we go. This Lent, may we be like Mary who has once again chosen the good portion, by filling the room with the fragrance of her love for Christ. By doing so, she blesses everyone in the room, and is an aroma of life. Let us seek to do the same, and find real tangible ways we can anoint Christ in each other through acts of love and devotion.

 Catechism – What does Mary’s perfume remind us of? That we are the aroma of Christ, spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.

Discussion – Discuss the amount of love that Mary had for Jesus. Discuss how our lives give off “aromas.” How can this aroma be unto life or unto death?

Prayer – Almighty and Most Magnificent Father, we praise you this day, with hearts full of the fragrance of love for the Blessed Lord Jesus. Give us grace to anoint the Lord with love and thanksgiving, that we might accompany Him in His death, and rise to life with Him in His resurrection, spreading the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ everywhere, as life unto those who are being saved. In Jesus Holy Name we pray, Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – The Fourth Week of Lent – Luke 151-3,11-32

Gospel Lesson – Luke 15:1-3,11-32 NRSV

Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:

11 Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.14 When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. 16 He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. 17 But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ 20 So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

25 “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.27 He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ 28 Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends.30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ 31 Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”

Summary – This classic story is known to us as “The Prodigal Son.” While most of the narrative is fixed on the wayward son, the real “moral of the story” has to do more with the father’s forgiveness than with the younger son’s repentance. In the story the father symbolizes God. The prodigal son symbolizes the tax collectors and sinners of verse 1 specifically, and generally all who are lost in sin. The elder brother symbolizes the self righteous Scribes and Pharisees of verse 1, or anyone for that matter who claims to serve God, while resenting the fact that God forgives sinners. Jesus’ teaching is simple and powerful – through God’s gracious and unmerited forgiveness, those who are lost in sin and not worthy to be considered sons, are restored to son-ship and made heirs of the kingdom. We should rejoice.

Insight – While rummaging through the pig slop looking for food, the lost son realizes his self inflicted predicament. He comes to his senses, and goes home and tells his father, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your slaves.” The younger son was an heir, but he spurned that blessing, and lost it. He repented, and was content to being only a slave in his Father’s house. His father was not content with him being a slave though, and restores him to his status as a son and an heir. The older son, though externally faithful, was an heir, and yet did not recognize the blessings he had. Rather he considered himself a slave (v. 29). Through anger, un-thankfulness, resentment, and self-righteousness, the older son that was an heir found himself not on the inside feasting with his long lost brother and his father, but rather on the outside (v. 28). He had refused to go into the feast, and thus he had disinherited himself from the blessings of his father.

This Lenten season, let us be reminded once again what Galatians 4 says, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:6-7). True sons repent. True sons are thankful. True sons count their blessings and do not consider their service to God as slavery. Therefore be encouraged that you are an heir of God, and that you have the Spirit of His Son given to you at your baptism. But take heed, lest your heart becomes deceitful and wicked and unthankful and resentful at God’s goodness toward you and towards others. If not checked now, you might not have opportunity to check it later. Then you might just find yourself on that final day, just like the older son, on the outside of the feast looking in. Take the time now and confess your sins, be thankful that you are one of God’s children, and that you have other brothers and sisters to feast with in the kingdom of God, especially your Big Brother, Jesus who purchased the feast, and your adoption, with his own blood.

Catechism – Why is the Lord’s Supper a celebratory meal? Because we were once dead, but have come to life, we were lost, and have been found.

Discussion – Discuss the importance of repentance and thankfulness, and the relationship that has to being a son and an heir of God.

Prayer – O Lord, our Father, we give you thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We were dead, and your Spirit made us to live. We were lost, and you found us. We were hungry, and you feed us with the spiritual food of the most precious body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. You prepare a feast for us when we deserve to eat with the pigs. You embrace us anew with love and joy, even after we rejected you and spurned our inheritance. Thank you so much Father for loving us, and giving us the Spirit of your Son Jesus, that we might cry to you, Abba, Father. In your Son’s name we pray. Amen.

Submitted by Michael Shover

Year C – Third Sunday in Lent – Luke 13:1-9

Gospel LessonLuke 13:1-9 NRSV

“At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.”

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’”

Summary – This passage has two parts, the first describes two historical events in which certain persons died, and the second is a parable that applies the meaning of those events to the current listeners. The first event tells of certain persons from Galilee who had been killed by Pontius Pilate, who then mingled their blood with the blood of the sacrifice in the Temple. The second event tells of the Tower of Siloam falling and killing eighteen people in Jerusalem. The second part of the passage is a parable about a fig tree that bears no fruit. The man who owned it has been looking for fruit for three years and has found none. He is about to cut it down. The fig tree in the parable is Israel, and the man looking for three years for fruit is Jesus. He has found none. Therefore, unless Israel repents, then judgment will come upon them, just as judgment came upon the people in the first two events.

Insight – Some people think that they can live as they please right now, and then, right before they die, they can repent and believe, and be forgiven. The reality though is that we never know when we are going to die. While we might think we have 80 years to live, the truth could be that we die in a car accident tomorrow. Or a tower might fall on us, or we might die in our sleep. We never know. The lesson we are to learn from bad things happening to others, like a tower falling on them, is that these things could just as easily happen to us. That means we are to repent of our sins now, for we never know what could happen to us, and when. Those people who died are not worse sinners than we are, are they? Did they deserve to die anymore than you or I do right now? Jesus didn’t think so. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did.” This Lenten season, we should be continually repenting and remember those ashes that were placed upon our foreheads, remembering that our life is but dust, and to the dust we shall return. Therefore repent, brothers and sisters, and flee to Jesus. Then bear fruit in keeping with your repentance (Luke 3:9-14).

 Catechism – Are those who suffer untimely death worse sinners than others? No. But unless we repent, we will all perish just as they did.

Discussion – What is repentance? How do we know we truly repent? What happens if we do not repent?

Prayer – Almighty and most merciful Father; We have erred and strayed from Your ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have offended against Your holy laws. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us. But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders. Spare those O God who confess their faults. Restore those who are penitent, according Your promises declared unto mankind in Christ Jesus our Lord. And Grant, O most merciful Father, for His sake; That we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life; To the glory of Your Holy Name. Amen.

Submitted by Michael J. Shover

Year C – Second Sunday in Lent – Luke 13:31-35

Luke 13:31-35 (NRSV)

31 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” 32 He said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.33 Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed outside of Jerusalem.’ 34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!35 See, your house is left to you. And I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

 

Summary – Jesus is teaching in the towns and villages of Galilee as he is going toward Jerusalem. The Pharisees tell Jesus to leave the area because Herod wants to kill him. Jesus says that he still has devils to cast out and healings to perform for the next three days, but he will be travelling toward Jerusalem during that time because it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem. Jesus then laments over Jerusalem’s rejection of him and her coming destruction. His desire to love and protect the city is like that of a hen with her chicks, yet Jerusalem would have none of it. Before Jesus is rejected and the city is destroyed, Jesus will be received by them with praise, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Insight – Have you ever identified yourself with a character in a story? Perhaps in the Chronicles of Narnia, for example, you might identify with Lucy, or even Peter, or maybe Prince Caspian. How often though do you see yourself as Aslan? Probably very little.  As we read Luke 13:31-35, and we hear Jesus being confronted on all sides by his enemies, it is easy to identify with Jesus because he is the hero. He is our Lord, and we want to be like him. But this Lenten season, in order to help prepare your soul for Easter Sunday, try to identify yourself with Jesus’ persecutors and enemies, not with Jesus. As you hear these verses see yourself as that “Fox” Herod who wants to kill Jesus. See yourself as a shady hypocritical Pharisee who wants Jesus to depart from their regions and cease doing miracles. Or perhaps you are one of those who plot and scheme about how to destroy Jesus. Perhaps you are even one of the sick whom Jesus cures, or maybe even you are one of those of whom Jesus casts out devils. Are you Jerusalem, the city that rejects and kills the prophets and who will eventually even kill Jesus? Imagine Jesus telling you that you will reject him and kill him. See the tears running down Jesus’ face as he laments over you in great love. Feel the agonizing hypocrisy of betrayal as you greet him on Palm Sunday with shouts of praise, for in one weeks time you will precede his departure with shouts again, but this time saying,  “Crucify him, crucify him!”

This Lent, in order to have a deeper and more powerful resurrection with Christ, see yourself as the reason he was crucified to begin with. Come face to face with the reality of your fallen nature. Look intently on your hatred for God, and the evil in your heart. For then, when Christ is crucified, you will see those very sins nailed upon that cross. It is necessary that in order for us to see the cross as something done for us, we need to see the cross as something done by us. Only then will we be fit to join Christ in his resurrection on Easter morning.

Catechism – In which city did Jesus die? In Jerusalem, for it cannot be that a prophet perish outside of Jerusalem.

Discussion – Which character are you in this story? Why is Herod called a “Fox”? Were the Pharisees helping Jesus, or telling him to scram? Discuss how Jesus is like a hen, and Jerusalem like baby chicks.

Prayer – Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, bless us this Lenten season with hearts full of repentance. May we see our guilt in the crucifixion of our Lord, that we might faithfully receive its benefits for us.  In Jesus Name. Amen.