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Wrestling with the Word, episode 20: Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B (May 10, 2009) April 20, 2009

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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Fifth Sunday of Easter

People tend to regard their faith in God as a private matter. That spiritual privacy might be true in some religions. It is certainly not true in the spirituality of Christianity. The lessons for this Fifth Sunday of Easter all agree that the love of God propels, even compels, us into a worldwide community where our love for God and our love for one another is completely transparent. God’s love for us, our love for God, and our love of one another are matters for public consumption.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 20: Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year B.


Psalm 22: 24-30 (21b-31)
The psalm is a lament in which a person who is being persecuted complains of the silence of God in spite of constant cries for help (vss. 1-21a). Beginning with verse 22b, the psalm changes to a thanksgiving, because the one who was afflicted has now been heard by the Lord and delivered.

The thanksgiving includes the following: (1) the report of the Lord’s deliverance to friends, (2) the call to praise the Lord, (3) the fulfillment of vows in the worshipping community, (4) a meal with the community, and (5) the recognition that joining in the praise of the Lord will be all the people of the earth, including not only the present generation but those who have gone before and those yet to be born.


Acts 8:26-40
God brings people on the outside to faith through the mediation of those who already believe.

Following the martyrdom of Stephen (7:54-60) and the great day of persecution against the church in Jerusalem (of which Saul was a chief instigator; see 8:1-3), Philip was among those who were scattered (8:4ff.). He went to a city of Samaria where he preached the gospel and people were baptized, including one named Simon, a magician (8:9-13). When the apostles in Jerusalem heard of the response in Samaria, Peter and John joined Philip, bringing by the laying on of hands the gift of the Holy Spirit (8:14-24). The three apostles then returned to Jerusalem.

Key Words
V. 26. aggelos de kuriou elalēsen pros Philippon= But an angel of the Lord said to Philip”: Note how the apostle is driven by an angel or more often by the Spirit (vv. 29, 39). The evangelizing is not something Philip does on his own.

V. 27. “an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a minister of Candace the queen of the Ethiopians“: Candace is a title of Ethiopian queens or queen-mothers rather than the name of a particular queen. Her identity is not at all important to the message of this story. The message is that the gospel reaches out to a man that comes from a different country and belongs to a different race.The universality of the gospel’s outreach is emphasized here by the clear message that the man comes from a different country and belongs to a different race. In the Hebrew Bible an Ethiopian is called a Cushite, and so the stories regarding Cushites are to be considered as proclamations of such universality among the Jews; see especially Gen. 10:6-8; Num. 12:1. Note the role of Ebed-melech, the Ethiopian eunuch, at Jeremiah 38:7-13 in saving Jeremiah’s life.

Vss. 32-33. The passage from scripture was Isaiah 53:7-8, the fourth “servant song” in Second Isaiah. Quite naturally, this song of the “suffering servant” rang familiar tones in the ears of the early church. 1 Peter 2:22-25 cites Isa. 53:4, 5-6, 9, 12. According to Luke 22:37, Jesus refers to Isa. 53:12 but not in connection with vicarious suffering. Matthew 8:17 cites Isaiah 53:4 in regard to Jesus’ healing ministry rather than to explain his own suffering.

V. 35. euēggelisato autō ton ’Iēsoun= “he preached to him the good news (about) Jesus”: This 8th chapter asserts emphatically the primary role of the apostles as preaching the good news as the means by which people are brought to faith (see vss. 4, 12, 25, and 40). The content of the apostolic “good news” is both “the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.” (See the summary of Paul’s ministry at Acts 28:31). The kingdom of God, of course, is the content of the good news Jesus himself preached (Mark 1:15//Matt. 4:17; Matt. 9:35), but Jesus himself connected the good news and himself (Mark 8:35). Here Philip focuses exclusively on Jesus as the content because of the question raised by the Ethiopian eunuch.

V. 39. pneuma kyriou hērpasen ton Philippon = “the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away”: The verb appears at Wisdom of Solomon 4:11 for the righteous one who is snatched away (by God?) “lest evil change his understanding.” The Apostle Paul writes about the man he knows (!) who was “caught up into the third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2). According to 1 Thessalonians 4:17, when the trumpet sounds at the last day, those who are still alive “shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.” The child of the mysterious woman in Revelation 12:1-6 “was caught up to God and to his throne” (v. 5). Here the Spirit dropped Philip in Azotus, known in the OT as Ashdod, about halfway between Gaza and Joppa.


1 John 4:7-21
Confessing that God sent Jesus Christ into the world and made him the atoning sacrifice for our sins leads us to such a response that we cannot love God without loving one another

Beginning at 3:11, the author works on the necessity of loving one another as essential to Christian life. This love is not only by word but by deed (3:18), and it is fulfillment of the commandment of Christ (3:23). Such loving goes hand in hand with the abiding of the Lord in and among us (3:24).

The pericope does not follow a logical train of thought but rather jumps back and forth to thoughts and expressions used previously.

Key Words
V. 7. Agapētoi, agapōmen allēhous, hoti hē agapē ek tou theou estin= “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God”: The source of the love that the author calls for is not human nature but God who demonstrated that love in the sacrifice of his Son (vss. 10, 19).

V. 10. hilasmon peri tōn hamartiōn hēmōn = “the expiation for our sins”: The author uses the word “expiation” also at 2:2 in a universal sense. At Romans 3:25 Paul uses a different form of the word: hilastērion. The word appears at Lev. 16:13-15 for the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant where the spilled blood accomplishes atonement for the people’s sins.

V. 13. “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit”: Only through the gift of God’s Spirit do we and can we “know” that we live in God’s presence. In chapter 2, the author writes that to know God is to obey God’s commandment to love one another. Earlier in the chapter, the author had written that the Spirit that comes from God is the one results in confessing that Jesus Christ has come n the flesh (4:2).

V. 17. En toutō teteleiōtai hē agapē meth’ hēmōn = In this love is perfected/fulfilled among us”: The perfect/fulfilled love is defined here by its result: “confidence for the day of judgment.” At 2:3-11, perfected love is a matter of keeping God’s word to love one another. In Jesus’ prayer at John 17, he speaks of his “finishing (teleiōsas) the work that you gave me to do” (v. 4). Thus, “perfect” love is that which Jesus did and then passed it to us so that we might love one another as he loved God and us: perfect/fulfilling/finishing the work of God.

V. 21. hina ho agapōn ton theon apaga kai ton adelphon autou = “that whoever loves God loves their sisters and brothers also”: The commandment knits together the so-called Great Commandment and the second one like it (cf. Matt. 22:37-39//Mark 12:29-31//Luke 20:39-40).  What happened to the first commandment when Paul sums up the whole law in one commandment: “You shall love you neighbor as yourself”? (Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14)


John 15:1-8
Jesus identifies himself as the true vine and calls his disciples to become fruitful branches in order to prove they belong to him.

The discussion occurs within the context of the supper Jesus was having with his disciples prior to the Feast of the Passover (13:1ff.). Jesus spoke of his betrayal and Judas left the room (13:21-30), and Jesus gave the new commandment “that you love one another, even as I have loved you,…” (13:34) and told them this love will enable people to know whose disciples they are (13:35). Jesus then spoke of his departure and the Counselor (14:1-31).

Key Words
V. 1. egō eimi hē ampelos hē alēthinē= “I am the true vine”: In the OT Israel is called the vine or the vineyard on several occasions. In every case without exception, however, the vine/vineyard called Israel does not produce the desired fruit (Isa. 5:1-7; Ps. 80:8-13; Ezek. 19:10). By contrast, Jesus is the “true” vine and gathers around him a community that will bear fruit. “I AM” (egō eimi) in itself is a divine title in the LXX (Isa. 43:10, 25; 51:12; 52:6; cf. Exod. 3:14) and is used by Jesus in Mark 6:50; John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5-6.

V. 4. meinate en emoi, kagō en hymin = “Abide in me and I in you”: The theme of remaining in God/Jesus and God/Jesus in us occurs more times than there are verses in this pericope (see also the lesson from 1 John 4). In verses 7, when Jesus tells the disciples “my words abide in you,” he is not saying something different; Jesus’ himself is present in his word(s) (John 1:14).

V. 8. en toutō edoxasthē ho patēr mou, hina karpon polyn pherēte kai genēsthe emoi mathētai = “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples”: The fruit to be born is the love of Christ that God calls us to share with one another. At 13:31, Jesus announces after Judas’ departure, that “Now the Son of man is glorified and in him God is glorified.” At 17:4, Jesus prays to the Father, “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.” At Matthew 5:16, Jesus taught that the good works the disciples of Christ perform in public glorify God.