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Wrestling with the Word, episode 68: Second Sunday of Easter, Year C (April 11, 2010) April 1, 2010

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Second Sunday of Easter

Imagine how difficult it would be to go back in time—to Jesus’ time. On the one hand, such time travel would demand that we give up the internet and our MP3 players, to say nothing of our planes, trains, and automobiles. Then, of course, we would also surrender our comfortable beds, our heated homes, and our modern plumbing. On the other hand, going back to walk with Jesus through all the events since Christmas, as well as the events through Epiphany and Lent, would certainly take away any doubts about who Jesus really was. Such confidence would undoubtedly enable us to be brave about going off into the world as his messengers. Or would it? Did Jesus’ original disciples have any advantage over us simply because they could see him in action? Maybe they have joined us in our time, eliminating the need for us to meet them in theirs.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 68: Second Sunday of Easter, Year C.


Psalm 150
This psalm of praise brings the Psalter to a fitting conclusion, especially as it calls all living things to praise the Creator with instruments and dance.  While the joyful noise takes place in the temple, it is clear that the temple represents the firmament above which God dwells in splendor.


Acts 5:27-32
In the face of threatening opposition, God gives the Holy Spirit to enable Christians to proclaim the news about Jesus’ death and resurrection along with gifts of repentance and forgiveness.

In the previous chapters, Peter and the other apostles had performed such signs as healing the lame man at the Beautiful Gate (chapter 3) and had been involved in such wonders as the sudden death of Mr. and Mrs. Ananias (5:1-11).  As a result, people brought the sick from Jerusalem and from towns around Jerusalem to be healed by the apostles.  This response led the high priest and the Sadducees to have them arrested, but thanks to an angel, the prison doors were opened and the apostles returned to the temple to teach.  They were apprehended once more.

Key Words
V. 30.  epi xulou = “on a tree”:  Basically xulon means “wood” or “a thing made from wood” including wooden stocks or a pole.  At Deut. 21:22-23 a person killed on a piece of wood is cursed.  See also Paul’s use of the Deut. passage at Gal. 3:13.

V. 30.  ēgeiren = “raised up”:  The obvious reference is to resurrection but perhaps it is also an allusion to God’s raising up the “judges” of ancient Israel to save the people (Judg. 2:16, 18; 3:9, 15); see note on v. 31.

V. 31.  archēgon kai sōtēra = “Leader and Savior”:  The word archēgos (also at Acts 3:15) can mean “leader, prince” or “originator, founder.”  It describes the judge Jephthah at Judg. 11:6, 11.  The title sōtēr describes God in LXX, but in the NT, Jesus Christ is “savior” at Luke 2:11; Acts 13:23; John 4:42; Phil. 3:20.

V. 32.  kai hēmeis esmen martyres … kai to pneuma to hagion = “we are witnesses … and so is the Holy Spirit”:  The role of the apostles is like that of the Holy Spirit, namely witnessing to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; see John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14.


Revelation 1:4-8
To those in tribulation God provides through John the Seer the vision of hope that Jesus who died to free us from our sins and make us priests to God is alive and will come again.

The Book of Revelation was composed by John the Seer in the year A.D. 95 during his exile by Domitian to the island of Patmos.  The background for his exile was a part of a general persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor.  Whether this John is the same as the author of the Gospel and/or the author of the epistles is still debated. It must be admitted, however, that the Greek of this work does not compare to that of the other writings of John.  After a brief introduction (vv. 1-3) these verses make up first part of the salutation.

Old Testament Allusions
V. 4.  “who is and who was and who is to come”:  Exod. 3:14 (“I am who I am.”).

V. 4.  “seven spirits”:  Isaiah 11:2-3 (a messianic reference).

V. 5.  “first-born”:  Psalm 89:27 (a Davidic allusion).

V. 5.  “witness”:  Isaiah 55:4 (a Davidic allusion).

V. 6.  “kingdom, priests”:  Exod. 19:6 (cf. 1 Peter 2:9).

V. 7.  “coming with the clouds”:  Dan 7:13 (used of one like “a son of man).

V. 7.  “will see … pierced … wail”:  Zech 12:10-12 (used of Davidic family and the people of Jerusalem).

V. 7.  “all the tribes of the earth”:  Gen. 12:3 (the mission given to Abraham and Sarah).

V. 8.  “the Almighty”:  Amos 3:13 and often (used for Yahweh).

Key Words
V. 5. ho archōn tōn basileōn tēs gēs = “the ruler of the kings of the earth”: The combination of the words “witness” and “ruler/leader” occurs at Isa. 55:4 as a description of the Davidic king. In Isaiah (LXX) the word for “ruler” is archonta (cf. archēgos at Acts 5:31) and the kingdom consists of “the peoples” (that is, a universal rule, as here).

V. 6. kai epoiēsen hēmas basileian, hieris tō theō kai patri autou = “and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father”: The words recall the words of 1 Peter 2:5, 9 which apply to the church the title and responsibility of Israel to be “a kingdom of priests” (Exod 19:6).


John 20:19-31
On the evening of Jesus’ resurrection, the Risen Christ appeared to the disciples, commissioning them and enabling them with the gift of the Holy Spirit.


In the absence of signs Jesus performed during his ministry, God provides the message called the gospel in order to bring people to faith and thus to life.

Mary Magdalene had reported to Simon, and to the disciple beloved of Jesus, that the stone had been taken away.  Upon the return of all three, the resurrected Jesus appeared to Mary alone, instructing her to report to the disciples that he was about to ascend to God.

Key Words
V. 21.  apestalken me … pempō hymas = “has sent … I send”:  The words are obviously reminiscent of Jesus’ prayer at 17:18 where the verbs are apesteilas … apesteila.

V. 22.  enephusēsen = “he breathed”:  The same verb and form appear at Gen. 2:7 for God breathing into Adam the breath of life. At Ezek. 37:9 the form emphusēson (imperative) describes the action of the four winds/spirits which bring the dry bones to life.

V. 23.  aphēte … apheōntai = “you forgive … they are forgiven”:  The use of aorist aphēte implies a specific act of forgiving, that is, letting go. The passive apheōntai is a theological passive, indicating that the subject of the act of forgiving is God.

V. 23.  kratēte kekratēntai = “you retain, they are retained”:  The use of kratēte (pres. subj.) implies the continuation of the retaining. Note again the passive voice As for the contrast between “let go/forgive” and “retain,” see Mark 7:8. Also compare the contrast of “bless” and “curse” in God’s call to Abraham at Gen. 12:3.

V. 29.  makarioi hoi mē idontes kai pisteusantes = “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed”:  For the contrast between “seeing” and “believing” see Hebrews 11:1.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 17: Second Sunday of Easter, Year B (April 19, 2009) April 2, 2009

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Second Sunday of Easter

The words “Second Sunday of Easter” have a peculiar ring. Since the Christian church has set aside the first of every week to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord, every Sunday is Easter Revisited. Of course, the name given to the Sundays depends on the fact we celebrate the various seasons of the church year in order to focus on the coming of Christ, his birth and revelation among us, his sufferings, and his resurrection. It seems that no matter what we name the seasons or the Sundays or which lessons from the Bible we read aloud, we always hear about the God who sits enthroned above the world but nevertheless gets down to earth right smack in the middle of the fray, even in human form, to raise us up. Believing that is impossible. It contradicts our power or reason and logic and challenges our own pride. Actually only God can enable us to believe this unfathomable news, and so God gives us the gift of the Spirit. Then God sends us back into the fray.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 17: Second Sunday of Easter, Year B.


Psalm 113
This psalm of praise is the first in the collection of Hallel psalms (113-118) that Judiasm used since biblical days at Passover and other festivals. This one calls the “servants of the Lord” to bless the “name of the Lord” for all time (v. 2) and through dimensions of space—left-right (v. 3) and up-down (vss. 5-6). The name of God is the Lord; the name represents the person. The portrayal of the Lord’s glory is impressively high and lofty (like Isa. 57:15), but distance matters little when it comes to the poor and needy on earth (v. 7). God raises them from their lowly estate to give them positions beside princes (v. 8). Like the song of Hannah rejoicing at the birth of Samuel when previously she had been a barren woman (1 Sam. 2:1-10), this psalm blesses the Lord for giving the barren woman a family and a bundle of joy (v. 9).


Acts 4:32-35
Filled with the Holy Spirit, testifying to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and endowed with God’s grace, the new Christians in Jerusalem shared with one another all their possessions.

Following the gift of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-42), the Christians “would sell their possessions and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” (2:45). They ate together in homes and praised God. The author then reports the miraculous healing miracles performed by Peter and John in the portico of the temple. The miracle brought together a large crowd which provided Peter an audience for preaching a sermon on the people’s rejection of Jesus (3:1-26). The religious authorities and the Sadducees had Peter and John arrested, an act that provided the apostles with another audience for preaching the Word of God (4:1-12).

V. 32. Tou de plēthous tōn pisteusantōn hēn kardia kai psychē mia = “Of the plethora of those who believed, heart and soul were one”: The gift of the Holy Spirit, received in the previous verse, brought their diversity into a unity.

V. 32. all’ hēn autois apanta koina = “they all held everything in common”: The use of the word koina indicates that “fellowship” or “community” was the new social order in which possessions were distributed so that none would be poor (see also 2: 42-47). The concern that the community took the responsibility for sustenance for the poor sounds like the role of the people of Israel at Deuteronomy 15.

V. 33. kai dynamei megalē apedidoun to martyrion hoi apostoloi tēs anastaseōs tou kyriou Iēsous, charis te megalē hēn epi pantas autous = “And with great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon all of them”:  The content of the apostolic preaching focused on the resurrection of Jesus (see 2:32; 3:15, 26; 4:10). For the Apostle Paul, the resurrection is precisely why Jesus became kyrios = Lord, and through whom “we have received grace” (Rom. 1:4-5; 10:9).


1 John 1:1–2:2
Against false claims of Christians to have fellowship with God no matter what, that they are without sin, and that they have no need of confession, God offers fellowship by forgiving those who confess their sinfulness to God and walk in the light.

Unlike 2 John which is addressed to “the elect lady and her children” and 3 John which is addressed “to the beloved Gaius,” 1 John appears to be more of a sermon. The sermon begins to sound like a letter, especially at 2:1 with the words “I am writing this to you” along with mention of an addressee:  “my little children” (see also 2:12, 18, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21; called “beloved” at 2:7; 3:2, 21; 4:1, 7). The purposes of writing are several: “that our joy may be complete” (1:4), “that you may not sin” (2:1), to give “an old commandment” (2:7), “because your sins are forgiven for his sake” (2:12), “about those who would deceive you” (2:26), “that you may know that you have eternal life” (5:13).

Key Words
V. 3. ho heōpakamen kai akēkoamen apaaggellomen kai hymin, hina kai hymeis koinōnian echēte meth’ hēmōn, kai he koinōnian de hē hēmetera meta tou patros kai meta tou huiou autou Iesou Christou = “that which we have seen and heard we announce also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ”: The apostles indicate that, like the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 15:1ff), they are passing on the message God has given them. The difference is that they have “seen and heard” the Resurrected Lord, but the recipients of their message are hearers only. In any case, the fellowship (koinōnia) is the same, extending from the eyewitnesses to the hearers. Indeed, the creation with the readers of the same fellowship the apostles have with the Father and the Son is the stated purpose of passing on this announcement. God’s will to extend the fellowship goes back to the OT in such prophecies as Isa. 25:6-8.

1:5.  Kai estin autē hē aggelia … hoti ho theos  phōs estin = “And this is the message … that God is light”:  For a similar description of God, see Gen. 1:3 (cf. vss. 14-19); Isa. 10:17; for Jesus as the “light” see Matt. 4:12-16; John 3:19; 8:12; Rev. 21:23. For the people of God as the “light” in the world or as those who walk in the light, see Isa. 49:6; Matt. 5:14; John 3:21.

1:8-9. These words about confessing sin and the faithfulness of God to forgive our sins have been used in various liturgies to assure worshipers of God’s grace.

2:1.  paraklēton echomen = “we have an advocate”:  lit. “one who stands beside another (to help)”; referring to Jesus see Rom. 8:34; to the Holy Spirit see John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7; Rom. 8:26; cf. Prov. 22:10-11.

2:2. kai autos hilasmos estin peri tōn hamartiōn … kai peri holou tou kosmou = “and he is the expiation for our sins … and for the whole world”: See the related word hilasterion at Romans 3:25 and the LXX at Lev. 16:13-15 where the word defines the “mercy seat” on which the priest poured and sprinkled sacrificial blood in order to make atonement for sins the sins of the people.


John 20:19-31
While many people came to faith through seeing the signs which Jesus performed during his ministry, God offers the gift of life to others by providing written and spoken witnesses to the identity of Jesus Christ.
Having accomplished the purpose of God’s mission through death and resurrection, the exalted Christ gives the Holy Spirit to the apostles and commissions the Spirit-filled church to act on his authority in forgiving and retaining sins.

John 20 reports three resurrection appearances of Jesus. The first (verses 11-18) occurs “on the first day of the week, while it was still dark” (v. 1) when the Risen Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. The second happened the same day, that is, Easter evening (vss. 19-25), and the third happened a week later (vv. 26-29). Perhaps more significant is that in John 20, the resurrection, the ascension, and the gift of the Spirit all occur on the same day (unlike Luke-Acts: Luke 24—Acts 2).

Key Words
V. 19.  eirēnē hymin = “peace to you”:  Hebrew šālôm`alêkem or šālôm lekem can be used as a simple greeting; here, however, it seems to introduce a manifestation of God.  See, e.g., Judges 6:23; Daniel 10:19.

V. 21.  kathōs apestalken me ho patēr, kagō  pempō hymas = “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you”:  also 17:18. Also note the connection at 1 John 1:3.

V. 22.  enephysēsin kai legei autois, labete pneuma hagion = “he breathed (on them) and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit”:  In the creation story God breathed (LXX: enephysēsin) into the first human the “breath (Hebrew nešāmâ; Greek pnoēn) of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7; note the word is “breath” and not “spirit” (Hebrew rûach; Greek pneuma).  At Ezekiel 37:6-10, however, YHWH breathed into the dry bones rûach/pneuma.

V. 23. an tinōn aphēte tas hamartias apheōntai autois = “if/since you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven”:  The aorist aphēte implies a specific act of forgiving. The passive apheōntai is probably a theological passive, indicating that God is the actor. Might the forgiving and retaining of sins reflect the blessing and cursing of Genesis 12:3?

Vss. 24-28. Thomas: Because of the several references to Thomas as “the twin,” a tradition arose in the early church that Thomas was the twin brother of Jesus. At 11:16, Thomas stands out as a disciples who is ready to go with Jesus all the way to death (cf. Rom. 6:8; 2 Cor. 5:14). At 14:6, it is Thomas who raises the well-known question to Jesus: “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way.” Jesus once again used such a question to provide the basis for the profound teaching: I AM the way and the truth and the life.” In the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, this apostle stands out as one who had a special relationship with Jesus, hearing from the Master teachings the others did not know.

V. 26. Kai meth’ hēmeras oktō = “and after eight days” (sometimes translated “eight days later” [RSV] or “a week later” [NRSV]): On the basis of the synonymous parallelism at Hosea 6:2, we would expect the time reference to be “on the ninth day.”

V. 29. makarioi hoi mē idontes kai pisteusantes = “Blessed (are) the ones who have not seen and have believed”:  The aorist is used, probably to indicate to those in John’s community, that they have come to faith without the benefit of signs. For the form of the beatitude, see Matthew 5.

V. 30. sēmeia = “signs”:  The Book of Signs in John’s Gospel (2:1–12:37) contains many signs or miracles which Jesus performed during his ministry; see 2:11; 4:5; 11:47. Some came to believe in him, but not all (12:37).

V. 31. kai hina pisteusontes zōēn echēte  en tō onomati autou = “that you may have life in his name”:  see 1:4; 3:15-16, 36; 4:14, 36; 5:21-29, 39-40; 6:27-68; 8:12; 10:10-28; 11:25. Note how the “name” of Jesus now takes the place beside the name attributed to God in the OT (see Psalm 113).