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Wrestling with the Word, episode 69: Third Sunday of Easter, Year C (April 18, 2010) April 9, 2010

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Third Sunday of Easter

The proverbial “they” say that misery loves company. “They” also say that you cannot keep good news to yourself. The Bible is filled with the latter. The good news of what God has done and is doing for us cries out for sharing with others. Our lessons for today take that sharing a giant step further. They announce that the good news of God’s love is not simply yours or mine to communicate to others. The Resurrection faith calls us to witness that the miracle of hope and the promise of life belong to everyone.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 69: Third Sunday of Easter, Year C.


Psalm 30
The psalm is one of praise and thanksgiving following a lament which is described in verses 8-10.  The witness to the Lord’s constant favor and joy following only brief periods of judgment and absence is stated simply and profoundly in v. 5. Above all, the psalmist calls on others to join in giving the Lord thanks and praise.


Acts 9:1-6 [7-20]
God calls unlikely persons to reach out to the world with the name of Christ and to suffer for the sake of that Name.

Saul had been introduced to the reader at the end of chapter 7, the story of the stoning of Stephen: “And Saul was consenting to his death.”  At 8:3 he is reported to have devastated the church and entered house after house, committing men and women to prison.  Such persecution caused the Christians in Jerusalem to be scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  This scattering paved the way for the preaching of Philip, first in Samaria, then on the road between Jerusalem and Gaza, and finally in Caesarea. That leads us to our story about the Lord’s call of the man named Saul. In the Book of Acts the same story will occur again at 22:4-16 and 26:9-18 where Paul himself tells the story in the first person. In briefer form, Paul will relate the outline of this call at Galatians 1:13016.

Key Words
V. 2.  tēs hodou = “the Way”:  The term defines the Christian movement also at 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22; cf. also 16:17; 18:25f. Jesus identified himself as “the Way” (also the Truth and the Life) at John 14:6.

V. 4.  “a light from heaven … and he heard a voice”:  The sequence is similar to Stephen’s description of Moses’ experience at 7:31.  See also the vision and speech that came to Peter at 10:13. The experience is like that of Jesus at his baptism (Luke 3:22 and parallels) and of the disciples at the Transfiguration (Luke 9:35 and parallels). The audience present when the Greeks came to see Jesus also heard a voice from heaven at John 12:28.

VV. 11-12.  “praying … he has seen”:  For relationship of prayer and vision, see also Peter’s experience at 10:9f. and Paul’s at 22:17. In his Gospel, Luke also connects prayer and vision at Luke 1:10f. (Zechariah); 3:21 (Jesus); 9:28-29 (Jesus); 22:43 (Jesus in Gethsemane).

V. 15.  skeuos eklogēs = “instrument of choice”:  The Apostle Paul speaks of his own calling to the nations at Gal. 1:15f. and at Rom. 1:1f. His call is as shocking as God’s naming Nebuchadrezzar, king of Babylon, to be “my servant” (Jer. 24:8) and Cyrus, king of Persia, to be “my shepherd” and “my anointed” (Isa. 44:28; 45:1).

V. 20.  ho huios tou theou = “the Son of God”:  The Sanhedrin’s trial of  Jesus included a question about his claim to be the Son of God (Luke 22:70). Luke dealt with the issue early, for the title was part of the announcement of the angel Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:35). The title appeared in the OT as a messianic designation (Ps. 2:7; 89:27; 2 Sam. 7:14). That it occurred on the lips of a Gentile at the foot of the cross supports Paul’s mission to the Gentiles (Mark 15:39; see the first lesson from Acts 9).


Revelation 5:11-14
The vision of the throne of God, around which the hymn of all creatures is sung, gives people hope in time of suffering and calls people to join in the song of praise here and now.

The visions of John the Seer occurred about A.D. 95 when Christians were being persecuted by the Roman Emperor Domitian.  On the island of Patmos, John received the revelations which portrayed in apocalyptic style the fate of the wicked and the bliss of the righteous.  In some sense, the future side of apocalyptic is underplayed in the book, because the decisive eschatological events, the outpouring of the Lamb’s blood and his resurrection, have already occurred.

Key Words
V. 11. Kai eidon, kai ēkousa phōnēn = “And I looked and I heard a sound”: The connection of seeing and hearing continues the biblical theme discussed above (Acts 9:4).

V. 13.  en tō ouranō kai epi tēs gēs kai hupokatō  tēs gēs kai epi tēs thalassēs kai ta en autois panta = “in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea and all therein”:  The phrases describing the three-storeyed universe sound quite similar to the hymn quoted by Paul at Phil. 2:5-11, although here are added “and in the sea and all therein.” The point is to announce the universality, even the cosmic, scope of the praise to God. That universality even includes the “sea” and its monsters.


John 21:1-19
The Resurrected Christ, present as the host for a meal and enabling the hitherto unsuccessful fishermen to catch a multitude of fish, commissions Peter to feed the flock, even though it will mean a death like his own.

Chapter 20 ends with an apparent conclusion which states the purpose for which the gospel was written.  The pericope seems to form an epilogue which in many ways does not flow smoothly from the previous resurrection appearances reported in chapter 20.


Parallel Story:  Luke 5:1-11

Key Words
V. 1.  ephanerōsen heauton = “he revealed himself”:  The expression “revealed” appears also in v. 14, but it is common in Johannine literature.  Elsewhere in the Gospel for the revealing of Jesus, consider the following:  1:31 (Jesus’ baptism by John was to reveal him to Israel); 2:11 (Jesus’ miracle at Cana revealed his glory).  Elsewhere in the Gospel, Jesus reveals God:   9:3 (the works of God are revealed in the healing of the blind man); 17:6 (Jesus revealed the name of God to the disciples).  In 1 John, “revealed” is the earthly life of Jesus (1:2; 3:5, 8), the Second Coming of Christ (2:28; 3:2), and the love of God in Jesus (4:9).

V. 6.  helkusai = “to haul”:  The word appears elsewhere in John for God’s drawing people to himself or to Jesus (John 6:44; 12:32; see Jer. 31:3 (LXX 38:3).

V. 11.  ouk eschisthē = “not torn”:  The expression adds one more element of the miraculous, even over Luke 5:6:  “the nets were breaking.”

For a comprehensive discussion of the passage, see Raymond Brown, The Gospel According to John XIII-XXI, The Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY:  Doubleday, 1970), pp. 1067-1122.