Lectionary for April 21, 2021
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23;
1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

For this lectionary we continue last week’s theme of recognizing someone and responding accordingly. I, of course, cannot think of this in any other context than parenting. My youngest has very different preferences from my oldest (there’s a five-year age gap). Therefore, family dinners must be presented differently to each of them, we read different books at bedtime, and we speak to them about issues such as moving and sickness differently. Since I know who they each are, I can respond to them according to their ability to interact with me. The lectionary passages appointed for this week tell tales of people knowing Jesus and then responding accordingly.

In Acts 4, we read that temple guards had arrested Peter and John for the commotion they caused when they healed a man with a walking disability. After the man was healed, he walked into the temple and was recognized by many who had passed by him on their way into the sacred compound. This gave Peter and John a natural opportunity to tell people about Jesus’ power to heal bodies and to remove the powers of sin and death because of his triumph over the grave. The Sadducees, who didn’t believe in resurrection, heard this and caused Peter and John to be arrested.

At their hearing the next day, Peter and John testified to two things:

  • The healing of the man with a disability and the salvation from sin and death happened only in the name and by the power of the Messiah Jesus of Nazareth.
  • The Spirit caused Peter to heal the man and testify before them because of Jesus.

Knowing God in Jesus and being loved by God necessarily and inescapably leads to loving neighbors—all neighbors, especially those in need.

Knowing Jesus was central for the disciples. There is no other name by which people can be saved (Acts 4:12). Knowing the person behind the name of Jesus necessarily leads to loving neighbors in his name, even at the risk of imprisonment, torture or death. Peter and John were eventually released on the condition that they tell no one else of Jesus’ power and work. Yet, before they were granted their freedom, they promised that they would continue ministering in the name of Jesus.

The author of 1 John agreed totally with Peter’s and John’s conviction. 1 John 3:23 preserves God’s commandment that we should believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus the Messiah, and that we should love one another. Knowing and believing in Jesus’ name leads directly to love for others. What that love looks like is spelled out here. We should be willing to lay down our lives for our siblings (16). One practical way of doing this is opening our hands to release control of worldly assets. The author of 1 John asks rhetorically, “Whoever has worldly goods and sees his sibling in need, and closes his heart against that person, how does the love of God remain in that person?” (17).

Knowing God in Jesus and being loved by God necessarily and inescapably leads to loving neighbors—all neighbors, especially those in need.

Jesus knew who he was/is and what his people needed from him.

In portraying himself as the good shepherd, Jesus described the reciprocal knowledge of a sheep and shepherd. Just as sheep and shepherd know each other from all the hours, days, weeks and months spent together, Jesus and his disciples—all his disciples—know each other.

Jesus says, “I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14). And, knowing his flock, Jesus explained himself as the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. Jesus knew who he was/is and what his people needed from him. He lived out the path that we are called to follow. Knowing that Jesus saves, we are called into the salvific work because of the power of Jesus’ name.

Circling back to the beginning, Peter—as Jesus’ disciple—learned to lay down his life for his neighbors. Not so long after Jesus was arrested, tried and murdered, Peter went to the temple and preached healing and resurrection in Jesus’ name, knowing that he would probably be arrested, which he was. Knowing Jesus’ name leads to care for others and giving of self.

Cory Driver
Cory Driver is the director of L.I.F.E. (Leading the Integration of Faith and Entrepreneurship) at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. His book on wilderness spirituality, Life Unsettled, is available from Fortress Press.

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