Join Now: 1-800-777-7731

kirshalom.gif united-on.gif

Sermon & Lectionary Resources           Year A   Year B   Year C   Occasional   Seasonal


Join our FREE Illustrations Newsletter: Privacy Policy
Click  Here  to  See  this  Week's  Sermon
Introduction To The Scripture For The Second Sunday of Easter - Year A
Acts 2:14a,22-32; Psalm 16; I Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31

The following material was written by the Rev. John Shearman (jlss@sympatico.ca) of the United Church of Canada. John has structured his offerings so that the first portion can be used as a bulletin insert, while the second portion provides a more in depth 'introduction to the scripture'.

INTRODUCTION TO THE SCRIPTURE	
The Second Sunday of Easter - Year A


ACTS 2:14a,22-32	     The whole of the New Testament was written 
long after the resurrection.  Hence, it reflects the teaching and 
preaching of the apostles.  This is the classic presentation of that 
message from Peter’s sermon at Pentecost.  Frequent quotations from the 
Hebrew scriptures, our Old Testament, about the promised Messiah/Christ, 
and the story of Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion and resurrection formed the 
essential elements of the message on every occasion.


PSALM 16    		     This prayerful meditation points out the 
blessings of fellowship with God.  It expresses supreme trust that apart 
from God there can be no good.  It also presents the fallacy of worshiping 
other gods.  The only real security lies in following the path God shows 
to the faithful. 


1 PETER 1:3-9  		     Here again we have the essential gospel 
message of the Apostolic Church, though probably from an early 2nd century 
author using Peter’s name.  The resurrection of Jesus offered Christians 
hope of eternal life as faith’s reward in the face of increasing 
persecution, even though none of them had ever seen Jesus as had Peter.


JOHN 20:19-31		     The resurrection appearances of Jesus remain 
a mystery and a challenge to faith even now as they did on the very day 
itself.  Thomas, who had doubts yet came to believe after coming face to 
face with Jesus in his post-resurrection state, represents those followers 
of Jesus with similar doubts.  We do not have that same opportunity.  Yet 
we may find the key to faith in the final words of Jesus to Thomas: 
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” That 
blessing still stands for any of us who struggle with the unfathomable 
mystery of the resurrection.


A MORE COMPLETE ANALYSIS:

ACTS 2:14a,22-32   As we read the New Testament, we often forget that all  
twenty-six books were written long after the resurrection.  Hence they 
reflect the teaching and preaching of the apostles even more than eye-
witness accounts.  In his landmark study 75 years ago, C.H. Dodd outlined 
the essential content of this *kerygma*.  Peter’s sermon at Pentecost 
represents the classic proclamation of that message as it was heard not 
only in Jerusalem, but in every place where the gospel was preached. 

It has long been the consensus of scholarly opinion that the frequent 
repetition of this message, especially in several places in Acts, need not 
be rigidly interpreted as the actual words uttered on each occasion.  
Rather, the message we now have in scripture may well be the apostolic 
tradition as it was recorded for the second or third generation of 
believers.  Frequent quotations from the Hebrew scriptures, our Old 
Testament, about the promised Messiah/Christ, and the story of Jesus’ 
ministry, crucifixion and resurrection formed the basic elements of the 
apostles’ message.

From the very first, however, the apostolic church believed that God had 
kept the promises of the OT and had brought salvation to Israel.  This had 
occurred through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, now exalted to 
the right hand of God.  The Holy Spirit given to the church at Pentecost 
was the sign of Christ’s presence and power.  Salvation will culminate in 
the return of Christ to judge the living and the dead.  As witnesses to 
the resurrection, the apostles were the appointed messengers of this *good 
news*.  As representatives of Christ in the world, they appealed to all 
who heard them to repent and offered them God’s forgiveness of sin and the 
gift of the Holy Spirit. 

This reading does little more than introduce the basic message.  It omits 
two of the four OT quotations in Peter’s sermon.  It gave a quick summary 
of the signs and wonders performed by Jesus to reveal his messiahship, 
then threw out a bold challenge to the same people who had crucified 
Jesus.  Note the thrust of Peter’s words: “this man ...  you crucified and 
killed by the hands of those outside the law.” No shilly-shallying there! 
(This may well reflect the period when Acts appears to have been written.  
In the 80s CE the apostolic church and Pharisee-dominated Judaism engaged 
in strife of major proportions.)

Christ’s victory over death symbolized by the resurrection assumed 
critical significance for the church in the age of persecution soon to 
follow.  Paul made this a central part of his message and likened baptism 
to this victory over death.  We can presume that it formed an essential 
part of the original message proclaimed from the beginning of the 
apostolic witness.  While we can never be specific about the details of 
what happens when we die, we can still proclaim the resurrection as the 
basis for our hope for life beyond death. 

The two OT references are from Psalms 16:8-11, the first (vss. 25-28) more 
direct than the latter (vs. 31).  In fact, where the NRSV prints vs. 31 as 
an actual quotation, earlier versions follow the Greek text in elluding 
the psalm.  The Davidic reference reflects the view of the Hebrew editors 
of the Psalms that David was their author.  In this instance, the Midrash 
of the passage by the rabbinic school of Palestine gave it a messianic 
interpretation which later rabbinic exegesis avoided.  Obviously, the 
apostolic church followed the former.  The review of the following reading 
discusses the specific interpretation.


PSALM 16   As it stands in isolation, this prayerful meditation reflects 
on the blessings of fellowship with God.  Like others of similar type 
(Pss. 4, 11, 23, 62, 131), it expresses supreme trust that apart from God 
there can be no good.  It also declares the fallacy of following those who 
would worship other gods (vs. 4).  The only real security lies in 
following the path God shows to the faithful.  Thus one can see why both 
rabbinic and Christian interpreters found this psalm expressive of the 
quality of trust the true Messiah would exhibit and provide for the 
faithful believer.

How this became evidence of a prophecy of the resurrection is not entirely 
clear.  It would seem that the best clue rests in a mistranslation of vs.  
10.  The LXX of this verse uses the Greek *Hades* for the Hebrew *Sheol* 
(KJV = hell).  The parallel word in the KJV is “corruption,” where the RSV 
reads “the Pit,” a synonym for *Sheol* conceived as a great hole under the 
earth.

The idea may also have arisen as a midrash on the passage which took some 
interpretative liberties with the Hebrew text.  The apostolic church 
appears to have found this an attractive resource in their enthusiasm to 
show how the OT prophesied Christ’s resurrection.  Vs. 11 may have a hint 
of immortality, although it would seem more likely that this is no more 
than an elaboration of the security promised in vs. 9 and did not extend 
beyond the grave. 

Any of us who has stood at the graveside of a loved one can be sure of 
nothing but the trust that beyond this life we are secure in the embrace 
of everlasting love.  As Paul wrote in1 Cor. 15:19 “If for this life only 
we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”


1 PETER 1:3-9   Here again we have the essential gospel message of the 
early church, though probably from an early 2nd century author using 
Peter’s name.  Pseudonymous writing was a common form of giving authority 
to a literary work.  Other known writers made use of this letter ca. 120-
130 CE, so it must have been composed prior to that.  Other theories of 
its authorship include a strong argument that it came from the hand of 
Peter himself, or that of Sylvanus, either dictated by Peter or after 
Peter’s death.  The excellent quality of the Greek text causes scholars to 
discount it as Peter’s own work; and the self-praise of Sylvanus in 5.12 
mitigates his role.  The debate continues without proof one way or the 
other.

Another important factor to consider is whether the account of the death 
of Jesus in 2:22-24 is that of an eyewitness or a later Christian leader’s 
reflection on a messianic interpretation of Isaiah 53.  The letter as a 
whole represents an advanced state of doctrinal development and a pastoral 
perspective in an institutional situation not likely to have prevailed in 
the 60s CE when Peter presumably died in Rome during Nero’s persecution.  
So also the long list of Christian (and probably Gentile) communities in 
vss. 1-2 to which the letter is addressed shows how far the gospel had 
spread.  This is the territory of Pliny the Younger, governor of Bythinia, 
whose correspondence to Trajan (ca. 110) dealt with problematic Christian 
refusals to worship the emperor.  Read against such a background, the 
letter has relevance for Christians soon to face imperial persecution once 
again (cf. 2:13-17; 5:8).

The salutation to the churches moves quickly into a striking doxology 
similar to Ephesians and 2 Corinthians.  The intent of this brief passage 
is to give hope to people living in fear of sudden and perhaps violent 
attack which could well end in death.  The resurrection of Jesus offered 
these Christians the hope of eternal life as the outcome of their faith in 
the face of increasing persecution.  None of them had ever seen Jesus as 
had Peter (vs. 8).  However, their loyalty to the faith and love for their 
Lord would reassure them as they experienced imminent trials and suffering 
(vs. 6). 

One wonders if this is a letter frequently read today in Christian 
communities in such places as Rwanda, Angola, Macedonia, Albania, and 
Serbia.  How would they likely interpret it?


JOHN 20:19-31   The post-resurrection appearances of Jesus remain a 
mystery and a challenge to faith now as they did on the very day itself.  
Scholars have generally agreed that this narrative formed the original 
ending of John’s Gospel.  In this incident Thomas represents those 
followers of Jesus who had doubts and came to believe after coming face to 
face with Jesus in his post-resurrection state. 

We do not have that same opportunity, nor did most of John’s audience.  
Yet we may find the key to faith in the final words of Jesus to Thomas: 
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”  That 
blessing still stands for any of us who struggle with the unfathomable 
mystery of the resurrection.  How it happened is not the point; that it 
happened means everything to faith.

Yet there are some strikingly relevant details to the story which may be 
of help to us in this agnostic age.  Remember that Thomas’ love for Jesus 
was such that when Jesus set out for Bethany after Lazarus had died, he 
blurted out, “Let us also go, that we may die with him!” (11:16)  Like the 
rest, Thomas grieved deeply when Jesus died and apparently withdrew from 
the company of disciples to grieve alone.  Thus he missed the first 
opportunity to meet Jesus on the evening of Resurrection Day.  At times of 
deepest sorrow, even the most faithful Christians often escape from the 
fellowship.  Loneliness comes easily to those who cannot express their 
sincerely held doubts and fears.

According to the tradition reported here, the risen Christ did not possess 
the same characteristics as those of a natural human person.  By his 
glorification, he had already attained the supernatural capacity to reveal 
himself at will, even behind locked doors (vss. 19, 26).  Yet he was 
recognizable, even to doubting Thomas.  He came eight days later 
explicitly so that Thomas might see and touch him.  But Thomas believed 
without touching Jesus’ wounded hands and side.  That detail has been 
crucial for doubters ever since. 

It is no sin to doubt.  It frequently leads to a more intensive search for 
faith and a deeper probing of the tradition, especially if carried on in a 
strong, supportive fellowship.  Such a search may find its reward in a far 
richer experience than second-hand reports could ever yield.  At first, 
all Thomas had at first were his doubts - loudly spoken (vss. 24-25).  It 
is all many church folk today have too.  Like Thomas, in such 
circumstances, we are open to meeting Christ again for the first time.  
And no, that is not a fallacious ambiguity.

                         
copyright  - Comments by Rev. John Shearman and page by Richard J. Fairchild, 2006
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these resources.



Further information on this ministry and the history of "Sermons & Sermon - Lectionary Resources" can be found at our Site FAQ.  This site is now associated with christianglobe.com

Spirit Networks
1045 King Crescent
Golden, British Columbia
V0A 1H2

SCRIPTURAL INDEX

sslr-sm