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Easter 4B Acts 4:5-12.Psalm 23 1 John 3:16-24. John 10:11-18

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..Amen

In the days and weeks following the death of Jesus we have been confronted with the risen Christ.  We find that the resurrected Christ is real.  He speaks and is heard; it is possible to touch him; he eats and does so precisely to make the point that he is not a spirit.  Jesus relates to his disciples as he had done before. The resurrection stories belong to the same world as the narratives of the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus appeared only to a few, yet his presence with the disciples and his availability to all is definitely insisted upon. Jesus says, “Peace be with you” Jesus is present with them.  In his ministry Jesus created and sustained the community of his friends by speech and touch and the sharing of food; and so, after his resurrection, that community is maintained in the same way.  It is not taken away from history, from matter, from bodies, and words. God by his power has brought human existence into a new relation with the “Cosmos” and with others. This is a relation of such a kind that the previous form of existence of Jesus is not negated but exalted.

This is what gives the disciples courage to speak and especially after Pentecost. With the clear manifestation of the coming of the Holy Spirit we find in the stories of our readings today more telling of the courage of the Disciples, certain of the resurrection of Jesus.

Peter and John had healed a beggar with a disability in Jesus’ name and Peter had been telling the crowds that gathered, that the people and their religious leaders had killed Jesus, and God brought him back to life and that the apostles were witnesses to this fact.  After pointing out the sin and injustice of the leaders, Peter showed the significance of the resurrection.  God’s triumph and power over death.

In those days, a man’s name represented his character.  It stood for his authority and power.  By healing, using Jesus’ name, Peter showed who gave him the authority and power to heal. And this really made the Jewish leaders angry. They arrested them and locked them up overnight and brought them before the council the next day.

The Jewish council was made up of the rulers, elders and teachers of the law.  This was the same council that had condemned Jesus to death and questioned him that we read about in Luke’s gospel chapter 22: from verse 66.  This council had 70 members in addition to the high priest who presided over the council.  The Sadducees held a majority in this ruling group.  These were the wealthy, intellectual, and powerful men of Jerusalem.  Jesus’ followers, Peter and John stood before this council just as Jesus had done prior to his crucifixion.

Annas had been deposed as high priest by the Romans, who then appointed Caiaphas, Annas’s son-in-law, in his place.  But because the Jews considered the office of high priest a lifetime position, they still called Annas by that title and gave him respect and authority within the council.  Annas and Caiaphas had played significant roles in Jesus’ trial.  It did not please them that the man they thought they had sacrificed for the good of the nation had followers who were just as persistent and who promised to be just as troublesome as Jesus was.  Peter and John after a night in prison were interrogated by the council.

They were asked by what power they had healed the disabled man and by what authority they preached about the resurrection and were criticising those who had judged Jesus.  The actions and words of Peter and John threatened these religious leaders who, for the most part were more interested in their reputations and positions than in God.  Through the help of the Holy Spirit, Peter spoke boldly before the council, putting the council on trial by showing them that the One they had crucified had risen again.  Instead of being defensive, the apostles went on the offensive, boldly speaking out for God and presenting the gospel to these leaders, reminding them that without Jesus Christ there would not be a future for any of them. They told them that this Jesus is the stone that was rejected by them, the supposed to be builders, which has become the cornerstone.  In other words, if they were building an arch the top stone at the corner is the one that holds it all together, and without this cornerstone, the two halves of the building would not be able to stand.

The Disciples while on trial for healing the man outside the Temple, have proudly proclaimed Jesus as the name by which the healing happens. And the name by which humanity is to be saved.

David’s Psalm 23 reminds us of God’s love and care as a shepherd and in John’s gospel we again listen to Jesus teaching that the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep, and in this loving sacrifice there is the hope of resurrection. Jesus has confidently said that as the Shepherd he lays down his life and that he will take up his life again.  Resurrection can easily be seen as an individual experience of life beyond the grave, and the Gospel tells us that is it so much more than that.  Though we are offered personal renewal through God’s life and the promise of eternity, we, through the resurrection of Christ are called to be life-carriers. We are called to be Shepherds who, like Jesus, lay our lives down for others. The hired hand tends the sheep for money.  The shepherd does it for love and commitment and it is a world-wide mission. It is God’s plan for the salvation of the world.  Our calling is to be part of this plan.  It is the hope of resurrection that makes sacrifice possible, and that gives us the strength and courage to risk loving and serving others even when it hurts.



The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF

Grafton Cathedral.

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