Sunday Readings
Commentary

Sunday Readings Commentary

Father Andrew Wadsworth offers a short commentary on this week's Sunday Lectionary readings.

To read the relevant Bible passage just click on the reference.

Before reading and reflecting on God's word you might like to use the following prayer:

O Lord,
who hast given us thy word
for a light to shine upon our path:
Grant us so to meditate upon that word
and follow its teaching,
that we may find in it the light that shineth
more and more unto the perfect day:
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Fourth Sunday of Easter

The Sadducees come upon Peter as he is speaking about the resurrection of Jesus. This would make them doubly hostile, for the Sadducees were the priestly aristocracy who administered the Temple. They did not accept more recent developments in Jewish theology, such as the resurrection of the dead and the stress on angels and spirits in the world.

The hostility will have increased when Peter is interrogated the following day. Not only does he openly blame the high priests and their families for executing Jesus, in contrast to the way he had previously excused the people on the plea of ignorance. There was no ignorance on this occasion, with all the leading families gathered together. Peter correctly quotes the scripture, to show that Jesus is the fulfilment of the hopes of Israel. He also strengthens his case verbally by a pun on the name Jesus, for in Hebrew ‘Jesus’ means ‘salvation’, which enables Peter to say neatly that there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.

These two commandments will dominate the rest of the letter. They are not exactly the classic two commandments of the Law, reiterated by Jesus, to love God above all and our neighbour as ourselves. The two commandments of God here are firstly to believe in the power or name of the Risen Christ, and secondly to love one another. One might say that belief in the power of the Risen Christ is an application of love for God, an aspect which is especially relevant during Eastertide. The saving power of Christ flows out from God’s care for us, and belief in it must both be a response in love and provoke love and gratitude. It must also make us fearless before God, full of the love which casts out fear, since the power of Christ’s resurrection is a guarantee of God’s acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice for us. It saves us from our own sin and disobedience. It also brings fearlessness before a hostile world, with the fearlessness of which we heard in Paul’s preaching in the first reading. It must also inspire fulfilment of the second commandment, love of neighbour. Such belief, issuing in love, form the criteria for knowing that the Spirit is dwelling within us.

Each year on this Sunday there is a reading from John about the Good Shepherd. To think of ourselves as woolly and cuddly sheep, obedient to the shepherd, would be a mistake. Sheep are renowned as being silly, contradictory creatures, always starting off in the wrong direction, getting themselves into tangles and difficulties. In the Holy Land they are scraggy beasts, pastured on rocky and often dangerous ground, amid boulders and rocky cliffs, threatened by wild animals and marauders. It was not simply a matter of the shepherd sitting on a rock and idly playing his pipe. He needed to be on the alert to save the sheep from hurting themselves. So Jesus as the good shepherd is kept well occupied by our foibles, our stubbornness, our mistakes and our fears. Again, as in the other two readings, there is the reassurance of a close relationship with the Father. Jesus knows us intimately, just as he knows the Father. It is questionable whether in real life a shepherd should lay down his life for his sheep: what would happen to the remainder of the flock? But it is an expression of his whole-hearted devotion to the sheep, and an assimilation to the case of Jesus.