- Acts 4:5-12 & Psalm 23
- 1John 3:16-24
- John 10:11-18
Full texts are available at the web site.
These readings are from the RCL list and may vary slightly in denominational lectionaries.
First reading: Acts 4
Where Acts 3:12-19 portrays Peter addressing the awe-struck crowds in the temple following the healing of the lame beggar at the temple entrance, here we have Peter addressing the rulers of the people: a tougher audience! In good Lukan style, Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit (4:8) and proceeds to challenge his powerful audience in words normally guaranteed to result in martyrdom.
- Jesus is identified as the one they have crucified but who God has raised from the dead.
- Jesus is the stone rejected by the builders. See 047 The Rejected Stone.
- Jesus is the "only name under heaven given among mortals" who offers salvation (4:12).
Luke's claim for exclusive salvation through Jesus is similar to the more or less contemporary claim found in John 14.6: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Such exclusive claims reflect the strong Christian sense that Jesus is the focus of our relationship with God. When understood as negative statements about other religions, rather than as positive statements about the completeness of God's presence in and through Jesus, such claims encourage competition and intolerance between different faith communities.
Second Reading: 1 John 3
The opening verses of this reading are something of a commentary on the Gospel reading:
We know love by this,
that he laid down his life for us—and yet refuses help? (1John 3:16–17 NRSV)
and we ought to lay down our lives for one another.
How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods
and sees a brother or sister in need
The focus on practical expressions of Christian belief is one of the most attractive features of this letter. Alongside the high christology and the deeply felt pain over internal schism, this letter reflects an emphasis on the quality of relationships within the community of disciples.
Gospel: John 10
This passage develops the Good Shepherd theme and applies it to Jesus. As such it represents the post-Easter reflections and insights of the Johannine communities, rather than the words of Jesus himself.
It is perhaps ironic that some of Jesus' best known teachings (such as we have in these verses), derive not from the lips of Jesus but from the hearts of his followers as they reflected on Jesus' own actions.
- Jesus did not claim to be the divine/good shepherd; he simply gave himself to others.
- Jesus did not contrast himself to the hired hand; he simply acted differently.
- Jesus did not his talk up his intimacy with God; he simply lived as one intimate with God.
- Jesus did not describe his death as bringing life to others; he simply embraced death as God's will for him at that time.
The description of Jesus as having the power both to lay down and to take up his own life is unique in the NT. Elsewhere the resurrection is said to be what God does to/for Jesus. Jesus is "raised" rather than rising by his own powers. This reflection on the resurrection of Jesus is perhaps the reason for this passage being used as an Easter gospel.
The promotion of Jesus to an active role in his own resurrection reminds us that while GJohn preserves some authentic insights into the character and mission of Jesus, it also mortgages his humanity to a growing sense of divinity. That tendency may have led in part to the crisis over the physical humanity of Jesus within the Johannine circles. In the letters of John we see a community that has realized the need to reassert the physical reality of Jesus as a flesh and blood figure.
One of the flash points in contemporary Christianity concerns the significance of the historical Jesus for Christian faith. In popular Christian belief, Jesus is often simply equated with God and his historical humanity deemed to be of little significance.
For an interesting discussion realted to these issues, see "The Jesus of History and the Future of Faith" (DIALOGOS essay) 
The following pages are also relevant to this week's texts:
- 1John - brief introduction to the letter
- LukeActs - Luke-Acts as an early 2C document
- Good Shepherd - tracing the outlines of a biblical metaphor
- Photos:Sheep Shepherds Sheepfolds - photographs of Palestinian shepherds and their sheep
- LukeActs Speeches - list of speeches in Luke-Acts
- Terrible Texts - part of the Study Guide for Sins of Scripture
The following pages in the Jesus Database are relevant to this week's readings:
Liturgies and Prayers
For liturgies and sermons each week, shaped by a progressive theology, check Rex Hunt's web site
Other recommended sites include:
See the following sites for recommendations from a variety of contemporary genre: