Easter 5B

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This page is part of the Lectionary series within the Living with Jesus Now project.


  • Acts 8:26-40 and Psalm 22:25-31
  • 1John 4:7-21
  • John 15:1-8

Full texts are available at the RCL web site.

These readings are from the RCL list and may vary slightly in denominational lectionaries.

Acts 8:26-40

The RCL selects a story from the Acts of the Apostles that illustrates the active presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit in the life of the earliest Christian communities.

Luke seems to have no interest in the history of the church in Ethiopia, but simply to have used this story as an illustration of the kind of thing that was happening in various parts of the growing Jesus movement.

This episode gives the impression of a set of OT texts that were already being interpreted systematically as predicting the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. A similar thing is found in Luke 24:27 and 24:44-45, where Jesus himself is described as giving the apostles as master class in messianic prophecies. Without fully divulging what texts were involved, Luke hints at a solid foundation in the widely-respected Jewish scriptures for this fledging movement. Here we at least get a glimpse over the eunuch's shoulder and discover that he is reading Isaiah!

1John 4:7-21

In this week's passage from 1 John we see many of the same themes from John 14-17:

  • mutual love
  • abiding in God and God in us
  • keeping the commandment.

This passage is also the location of that classic definition of God: God is love (4:8b).

While it is possible that the scope of the love described here may have been limited to those who agreed with the theological views of the author, these historical circumstances still acted as the catalyst for this startling summary of faith. There is a dimension of grace ("not that we loved God but that God loved us"), it is anchored in the historical life of Jesus (including his death), and it has consequences for communal life ("those who love God must love their brothers and sisters too").

John 15:1-8

During the second half of the Easter season the lectionaries draw heavily on John's Gospel, and especially on the so-called Farewell Discourse in 13:31 to 17:26.

  • Easter 4: John 10:11-18
  • Easter 5: John 14:15-21 or 15:1-8
  • Easter 6: John 15:9-17 or 16:16-24
  • Easter 7: John 17:6-19
  • Pentecost: John 14:8-17 or 15:26-27+16:4b-15 or 20:19-23

Chapters 14-17 have no parallel in the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke). There is nothing like this is in any of the other Jesus traditions found in the canonical writings, although there may be close parallels in some of the gnostic writings outside the NT.

The idea of a farewell discourse by a departing hero is well-known from biblical and non-biblical writings in antiquity. In particular, the many "Testament" texts among the OT Pseudepigrapha should be noted:

Where the Synoptics chose to present Jesus delivering a farewell discourse on eschatological themes (predicting the end of the world and instructing his followers how to prepare themselves for its sudden arrival), GJohn has Jesus discoursing on themes closer to the interests of the Johannine communities.

As we are also seeing at present from the texts selected from 1 John, the groups associated with the name of John were divided over the humanity of Jesus and the question of how the Spirit's anointing could be known. In response to the split that had apparently taken place in their ranks, the elder who writes the Letters of John urges them to keep the commandments held from the beginning, to trust that the Spirit has indeed been bestowed on them all, and especially to practice love for one another. In so doing they will know the truth and their joy will be complete.

Many of those same concerns can be seen in John 14-17. Rather than a simple line of thought that proceeds from one issue to the next, the materials seem to loop around and cover the same points over and over again. Some scholars have suggested that this reflects a process of development as the meditations on Christ were elaborated over a period of time:

  • (new) commandment: 13:34-35; 14:15; 14:21; 15:10; 15:12-14
  • untroubled hearts: 14:1; 14:27
  • going/coming: 13:33; 13:16; 14:2-4; 14:18-20; 14:28; 16:4-7,10; 16:16-24
  • promised Spirit: 14:16-17; 14:25-26; 15:26; 16:7-11; 16:12-16

What we seem to have in these traditions are not recollections of things once said by Jesus, but reflections on the significance of Jesus as the divine Son present in the lives of his disciples and active in the life of the community through his Spirit. Not surprisingly, such themes also strike those responsible for our modern lectionaries as appropriate questions for the final weeks of the Easter season.

As we draw closer to Pentecost during the second half of Easter, themes relating to the Spirit will displace stories of appearances by the risen Lord and the empty tomb. While that may simply be a function of the lack of new stories to use, it also reflects the ancient Christian tradition that the Spirit was the continuing presence of the risen One in their midst. For example, in 1 Cor 15:45, Paul writes: "the last Adam became a life-giving spirit."

Jesus Database

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:

Music Suggestions

See the following sites for recommendations from a variety of contemporary genre: