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Scripture In Depth
Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 22, 2018
Reginald H. Fuller

Reading I: Acts 4:8-12

In the Book of Acts we can sometimes discern a pattern similar to that of the Fourth Gospel. A miracle takes place and is followed by a discourse expounding the theological significance of the miracle. Our present passage occurs after the healing of the crippled man in Acts 3.

Peter moves from the immediate fact of the healing to a proclamation of the thing signified, namely, the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected.

The affinity between the sign and the thing signified is more obvious in the Greek than in the RSV translation—“healed” in Acts 3:9 and “salvation” in verse Acts 3:12 come from the same Greek verb, sothenai, “to be saved” or “to be made whole.”

Note that Luke has once more incorporated into a speech of his own composition some very primitive material.

This consists of (1) the “no-yes” interpretation of the cross and the resurrection (you crucified Jesus—God raised him); (2) the use of the passage about the stone rejected from Ps 118:22, one of the earliest pieces of Christian apologetic.

The “name” of Jesus was probably used by early Christian exorcists as a formula to heal sick people. Luke takes up this formula of exorcism and applies it to “healing” in an ultimate, salvific sense.

It is in the “name” of Jesus that eschatological salvation is made available, and in that name alone. In other words, eschatological salvation comes solely as a result of the death and resurrection of Christ.

Responsorial Psalm: 118:1, 8-9, 21-23, 26, 28, 29

Selections from Psalm 118, as we have seen before, are frequently used in the Easter season. This particular selection highlights the “stone” testimony quoted in Peter’s apologia in the first reading.

It has been suggested by Old Testament scholars that this psalm was originally used at the annual enthronement festival in Israel. As the king entered the temple in triumph and mounted the steps of the throne, “it was as if a new and highly decorative coping stone had been added to the cornice, which the builders had failed to beautify completely” (Barnabas Lindars).

The exaltation of Jesus is the eschatological fulfillment of the enthronement festival in ancient Israel. He is the new coping stone of the eschatological community

Reading II: 1 John 3:1-2

In his earthly life our Lord had admitted his disciples to the privilege of calling God “Abba, Father.” This same privilege was made available to those who were baptized after the resurrection (Rom 8:15Gal 4:6). The language used here (“Father,” “children of God”) is derived from the same background.

The “world”—that is, human society organized in opposition to God—did not know “him,” that is, probably Christ rather than God (so Dodd). This is reminiscent of Paul’s statement that the rulers of this world did not know Christ, for otherwise they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:8).

In Johannine thought, the Jews who crucified Jesus similarly symbolize the unbelieving world that rejects the revelation of God in Christ. This links the second reading with the first reading, with its assertion that “you” (Israel) crucified Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Next another Johannine theme appears. As the world hated the Revealer, so it will hate the believers (see Jn 15:18). The world can see no more in the Church than one religious organization among others.

It can classify the Church sociologically, and legitimately so on the world’s own level. But it cannot perceive in the Church the eschatological community that it is. For its true character is as yet hidden: “it does not yet appear what we shall be.”

It is only when Christ appears at the parousia that we shall see him as he is—the Son of man exalted in his glory. Only then shall we be like him, transformed into the same eschatological glory that has been his since his resurrection.

Gospel: John 10:11-18

In series A, B, and C we read an excerpt from the good shepherd discourse (Jn 10) on the fourth Sunday of Easter, which replaces the old Good Shepherd Sunday (second Sunday after Easter). The present passage forms the interpretation of the second of the two sheep parables (the first is Jn 10:1-3a; the second, that interpreted here, is 10:3b-5).

Two applications of this second parable are given (Jn 10:11-1314-18), each headed by the same declaration, “I am the good shepherd” (Jn 10:1114), Each interpretation makes the basic point that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (Jn 10:11b15b), and then proceeds to give this point a different actualization in the life of the Church.

The first application connects this with the defense of the sheep against “wolves,” a traditional image for false teachers, which the evangelist probably applies to the Gnostics.

The second application speaks first of the inner life of the Church (the shepherd knows the sheep by name) and then of the Church’s missionary outreach; the other sheep would be the Gentiles.

The same themes, as we have seen, recur in the final paragraph of the reading from Acts. Clearly we have here a theological concern of Luke.

Reginald H. Fuller
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Preaching the Lectionary:
The Word of God for the Church Today

Reginald H. Fuller and Daniel Westberg. Liturgical Press. 1984 (Revised Edition), pp. 262-64.

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