Seventh Sunday of Easter Study

7TH SUNDAY OF EASTER   05-16-2021

 

THE FIRST MAJOR CRISIS that the disciples of Jesus faced was those predictions of his suffering and death and resurrection, these ominous words about “taking up your own cross”. They were so afraid as they trudged and stumbled their way to Jerusalem, trying to follow him.

And THE SECOND MAJOR CRISIS for the followers of Jesus was when he suffered and died, the aftermath of that whirlwind we call Holy Week – the rejection and condemnation of Jesus, the humiliation and crucifixion of Jesus, the dying words of Jesus, the last breath and death of Jesus, the burial of Jesus, the limp and lifeless body taken down and locked up behind a giant stone… and all the grief, the fear, the empty present, and the uncertain future that we might imagine. And surely the followers of Jesus felt as dead as the body of Jesus. And it was, no doubt about it, not just the end of Jesus, but also the end of the Jesus movement – before it really got started.

But then came Easter Sunday morning and the mystery of an empty tomb. Then came Easter Sunday morning and some unexpected dazzling figures with an inconceivable message for some women: “He is not here. He is risen.” But the discovery of the empty tomb did not bring clarity or celebration to the followers of Jesus… it brought confusion and fear. And the message of those – angels shall we call them? – did not lead to an instant change of perspective, it did not result in instant faith or instant joy. Not only did the women have their own difficulty grasping the “good” in this news… but the other disciples, the men that they told, would not believe, could not comprehend or accept, continued to be afraid. And then, miraculously, Jesus himself – risen and alive, no longer dead, not always recognized or expected – began to appear. This was the man that they were sure had died. This was the man that they had – in one way or another – each betrayed and denied and deserted. These appearances of the Crucified One as raised from the dead and once again alive mostly generated amazement and more fear. THE THIRD MAJOR CRISIS for the followers of Jesus was the reports of the empty tomb, the messages by angels of his triumph, and his first resurrection appearances. What we call “Easter Sunday” didn’t make sense to them. They were more afraid than believing.

According to Biblical testimony, those resurrection appearances continued. For 40 days after the resurrection, Jesus made various appearances to his disciples, to those who had believed in him and followed him, proving that he was alive –

standing suddenly among them and showing his wounds,

speaking that precious word of peace and offering his Spirit,

breaking bread and sharing a meal,

convincing them and teaching them,

encouraging them and assuring them,

commanding them and loving them.

For 40 days it was great to have him back. They started to feel more comfortable and confident. But, on that 40th day, he left them. Jesus was there, and then he wasn’t. Jesus said some words, and then it was quiet. Jesus blessed them, and then he went higher and higher into the air and out of sight. Here they were, these disciples, looking up at the sky, confused and stunned, needing to be shaken and assured, pushed along by the angels to stay together and to wait and to pray. Where was Jesus going? Why did he leave them? What would happen next? The Bible tells us, and our Christian creeds confess, that Jesus ascended into heaven. I want to suggest to you that his ascension, for the followers of Jesus, was THE FOURTH MAJOR CRISIS. They were dazed and confused and afraid once more.  What would happen to the once-upon-a-time followers of Jesus? What would happen to the Jesus movement? 

 

FIRST READING:  Acts 1:15-17, 21-26

Thank God, in the days after the ascension of Jesus, the disciples stayed together, waited together, prayed together, and expected something to happen! They might have given up in the midst of their confusion and uncertainty about what was going on. But there must have been some hope. The Biblical account is that they waited 10 days before the Pentecost.

In today’s reading Peter oversees a process to replace Judas as the twelfth apostle. It seemed important.  The “wholeness” of the Twelve seemed incomplete – eleven was one too few. Perhaps it was understood that having twelve apostles matched the alignment of the twelve tribes of Israel: in Luke 22:28-30, Jesus says that the Twelve will rule over the “twelve tribes of Israel”.  And both the betrayal of Judas, who was already dead, and replacing him are viewed as a fulfillment of Scripture and part of God’s design. It mattered.

What is the primary function of the apostle (verse 22)? How would you explain the phrase, “the lot fell on Matthias”? Can you imagine how it might feel to fill Judas’ shoes? And, in spite of his actions in the end, Judas had been part of the group, that inner circle, and wouldn’t the others have still been in shock and in grief? What might have been the inner turmoil of their hearts and their community?

In light of Peter’s denial of even knowing Jesus before the crucifixion, how do you think others might have felt about his leadership in this moment? How would the events of John 21:15-19 calm any fears they might have?

Note how Scripture, prayer, discussion, and trust in God played a part in the selection of a replacement for Judas. How does this pattern of making important decisions compare to what you, your family, or your church use?  

SECOND READING:  1 John 5:9-13

As 1 John begins to conclude, the author speaks about the “testimony of God” about Jesus as eternal life. The author has already said that Jesus is light; that Jesus is Spirit; that Jesus is love. The author has already urged his readers to walk in the light, to worship him in the proper spirit, to demonstrate his love to others.

In 1 John 5:8 the author cites three witnesses that God has given in testimony of the true identity of Jesus: water may refer to his baptism, blood to his death on the cross, and the spirit to the Holy Spirit who descended on Jesus. The author wants us to believe God’s testimony and receive the gift of eternal life. Those first followers of Jesus who saw Jesus raised from the dead were able to speak to eternal life out of fact, out of their personal witness. But what about those who came after? God witnesses directly to the human heart through the Son.

“Whoever has the Son has life.” What has convinced you that there is true life in Jesus Christ? What temptations and trials have tried to lead you away from holding fast, from steadily following Jesus Christ?

Those who believe in the Son of God have this testimony in their hearts: eternal life is ours!

GOSPEL READING:  John 17:6-19

The Gospel reading for the SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER is always taken from the long prayer Jesus prays for his followers in JOHN on the night before his death; and it always includes Jesus’ desire that his followers will be one as he and the Father are one.

    Prayers are one of the best gifts anyone can give. How uplifting it is to hear that someone has prayed for us! On the last night of his life Jesus, soon to be arrested and therefore already on the way to the cross, took the time to pray for all disciples – then and now – who would bear his name and mission. Please note that Jesus did not pray for the health, wealth, success, or even happiness of his disciples in that era or our own. He prayed that they and we would get along with each other, so that they and we might continue the Father’s work on earth.  earth. Jesus is still praying after all these years “that they may be one”… “protected from the evil one”… and

“sanctified in the truth”. 

    Let us stay in the truth, keep his love among us, and continue his mission – TOGETHER!  

 

He DOESN’T pray that it will be easy for his followers… he knows it won’t.

Rather, he prays that GOD will support them, support us, in the midst of the challenges…

he prays that his followers will be sustained in their faith and preserved from “the evil one”.

He DOESN’T pray for your health, your wealth, your fame, your romances, your personal wants and wishes, or

even your everyday happiness.

(I’m sorry to disappoint you!)

    Rather, he prays that YOU / ME / WE / THEY / ALL OF US

    MIGHT BE ONE – that is, in fellowship, in unity, in love with each other and with JESUS and with GOD

that we might not be ripped apart , torn apart, too privatized and divided from all the others…

that we would not let personal pride and personal ambition and personal jealousy have its way

within us and among us…

that we would not fall out of HIS UNITY and HIS COMMUNITY.

Secondly, he prays that YOU / ME / WE / THEY / ALL OF US

MIGHT BE FAITHFUL – that is, not be misled by the world with its sinister attractions enough to let sin

have its way…

never stop believing, never stop caring, never stop trying, never stop

worshiping and praying, never stop showing and telling, never stop serving, never stop loving…

He  prays that YOU / ME / WE / THEY / ALL OF US

MIGHT HAVE COURAGE that comes from the Spirit –

so that we would not hesitate so much,

not doubt so much,

not become so immobilized at times,

not be so afraid of the possibilities, the potentialities, and our God-given abilities…

always make the decision – again and again, day after day – to carry the cross and follow Him.

And, finally, he prays that YOU / ME / WE / THEY / ALL OF US 

MIGHT KNOW THE JOY of living and loving in Jesus’ name.

 

Prayers are one of the best gifts anybody can offer.

How uplifting it is to hear that somebody prayed for us!

Today we are reminded of a different sort of “Lord’s Prayer” –

those words that JESUS prayed for his followers on the night before his death.

OH, HOW JESUS PRAYS FOR YOU!

OH, HOW JESUS HAS FAITH IN YOU TO MAKE THE RIGHT DECISION, TO DO THE RIGHT THING!

You are NOT alone, you are NOT abandoned, you are NOT left behind without God’s Spirit to empower you.

 

Easter 7            5-17-2015

 

I’m almost done here…

 

I ask you this morning –

What would help YOU live faithfully and love fervently?

What do you need JESUS to pray for in YOUR life?

Is it PATIENCE to be a better parent or friend?

Is it ENCOURAGEMENT during a difficult chapter in your life?

Is it COURAGE to stand up to a bully in the classroom or to befriend a friendless kid at school or

to speak out against some injustice, or to?

Is it STRENGTH in the face of the loss of a parent or the end of a meaningful relationship?

Is it HOPE when you feel like you have no options left… no light at the end of the tunnel?

Is it COMPANIONSHIP in a time of loneliness?

Is it HEALING of body, mind, or spirit?

Is it FORGIVENESS… or the ability to FORGIVE others?

Is it just a moment of PEACE in the midst of all the noise and all the tension?

Is it the WILLPOWER to face and overcome an addiction?

Is it the GRACE to stop being so judgmental and hateful, and to keep at the task of loving?

Is it HUMILITY before God?

What will keep YOU Easter-green and growing, rooted in Christ and bearing fruit?

What will RENEW and REVIVE your faith?

 

My sister, my brother, JESUS is loving you and praying for you this morning!

Let his prayers have their way inside you!

Let us stay in the truth, keep his love among us, and continue his mission.

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