Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lectionary Notes

Some (Incomplete) Notes for
the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A
22 May 2011

After struggling for the past couple of days (against the almost incessant noise of a chainsaw and other loud tools) to prepare a sermon and some notes for you, I finally have to give up. Herewith are some incomplete notes, which I hope are better than nothing.
Acts 7.55–60
Stephen, one of seven church members chosen to assist the Apostles, fell afoul of a group in the city and was brought before the Council or Sanhedrin, where his speech in defence of the Christian preaching caused such offence that they rushed him out of the city to a death by stoning. Stephen is honoured as the first martyr (Protomartyr) among Christians. Our word for someone who witnesses unto death is from the Greek word martyros. With this in mind, note that in verse 58 those who took part in Stephen’s death are called ‘witnesses’ (martyres)
Here is an outline of the full story of the Protomartyr:
Acts 6.1-6: The Choosing of the Seven
6.6: Summary
6.8-15: The Arrest of Stephen
6.8: Miracles worked through Stephen
6.9-10: Opposition from ‘the synagogue of the Freedmen”,
6.11-14: who produce false witnesses and bring Stephen before the Sanhedrin
6.15: A moment of expectation
7.1-53: Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin
7.54-8.1a: The Stoning of Stephen

Things to note: 56: I see the heavens opened: see Acts 10.11, also John 1.51… the Son of man standing on the right hand of God: This is the only place in the NT outside the Gospels where Son of man is used as a title for Jesus (see also Rev 1.13). In the Gospels it is found 81 times, but only on the lips of Jesus. That he is standing at the right hand of God is also unusual; see Psalm 110.1, Mark 14.26, Lk 22.69; Hebrew 1.2-3; and the creeds. It is not clear why Luke has ‘standing’ here: some suggest that he is standing to welcome the martyr, or indeed to ‘acknowledge before the angels of God’ (Lk 12.8); others that it is a ‘meaningless variation’ [NJBC].
57-58: We do not know whether this examination before the Sanhedrin and the stoning were a legal trial and execution. From the improvised and passionate character of what we read we may that it was a lynching, and illegal. According to Josephus, James, the Lord’s brother, was stoned after having been brought to trial at the instigation of the high priest but the judicial process was found to be illegal and caused he deposition of the high priest (Josephus Ant. xx.199-203). Under the provisions of Deuteronomy 17.7, the witness start the stoning. (This gives a sense of legality to the affair.) Later recorded rules for this kind of execution may have been worked out. See also Hebrews 13.12f Leviticus 24.114; Numbers 15.35f; Acts 22.20
The account of Stephen’s death (58-60) closely parallels the death of the Lord Jesus; see Luke 23:34, 46. Note that whereas Jesus committed his spirit into the Father’s hands, Stephen prayed that Jesus would receive his spirit. As Stephen died, he prayed that his murderers might be forgiven, which is of course something we need to learn. If Stephen could so pray for those who were stoning him, how can we ever refuse to pray for the forgiveness of those who sin against us in lesser ways?
It is perhaps interesting to note that whereas Jesus was stripped of his garments before being nailed to the cross, the ‘witnesses’ at his stoning removed their (outer-)garments for the work, and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. This is the introduction of Saul (later known as Paul, who will be the central figure in the latter part of Acts. The note (8.1a) that Saul was consenting to his death is strangely omitted from this reading.
Psalm 31
In te, Domine, speravi
With this Psalm, described as ‘a prayer for deliverance from personal enemies’ (NOAB) we reflect on the story of Stephen’s death, particularly in verses 5 (Into your hands I commend my spirit, * for you have redeemed me, O Lord, O God of truth) and 15b-16 (My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies, and from those who persecute me. Make your face to shine upon your servant; and in your loving-kindness save me).
1 Peter 2.2–10
Responsibilities of the Christian Vocation
At the end of Chapter 1, we read that Christians have been born anew through the word of God, the word which abides forever and which is “the good news which was preached to you”. The idea of being born anew suggests a new passage of exhortation, “So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander” [2.1] Since you are born again, since you have become babes, lay aside all kinds of wickedness, and desire the milk which Christ will give you. Milk causes growth ; the growth will fit them for their place in the spiritual house, the royal priesthood. Here again the Christian is addressed as member of a corporation.
Things to note: 2. Pure spiritual milk is not a good rendering of the Greek; the Av is better, ‘pure milk of the word”. The idea of new-born babies develops the thought of 1.3, 23, and suggests either that the intended readers are new converts or that in St. Peter’s view Christians are always babes, and therefore also always recently born. It is true that all Christians, however long since their Baptism, should desire the ‘milk of the word’ as eagerly and greedily as a new-born desires milk.
6. Quotes Isaiah 28.16
7. Quotes Psalm 118.22
8. Quotes Isaiah 8.14.
10. Once you were not a people: see Hosea 2.23

The Holy Gospel according to St John 14.1–14
The Way to the Father
The scene is the Last Supper; in the last chapter Jesus washed his disciples’ feet [13.3-20] and gave the new commandment that they should love one another as he has loved them [13.34-35], that is, by giving himself for them. At the same time, and intertwined in this narrative, we are told of Judas’ decision to betray Jesus [13.2] and of Jesus’ identification of him, at which he went out [13.21-30]. Jesus then spoke to his disciples of his going away: “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, 'Where I am going you cannot come”. The disciples do not understand this [13.33, 36]. The chapter ends with Jesus’ prediction that Simon Peter will deny him [13.38]. The chapter division here is unfortunate, although it is hard to find a place that is really any better. This should remind us that such divisions were not in the Gospel, but added many centuries later as an aid for reference.
After these predictions of the betrayal by one of them, of their Lord’s departure, and of Peter’s unfaithfulness, the disciples are amazed and sorrowful. We may imagine Peter’s distress: his voice is missing through the whole scene that follows; indeed he is not mentioned again until he whips out his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane [18.10]. Jesus is aware that his disciples are uneasy and says to them, Let not your hearts be troubled.
Things to note: 1. Believe in God, believe also in me. Never forget that ‘to believe’ is not so much to have opinions about something as it is to trust someone. The disciples (and we, therefore) are to trust Jesus as we would God. This is in one sense an advance on faith in God, in another sense an aid to it, Jesus being the revealer of the Father. This comes before a time in which their faith was to be tested, and in that test they would fail. Failure can teach a lesson: that faith is always insufficient. It should drive us back to God, for it is in forgetting his grace that we fail. Then every fall into sin can become the occasion for growth in grace. (Temple).
2. In my Father’s house. Earlier in the Gospel Jesus had given this name to the Temple (2.16; see also Luke 2.49); what does he mean now? If we take this to be ‘heaven’, just what do we mean? One commentator wrote: “How to interpret the expression in a local, heavenly sense, we cannot tell. In any case the essential idea is that of being near to God and enjoying his love and favour.” William Temple: “One who so faces his own failures is steadily advancing on the pilgrim’s way; he, like his Master, in going to the Father. More than this; if he is travelling the right way at all, he is at home with the Father all the time.” In some way, then, we must understand ‘my Father’s house’ as a present reality we are brought to by Jesus. …are many dwelling places: this translates a Greek word which means shelters for travellers to rest in at stages along their road. This word, which implies progress and rest, fits well the image of pilgrimage. I go to prepare a place for you: “It was the custom in the East … for travellers to send a dragoman forward to make preparations in the next of those resting-places along the road, so thatr when they came they might find in it comfort as well as shelter. Here the Lord presents himself as our spiritual dragoman, who treads the way of faith before us” [Temple] (see Hebrews 12.2).
4. And when I go and prepare a place … I will come again and take you to myself: Jesus here refers not so much to his coming at the end of the world, or in great crises of history, or at the death of believers, as to the progressive influence of the Holy Spirit in his Church, preparing the way for the final and completed union of Christ and his people (after the resurrection at the last day, vi. 40), which is predicted in the succeeding part of the verse.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lectionary Notes

Some Notes for the Fourth Sunday of Easter
15 May 2011


In the older lectionary, the Gospel of Jesus the Good Shepherd (John 10.11-16) and the passage from 1 Peter 2 ending with the words you ‘are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls’ were read on the Third Sunday of Easter (which was called the Second Sunday after Easter). In the new lectionary it is the Fourth Sunday of Easter on which we consider the theme of the Good Shepherd. This is clear not only from the readings and the Sentence that is used as the alleluia verse, but also from the Collect for the Day
In the Prayer Book, the Collect now appointed for Easter IV in the BAS was used (with appropriate variations) as one of the blessings at the Office for the Burial of the Dead in the American Prayer book of 1928 and the Canadian book of 1962 (see page 601). It is founded on the words of Hebrews 13.20-21. This is the only occasion I have found of its use as a Collect for the Day.
The image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, and of the Shepherd who goes to seek the one sheep that was lost is well-loved by Christians. It is also an image deeply rooted in the hope for the Messiah, the Lord’s anointed, which itself comes from David the Shepherd and King of Israel.

The Readings
Acts 2.42–47

This passage, which follows the account of St Peter’s address on the day of Pentecost and of the crowd’s response gives us a picture of the community life of the very first Christians. It is the first of three ‘Major Summaries’ in Acts; the others are 4.32-35 and 5.11-16. There are also several minor summaries (1.14; 6.7; 9.31; 12.24; 16.5; 19.20; 28.30-31). NJBC notes that Luke’s summaries are important devices in the structure of Acts, for they sustain the point the author intends to make by telling the story. “They idealize the period of the apostles’ ministry in Jerusalem and sustain the reader’s impression of a steady growth of the Christian movement punctually plotted by the will of God”. By idealizing the earliest community Luke “surrounds that period with the glitter of a ‘golden age’.
42. In the BAS the first question asked of the candidate for Holy Baptism after the confession of faith is “Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?” These four points as the marks of membership in the community of Christians are first found in this verse. For reasons of space we will comment only on the word fellowship, since it is in danger of being used in a vague sort of way so that it means little more than coffee-hour.
Most people don’t know what the word fellow really means; through careless usage it has come to be a synonym of ‘man’, like ‘chap’ or ‘guy’. It comes from the Old English, feolaga meaning "fellow, partner," which in turn is from an Old Norse felagi, from fe which means "money" (our word fee is related to this) and verb root meaning "lay" ( as in ‘lay down your money’). So what it means is "one who puts down money with another in a joint venture". This is why the members of the corporation who constitute a college are called “fellows. It translates the Greek koinonia, which is from koinōnos, ‘a sharer’. As you can see, this is a much more serious thing than is implied by the usual “time of fellowship”.
44. The real meaning of ‘fellowship” comes throuigh clearly in the words And all who believed were together and had all things in common. Again in 4.32 we read that All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything that they had. During Jesus’ ministry he and his disciples had a common purse that was kept by Judas (Jn 12.6, 13.29); just so everything is held in common by the larger group of disciples. The narratives in the first chapters of Acts give a more detailed and nuanced picture of the community of property in the primitive church. In 4.36-37 we read that Barnabas was singled out as one who had sold a plot of land and had given the money for it to the apostles. Would It not have been necessary to report this if ‘all of them’ had done so? Again, in the story of Ananias and Sapphira (5,1-11), we read that they had been free not to sell their land. See Phil 2.1-4. Space does not permit any further discussion of this Apostolic Communism, but one might well reflect how else a real fellowship is possible.

Psalm 23

This psalm, which was recently used on the Fourth Sunday in Lent, is a profession of joyful trust in the Lord as Shepherd (vv. 1-4) and Host (vv. 5-6); both of which were commn figures for kingship in the ancient Near East. The King was seen as a shepherd because he both led and provided for his people; so much the more is the Lord God the Shepherd of his people.
2. He makes me lie down: the Hebrew verb was used of four-legged animals which “lie on their breasts with their legs gathered under them”. Still waters: see Rev 7.17: “the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life”.
5-6: God as gracious host: One of the ways an ancient King displayed authority and care for his subjects was through hospitality; this image is closely tied to that of the king as the provident shepherd of his people.
6. house of the Lord most obviously means the Temple, but it can mean the Land of Israel. for ever: literally for length of days.

Epistle: 1 Peter 2.19–25

This passage follows an exhortation to slaves to be submissive, not only to a kind and gentle master, but also to the overbearing. It is in this context that we must understand the referece to enduring unjust suffering.
In verse 19, it is a credit to you is literally “this is grace” and might be better rendered by “this is thankworthy”. In the present passage St. Peter speaks of good conduct without the slightest embarrassment as thankworthy, a glory, a favour in the eyes of God. Those who are willing to suffer innocently do what God desires and ‘find favour’. The commentator Charles Bigg suggests that in verses 19-20 the words “this is thankworthy”, “what glory is it”, and “this is thankworthy” echo our Lord’s words in Luke 6.32-34, “"For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.”
20: for doing wrong: This may refer to any type of wrongdoing or to sin properly so called; indeed the context of slaves and masters would suggest wrongdoing, but see C. Biggs: “In favour of the first view it may be argued that the master would strike the slave, not for sin against God, but for neglect of duty towards himself. On the other hand, the glory comes from God, in whose eyes the neglect of earthly duty is sin. Further, hamartatontes (for ‘wrong doing’, or ‘for sin’) is balanced against agathopoiountes ('doing well') in the following clause. Hence it should retain its usual sense here.”
22 is a quotation from Isaiah 53:9b in which the word sin is used instead of the original ‘lawlessness’
23: see Mark 15:29-32; 14:65; Luke 23:11, 36-37; John 19:1-5.
24. He .. bore our sins on the cross: literally, on the tree. See Deuteronomy 21.23, a verse which is also quoted by St Paul in Galatians 3.13 and alluded to in Acts 5.30, 10.39, and 13.29. The verb translated as ‘bore’ is commonly used in the OT of bringing a sacrifice to lay on the altar: here St Peter puts the Cross in the place of the altar.
25 Shepherd and guardian: the word translated guardian is episcopos, which we would otherwise translate as bishop. One wonders why the more literal ‘overseer’ is not used.

The Holy Gospel: John 10.1–10

The Lord’s discourse on the Good Shepherd in the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel may be divided into these sections:
10.1-10, read in Year A: Jesus the Door of the Sheep.
10.11-18, read in Year B: Jesus the Good Shepherd
10:19-21, not read in the Sunday lections: a division among the people about Jesus’ words
10.22-31, read in Year C: the Father has given the Sheep into Jesus’ hand
This discourse follows immediately after the healing of the man born blind in Chapter 9 with its concluding contrast between the healed man’s faith and the blind unbelief of the Pharisees. The RCL commentary notes that “The division between Chapter 9 and Chapter 10 is unfortunate. (Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, who died in 1208, is credited with dividing the Bible into chapters.)” Jesus’ last comment in Chapter 9 is “If you were blind, you would have no guilt: but now that you say, ‘We see,’ you guilt remains.” William Temple writes:
We must picture the Pharisees who have received that crushing blow as reduced to silence, till strange language about the laying down of life in obedience to divine commands stimulates them to further protest (10.18, 19). A man has been driven from one fold and received into another. After a solemn and awestruck silence the Lord speaks again.
1. Truly, truly I say to you: The original is ‘Amen, amen …’ This is a most remarkable word. It was transliterated directly from the Hebrew into the Greek of the New Testament, then into Latin and into English and many other languages, so that it is practically a universal word. It has been called the best known word in human speech. The word is directly related -- in fact, almost identical -- to the Hebrew word for "believe" (amam), or faithful. Thus, it came to mean "sure" or "truly", an expression of absolute trust and confidence. When we answer Amen to a prayer we make the substance of what was said our own. The sheepfold: a mental picture of the sheepfold helps us to understand the verses which follow. It is a walled enclosure in front of the house and open to the sky, with a solid door, which was closely barred at night by the door-keeper, and opened by him in the morning, when the shepherds came to claim their sheep, which they had left in the fold the previous evening, in order to lead them out to pasture. Other than the door, the only way to enter would be by climbing the wall, no one will enter that way except one who has no business there, and is therefore presumably come to steal (Temple).
3. The shepherd calls his own sheep: There may be sheep from several flocks gathered for the night: each shepherd will call his own by name
5. … they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers: It is told of a Scottish traveller that, meeting under the walls of Jerusalem a shepherd bringing home his flock, he changed clothes with him, and, thus disguised, began to call the sheep. They remained motionless. Then the true shepherd raised his voice, and they all hastened towards him, in spite of his strange garments. Mackie’s Bible Manners and Customs, chap, iii notes: The shepherd depends upon the sheep to follow, and they in turn expect him never to leave them. They run after him if he appears to be escaping from them, and are terrified when he is out of sight, or any stranger appears instead of him. He calls them from time to time to let them know that he is at hand. The sheep listen and continue grazing, but if anyone else tries to produce the same peculiar cries and guttural sounds, they look around with a startled air and begin to scatter.
6-7: The hearers do not understand the figure or allegory Jesus I using, so goes on to explain it as giving a double interpretation of His mission. He is both the Door (7-10) and the Shepherd (11-16). I am the door of the sheepfold: the door through which both sheep and shepherd go in and out. The sheep must come into the fold—the Church—through the Door. They must not come in for convention or respectability or for any other reasons than trust in Christ [Temple].
8. All who came before may be understood as referring to the priests and Pharisees or to those who claimed falsely to be the Messiah. Temple supports this second interpretation by noting that came is a technical term, “as is the phrase, he that cometh—the coming one’ (Mat 11.3, Lk 7.19).”
9. go in and out: this may simply refer to living (see Deut. 28; Psalm 121.8; Jer. 37.4, but Temple notes: “Their pasture is outside, in the world.”
To come in through the door means at least three things: 1) to come to the task, and every part of it, in prayer; 2) to refer all activities to the standard of the Mind of Christ; 3) to accept what actually happens as nearer to the Will of God than our own success would have been. It means putting Christ in the forefront of thought and self, in all its forms, right out of the picture.
10. The thief comes only to steal … I came that they may have life: Jesus here institutes a comparison between the false shepherd (the thief), whose object is selfish, cruel, and destructive (cf. Jer. 23. 1,2:; Ezekiel 34.1-6; Zechariah. 11.4,5), and himself, who had come into the world to give plenitude of life to his people (cf. 6. 51 and Psalm 23).


15 b The Fifth Sunday of Easter
Toronto Diocesan Cycle of Prayer: York Central Deanery
ACP: North Carolina - (Province IV, USA) The Rt Revd Michael Bruce Curry; Suffragan Bishop of North Carolina - (Province IV, USA) The Rt Revd James Gary Gloster; South Carolina - (Province IV, USA) The Rt Revd Mark Lawrence

16 c Feria of Easter
On this day in 1277 died Pope John XXI at Viterbo, from injuries sustained when the ceiling of his hastily built study collapsed on him. It is a curious fact that he was styled John XXI, since there had been no John XX.
DCP: Citizens for Public Justice
ACP North Central Philippines - (Philippines) The Rt Revd Joel A Pachao

17 d Feria of Easter
On this day in 1163 died Heloise, the lover of Peter Abelard, at the Paraclete Abbey, France.
DCP All Saints, Markham
ACP North Dakota - (Province VI, USA) The Rt Revd Michael Gene Smith; South Dakota - (Province VI, USA) The Rt Revd Creighton L Robertson

18 e Feria of Easter
On this day in 1703 died Charles Perrault, author of Histoires ou Contes du Temps passé, ou, Les Contes de ma Mère l'Oie (1697), in which many of the best-known fairy tales are found. Also on this day in 1843 occurred the Disruption of the Scottish Church with the founding of the Free Church of Scotland (see
DCP Christ Church, Stouffville
ACP North Eastern Caribbean & Aruba - (West Indies) The Rt Revd Leroy Errol Brooks

19 f Commemoration of Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, 988
See and Also on this day in 1536 was beheaded Anne Boleyn, queen of England.
DCP Christ Church, Woodbridge
ACP North Kerala - (South India) The Rt Revd Dr K P Kuruvila

20 g Feria of Easter
On this day in 1506 Christopher Columbus died at Valladolid.
DCP Emmanuel, Richvale
ACP North Queensland - (Queensland, Australia) The Rt Revd William J Ray; 1. Suffragan Bishop of North Queensland - (Queensland, Australia) The Rt Revd Saibo Mabo; 2. Suffragan Bishop of North Queensland - (Queensland, Australia) The Rt Revd James Randolph Leftwich

21 A Feria of Easter
On this day in 1743 was born Bryan Edwards, historian of the West Indies, at Westbury. See
DCP . Grace Church, Markham
ACP North West Australia - (Western Australia, Australia) The Rt Revd David Mulready

22 b The Sixth Sunday of Easter
DCP Anglican Appeal
ACP Suffragan Bishop of Northern Argentina - (South America) Vacant

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lectionary Notes

8 May 2011

Both the Sentence and the Collect this Sunday are closely tied to the Gospel reading for Year A.

Acts 2.14a, 36–41

This reading concludes St Peter’s address on the Day of Pentecost, the first preaching of the Christian message by the Church. He had explained the amazing events that had drawn the crowd together (see 2.1-13); they had been foretold by the Prophet Joel (2.14-21); the Spirit has come because Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified, God raised, and the disciples are witness of this (2.22-32). It is Jesus, now exalted now to God’s right hand, who has poured out the Spirit’s gifts (2.33-35). The verse that begins our reading is Peter’s conclusion, returning to the responsibility of the people for Jesus’s death. Rather than taking offense at this, the crowd is stricken to the heart (2.37) and asks “What should we do?”
He tells them to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and receive the gift of Holy Spirit (2.38).
To repent is the first requirement; as we have noted before the Greek word for repentance (metanoia) means literally a change of mind. In putting metanoia first, the disciples carry on the preaching of Jesus (see Mk 1.14, Mt 4.17).
Be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus: this formula is found only in Acts, and is to be understood in a confessional sense, that is, it denotes the confession of faith made by the baptized, and not the form used by the baptizer. Therefore it is not to be taken as contradicting the words of Jesus reported in Mt 28.19. Like John’s baptism, this is for the forgiveness of sins; the difference is the inclusion of Jesus himself in the preaching, which declares that the forgiveness of sins comes through his name.
To receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We noted only briefly last Sunday that our Lord’s words “Receive the Holy Spirit (John 20.21) make it clear that “the gift is freely offered, but it can be refused; there is a definite act of reception” [William Temple]. God’s grace does not run roughshod over our freedom, even to save us.
Peter tells his audience that the gift of the Spirit is theirs by promise. All that are far off should probably be taken to mean the Jews dispersed throughout the world, although some dispute this, citing Ephesians 2.13, which speaks of Gentile converts. But is seems that on the Day of Pentecost the Apostles had no clear idea of the mission to the Gentiles, as can be seen from the long dispute before it was agreed that Gentile converts would not require circumcision. At this early date, when they looked for a speedy return of their Lord, a world-wide extension of the Kingdom must have been wholly beyond their thoughts.

Psalm 116.1–3, 10–17

This psalm of thanksgiving for healing is one of the group (113-118) called the Hallelujah Psalms, since they all include the Hebrew word Hallelujah (“Praise the Lord”). They are used in Jewish tradition in connection with the great festivals. At Passover, Psalms 113-114 are sung before the meal and Psalms 115-118 after it. [See] Outline:
1. The Psalmist addresses the congregation
2-11: the Psalmist sings of his experience
10-17: the repayment of the Psalmist’s vow
In verse 3 “the grave” translates the Hebrew Sheol, a subterranean place, full of thick darkness (Job 10.21, 22), like the Greek Hades, in which the shades of the dead, who only retain the faintest resemblance of life, are gathered together. It is said to have both valleys [rather depths] (Proverbs 9.18) and gates (Isaiah 38.10). See Psalm 88.5-6. Later, as in the Authorized version it is associated with Hell.

The Epistle: 1 Peter 1.17–23

The first letter of Peter was addressed to the churches in parts of what is now Turkey (the ancient Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia), which were undergoing persecution (1.6). Last week we read 1.3-9, part of an opening thanksgiving for what God has done. In this section the readers are called to conduct themselves in a way that befits those who call on the just judge as their Father (1.17) and reminded that they were ransomed by Christ’s death, which is described in the language of the Passover; even more, they have been born again through God’s word.
Two themes in this short passage should be marked. The first is that the life of the Christian is described as an exile. Exile does not refer to an exile from heaven, but to while the RCL commentary calls the ”social dislocation that Christians experience in a pagan world”, noting that “in 2:11, they are referred to as ‘aliens and exiles’; their situation was indeed precarious”. This situation was not simply the result of persecution, but of the contrast between the ways of life of Christians and the world around them. We are not persecuted but we find the world around us more and more built on assumptions that differ from or contradict the assumptions of the Gospel. The other point to mark is the call to “love one another earnestly from the heart” (1.22); the exiles and strangers find a community in the church.
It would be tempting to take these points as calling for a withdrawal from the world, were it not that the Gospel also calls us to love and serve not merely our fellow-Christians but all our neighbours, and to be leaven in the lump of dough. How to live in the world without ceasing to ‘conduct ourselves with fear’ is a great challenge.

Luke 24.13–35
The journey to Emmaus.

Two disciples, who are going to Emmaus, are joined by Jesus, whom they do not recognize, and who asks what they are talking about. One of them, named Cleopas, expresses astonishment that even a stranger in Jerusalem should not know what has just happened there, and tells the story of the death of Jesus, adding the women’s report of the Resurrection. Jesus exclaims at their density, and expounds the scriptures to them. On reaching their destination they persuade him to come in with them, and as he breaks bread discover who he is. Immediately he vanishes. They return at once to Jerusalem to tell of this, and find the eleven gathered together and assured of the truth of the Resurrection on the ground that Jesus has appeared to Simon.
This beautiful story is told only in Luke’s Gospel. The appendix of Mark (xvi. 12) refers to it briefly; this reference is evidently founded on Luke’s narrative.
13. two of them: one name, Cleopas, is given later in the narrative (verse 18) ; the other name is not recorded. Neither of them was an apostle, as they are later distinguished from the Eleven (33). … Emmaus: a town located approximately 7 miles (11 km) from Jerusalem. The site has not been surely identified. For further discussion, see … were going: the NJBC points out that this story is shot through with the language of journeying, which is important in Luke’s Gospel as a theme of discipleship (see 9.51-19.27). It further suggests that these disciples, whose faith in Jesus had been disappointed (see verse 21) have abandoned the way of Jesus and gone on their own; their lack of faith contrasts with the faith shown by the women (23.49-24.12). The story “narrates how the risen Jesus reconciles two wayfarers, who, once they are forgiven and reconciled, immediately journey back to Jerusalem. Note that verse 29 might imply that the two disciples are inviting Jesus into their own house, and so that they live in Emmaus.
14-16. While they walked along talking Jesus joined them on the road but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. This seems to be more than just failing to know him; something is holding their eyes. The most likely suggestion would seem to be that it is their lack of faith. It will be Jesus himself who opens their eyes by showing them his true meaning in God’s plan of salvation. NJBC points out that :” the disciples eyes are opened only after they have shown hospitality to a stranger. ‘Seeing’ is another of the important themes in Luke (as in 9.45; 18.34; 23.8,35,47-9). So in the Collect we pray: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work.
17. When Jesus asks what they have been discussing—literally, “What are these words which you are exchanging with one another?”—they journey comes to a halt: They stood still, looking sad; this is an effective translation, since the original word means ‘of sad and gloomy countenance’.
18. Cleopas: Nothing is known of this man beyond what is in the present narrative. It has been suggested that Luke gives his name because he was the witness who told the story to the evangelist. The way in which his name is introduced as ‘named Cleopas’ does not imply that he was well known in the early church. R. Bauckham suggests that he is the same as Clopas the husband of Mary, the sister of Jesus’s Mother (John 19.25). His surprise that the stranger did not know is true to life: “Are you the only stranger who does not know what’s been happening? implies the question “What else would anyone talk about?” which is so true of anyone suffering grief. Their loss has shattered the world; how can anyone go about a normal life?
19-20. We might imagine Jesus smiling as he asks, What things? Cleopas’ answer is in the same form of words as the early ‘creeds’ or statements of faith in Acts 2.22-24; 10.38; moreover, the facts he narrates fulfil Jesus’ own prophecies (our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him; see 9.22, 13.32-33; 18.31-33). Nonetheless, he does not have the sight of faith; to recite the facts and know that they fulfill prophecy is not enough.
21 … we had hoped: note the haunting past tense here which enshrines an agony of disillusionment. Next to the Lama sabachthani? of the cross it is the saddest word in the New Testament : there is sunset in it and a starless night.
22-24: the reports of the empty tomb are repeated without any conviction, They have clearly heard nothing of the Lord’s appearances; some women of our group suggests a doubt of female reliability.
25. The risen Jesus almost explodes in response. … slow of heart: in Scripture the heart stands for the whole inner life, both intellectual and emotional. So this does not mean slowness to be moved with feeling, but slowness of thought and perception.
27. He expounds the Old Testament, that is the first five books of the Law (Moses) and the books of the Prophets, to show that God’s plan was to bring salvation through the glorification of the rejected prophet, the suffering righteous Son.
28-29. At Emmaus, he gave the impression that he was moving on, and the two disciples invited him to stay with them. The NJBC sees this as Luke’s ‘final touches to his theme of faith as seeing. Disciples who entertain the stranger will have their eyes opened’.
30. With this in mind it is probably quite correct to point out that the breaking of bread in which the two recognize Jesus at last ‘should not be interpreted immediately as eucharistic’. On this point it might be best to quote the commentary a little more fully: This instance of eating
“should be linked with the thematic of eating which Luke has been developing throughout his Gospel. [In it] he has shown that God’s kingdom has come in Jesus’ sharing of food with others, especially outcasts. Jesus, who at his last meal said that he would not share food with his disciples until God’s kingdom came (22.16,18), now shares food with them and thereby shows that God’s kingdom has indeed come. Now his table companions are not toll collectors [tax gatherers], but his own disciples who have strayed from his way; they are forgiven and sent on their way, which is his way. But all this happens to them only because they have been hospitable” [NJBC, 1993, 43:196].
All that said, after the Last Supper it is impossible to think of Jesus blessing and breaking bread without thinking of the Eucharist, in which we encounter him, not only in the sacramental elements, but in the gathering together of the members of his body.
Their experience with the Risen Christ sends the two disciples back to the Eleven and the other disciples, in readiness for the experience of the first Easter evening (Luke 24.36; John 20.19-23)

Afterthought: This is one of two events in which the risen Lord appears to someone making a journey, the other being Saul on his way to Damascus (Acts 9).


Notes: From now on the names of the weekdays in the Calendar will be represented by the letters A to g. The Sunday Letter in 2011 is B.
For many of the commemorations of saints useful information can often be found at “James Kiefer's Christian Biographies”: go to and check the date or the alphabetical list (since it is an American site, the dates are sometimes not the same)

8 b The Third Sunday of Easter
9 c Julian of Norwich, Spiritual Teacher, c. 1417 Com (transferred from Sunday)
For further information, see and links there.
On this day, in 1671, Colonel Thomas Blood made a famous attempt to steal the Crown Jewels. See
10 d Feria of Easter
11 e Feria of Easter
On this day in 1310 Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Templars, was burnt at Paris
12 f Florence Nightingale, Nurse, Social Reformer, 1910 Com
For further information, see
On this day in 1641 Thomas, Earl of Strafford, was executed on Tower-hill, London; in 1771 the poet Christopher Smart died.
13 g Feria of Easter
14 A Saint Matthias the Apostle HD
St Matthias was formerly observed on February 24, and still is in some countries, but his festival has been moved so that his feast will not fall in Lent. For further information, see
On this day in 1796, the immortal Edward Jenner conclusively established the important principles of vaccination; see
Women’s Breakfast Fellowship meets this morning
15 b The Fourth Sunday of Easter
On this day in 1773 died Alban Butler, author of Lives of the Saints.