May: Living the resurrection life
Fourth Sunday of Easter, 7 May
In chapter nine, Jesus heals a blind man, and then the Pharisees hold a fierce interrogation to deny the event or to portray Jesus as sinful. Jesus says that they are wilfully blind, and also lead others from the true light. Today’s reading drives that message home. Jesus is both the gate into the sheepfold, and the shepherd who cares for the sheep. In claiming this title, Jesus would have caused great scandal. He was quite consciously claiming for himself an image common in the biblical tradition — God as the one who leads and cares for God’s people. It is an image of great tenderness as we see in Jeremiah 31:10 or Isaiah 40:11. Jesus is claiming to fulfil the prophecies of Micah (5:2-5) and Ezekiel (34:23-24), and to bring the promises of God to fulfilment. It is easy to treat this as a warm and fuzzy image of care — and it is an image of care — and miss the deeper claim that Jesus bears the life of God.
In what ways does it matter to you that Jesus bears the life of God?
Fifth Sunday in Easter, 14 May
Beginning in chapter 13, there is a long series of conversations and actions which are held together by a clear message: the disciples can be at peace because they are bound by an unbreakable bond to Jesus and to the Father. Those who have received the Word from the Father (John 1:1-2) will have the “power to become children of God” (1:12). In chapter 13 Jesus foretells his betrayal and also the denial by Peter, but immediately says that even this should not destroy them. They are to believe in God and in Jesus as his Word (14:1). It is clear from our passage that the disciples had still not grasped this connection between Jesus and the Father. They still asked Jesus to show them the Father so they could be secure in their faith (v. 8). We often have such a fixed view of who God is that we find it hard to understand that the Father is revealed so clearly in the life of this one frail human being who was killed by religious forces and the empire. Here is a challenge for us — not to think we already know what the word ‘God’ means, but to discover God in the life of Jesus as we follow his way of self-giving love.
What do you learn about God when you consider the life of Jesus? How does that shape your life?
Sixth Sunday in Easter, 21 May
What do we do if we claim that we love Jesus? That is, what is the shape of our love for Jesus? What difference does it make to our life? Dietrich Bonhoeffer speaks of ‘cheap grace’; the willingness to claim the love of God in our lives and do nothing in return. We are so busy speaking of salvation by grace, a central affirmation in our tradition, that we forget there is a response: to keep the commandments of Jesus (14:15). Faith is not simply assent to certain claims about Jesus; it is the way we live, the practices that mark our lives as we respond to the call of Jesus. The wonderful thing in this passage is that Jesus says that even our response to his love, this need to obey his commandments, is not a burden we are left to carry on our own. We will have the gift of the Holy Spirit and the assurance of the presence of the risen Jesus (14: 16, 19).
What do you do to show that you love Jesus? How does your relationship to him change your life?
Seventh Sunday in Easter, 28 May
This is an extraordinary passage. It speaks of the pre-existence of Jesus, and the mystery that is this human being uniquely bearing the life of God. Jesus existed in the presence of the Father before the world existed, and shared the Father’s glory. I think sometimes we get things backwards. We claim that this cannot be so; and Jesus can only be human. But what if we accept it is so, and then see what that does to our world and its possibilities? The second amazing thing is that Jesus tells us what eternal life is — to know God, and Jesus whom the Father has sent. (v. 3) The source of this life is to be found in the original communion which exists between the Father and the Word which became flesh. God is the fundamental reality in which the world has its life. The invitation is that as this world responds to Jesus, it will find new life. Jesus prays for the disciples who have claimed this new life through him.
What images and sense of life are conjured up for you when you say ‘God is the fundamental reality in which the world has its life’? How does it feel to exist in God?
The April and May Lectionary Reflections were prepared by Rev. Dr Chris Budden, the Interim National Coordinator of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress