Rev Dr John McCulloch
St. Andrews Jerusalem and Tiberias
Sunday 12th May 2019, 2nd Sunday of Easter (year C)
Acts 9: 36-43; Revelation 7: 9-17 & St John 10: 22-30
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable to you o Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
Walking under Solomon’s portico
In the gospel passage from John 10, we read in verse 23 that Jesus was walking in the temple ‘in the portico of Solomon’, and he is asked ‘If you are the Christ, tell us plainly’. Jesus answers: ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me’.
Many were waiting for the Messiah, for the Christ; the one who
would deliver the Jews and establish his reign where there would be freedom from all who oppressed and ruled over them. But most did not recognize him as such.
What is interesting in this passage is that Jesus responds by saying that the works that he has done in his father’s name, bear witness to him. Feeding the 5000, healing the sick, raising the dead, spending time with those despised and rejected by society, breathing peace over the troubled storms of life, healing the soldier’s ear just before Jesus was crucified, not returning hate with hate or evil with evil.
Many were expecting a messiah who was in the image of the mighty warriors of old, who would fight on their behalf, drive out the occupying Roman army, meet force with force, and win out by being more powerful than they.
But this is not Christ’s way.
In verse 27 we read ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me’.
It is interesting that the image of sheep is one that is continually used throughout scripture to refer to God’s people. We sang Psalm 23 about the Lord being our shepherd, leading us by still waters and restoring our soul.
I don’t know about you, but I have never seen a violent sheep. I have never seen a sheep chase and kill another animal. Instead, sheep and lambs, throughout the Jewish scriptures and the New Testament are associated with sacrifice. They are the ones who are laid on the altars, not the ones who endure through self-preservation and through an superior show of strength; and it is therefore no coincidence that they are the most recurrent symbol used to represent the people of God’s new kingdom of peace on this earth. God’s Kingdom is not one that crushes its enemy through a superior show of strength; but one that embodies love, by going to the very place of death and crucifixion, laying on the altars of this world, and showing us what God is like. God is a suffering God, who associates with all the victims of violence through the ages. Jesus, the Lamb of God, the prince of peace, the Good Shepherd.
‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me’
There is an interesting detail in this gospel passage which we must not overlook. In verse 23 it says that ‘Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon’.
Do you remember how King David, arguably Israel’s greatest King, was not allowed to build the temple, but it was his son Solomon who was entrusted to do so. And we are told in First Chronicles 22:8 why God did not to allow David to build the temple:
“You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight.”
David was not allowed to build the temple because he had too much blood on his hands, and so it was entrusted to his son Solomon. And here in the gospel of John, we have Jesus walking under ‘the portico of Solomon’, as a prophetic reminder that his Kingdom will not be built by inflicting violence on his enemies, but instead will be a kingdom which overcomes the world by different means: by healing the sick, by raising those from the deathbeds of despair and hopelessness, by feeding the hungry and welcoming the tax collectors and prostitutes (those who are the most despised in society), and by loving his enemies; even to the point of healing the ear of the Roman soldier which Peter had cut-off just before Jesus was crucified.
And look at the transformation in Peter after the crucifixion and resurrection. Peter had denied Jesus three times, had used violence to try and defend him, and had fled in fear when Jesus was crucified. And now we read in Acts 9: 40, of a transformed disciple, who is walking in Christ’s footsteps. He had been transformed from a fearful disciple to one who was now boldly embodying the gospel of Christ, saying to Tabetha as she lay dead on her bed: ‘Tabitha rise’.
God’s kingdom of resurrection comes to the places of death and despair in our world, with words of hope and words of healing. But so often, we listen to the confused voices of our world, which come from within and without, and we block our ears off to the voice of God.
‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me’.
Peter, the Jewish fisherman who became an apostle, was to boldy walk in Christ’s footsteps. Although his death is not described in Scripture, numerous writers of the time described his death as having occurred in Rome during the reign of the emperor Nero in 64 CE. According to tradition, St. Peter was crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus Christ.
What a transformation. What a turn around. What a true witness to the gospel of Christ, that is brought about through transformative outpoured love, to bring about a new kind of a kingdom. A kingdom we read about in Revelation 7: verses 16-17:
‘Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’[a]
nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’[b]
‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes
This is the picture of the Kingdom of God, into which we are invited. Will you listen to his voice? Will you follow the Good shepherd? Will you hear the voice of Jesus calling you over the clamouring and confusing voices of this world, as the hymn writer Horatio Bonar did?
|I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto Me, and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon My breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary, and worn, and sad;
I found in Him a resting-place,
And He has made me glad.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning was now, and ever shall be. Amen.