Easter 4, Year C 19

Acts 9:36 – 43

Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas.8  She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. 37 At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40 Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. 41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. 42 This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

We reflect upon:

  • how Peter was able to raise Tabitha from the dead. A power that Jesus had in his earthly life.
  • Why we don’t seem to see the same power at work in the church today?

For many of us, when confronted by the tragic, often premature, death of a loved one, have had the deep desire that they could be raised to life again. From the life and ministry of Jesus, we know it is possible. He raised three people from the dead:

  • the widow’s son in the village of Nain (Luke 7: 15)
  • the 12-year-old daughter of Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue (Mark 5:42).
  • Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha in Bethany after he had been dead four days (John 11:44).

Some say that he raised himself from the dead. But that is a complex discussion.

As to whether other people have been raised from the dead, through the power of the Holy Spirit, as Tabitha was, it is difficult to know.  There are claims, especially in recent history, where it is claimed this has happened. There is a Christian Evangelical group in America, who call themselves the ‘Dead Raising Team’. They claimed to have raised a number of people from the dead. There is also the well-known film ’90 Minutes in Heaven’, where an evangelical pastor was killed in a car accident and was dead for 90 minutes, before another pastor came along and prayed him back to life.

Whether we are sceptical or not, Jesus life and ministry and the raising of Tabitha by Peter, show us that this is possible. As with so many miracles, our question is, why not more often?

This story is also very significant in showing the fulfilment of Jesus promise to the disciples that they would receive the Holy Spirit to minister in his name.

Revelation 7:9 – 17

9 After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

 11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom

and thanksgiving and honor

and power and might

be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God,

and worship him day and night within his temple,

and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.

 16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;

the sun will not strike them,

nor any scorching heat;

 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,

and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

We reflect upon:

  • the glorious vision of heaven that John saw
  • Jesus exalted state after his ascension
  • how our ordeals on earth are preparing us for our life in heaven
  • how Jesus will guide them to springs of the water of life,
  • and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Revelations is a very complex book. The selections we are hearing during this Eastertide, tend to avoid the complexities and encourage us to see Jesus resurrection and ascension as leading to his glorification and the fulfilment of God’s divine purpose. Jesus is the firstborn from the dead. As Paul says: ‘for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ’. (1 Corinthians 15:22)

Throughout the Scriptures, we are challenged but also encouraged to look to the more universal meaning of God’s divine purpose for humanity. This particularly applies to the book of Revelation and its ultimate promises, such as the one in today’s passage where ‘God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’.

John 10:22 – 30

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah,2  tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.3  30 The Father and I are one.”

We reflect upon:

  • Jesus response to the question as to whether he is the Messiah
  • what it means for us to believe in Jesus as the Messiah
  • how the works of Jesus did and does testify to who he is
  • how we hear Jesus voice in our lives?
  • Our trust that in Jesus, we have eternal life
  • the significance of Jesus saying ‘the Father and I are one’.

The image of the spiritual leaders as being like Shepherds, has great significance throughout the Scriptures and in the life the church. In Western societies today, the image does not have the same power. The way we care for our sheep is very different to that of the time of Jesus. Shepherds had a much more personal connection with their sheep and did not have the huge herds that some large acreage farms have today.

Despite this, the passage is still very significant.

Following on from last week’s gospel where Jesus commands Peter to feed and tend his sheep, the image of Shepherd is applied to Christian leadership, to Christian ministry.

As we touched on last week, there are significant issues relating to the continuity of this ministry throughout the ages and how the sheep are fed and tended in the divided church.

Even if we leave these issues aside, we cannot avoid them completely, as one of the central questions that this passage raises is ‘how do we hear the voice of Jesus’?  Can we hear Jesus speaking to us directly or can we really only hear him through Scripture and the voice of the church that we belong to?

The question ‘how do we hear the voice of Jesus’ adds another dimension to the fundamental biblical theme of how we hear the voice of God.

The Voice of God is heard in the Old Testament, both personally to various people such as Moses, communally and in nature, and we might say, cosmically.

“The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon. He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, “Glory!”  Psalms 29:3-9

Jesus being the Word become a human being, who died and rose again, gives the Voice of God, a new human dimension.  In Him, we hear his voice within our hearts and minds, for Christ is within us. We hear his voice through the Scriptures – both the Old and the New Testaments in a new light, through the church – the community of faith, through other people, in dreams, within human life – the various cultures of the world and within creation.

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