Revised Common Lectionary Commentary

Clippings: Fourth Sunday of Easter - April 25, 2021

Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures Saint Dominic contemplating the Scriptures
Author's note:
Sometimes I have material left over when I edit Comments down to fit the available space. This page presents notes that landed on the clipping room floor. Some may be useful to you. While I avoid technical language in the Comments (or explain special terms), Clippings may have unexplained jargon from time to time.

A hypertext Glossary of Terms is integrated with Clippings. Simply click on any highlighted word in the text and a pop-up window will appear with a definition. Bibliographic references are also integrated in the same way.

Acts 4:5-12

The first of many incidents in which the apostles defend the faith before the authorities. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “speaking to the people”: Note the sharp contrast between their reaction to the good news and the reaction of the religious authorities: see vv. 2, 4. [ NJBC]

Verse 1: “captain of the temple”: The chief officer of the temple guard of priests and Levites. [ NOAB]

Verse 1: “Sadducees”: They were an aristocratic, traditionalist segment of Jews allied with the priests. [ CAB]

Verse 3: “they arrested them”: Their arrest will culminate in the dispersal of the community (after the stoning of Stephen, see 8:1) and eventually in the proclamation of the message to the Gentiles (Chapters 10-28). The reason given for their arrest (v. 2) and their release without punishment and unbowed (vv. 18-20) make it difficult to explain the story as a straightforward historical account. Luke does dramatize, but there is probably a historical foundation to this story. Whether belief in the resurrection could justify an arrest is quite beside the point of our text. [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “until the next day”: By law, the Sanhedrin was not permitted to hold evening meetings. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “five thousand”: NJBC considers that this head-count is exaggerated. It amplifies the contrast between persecuting leaders and believing commonfolk.

Comments: Sadducees – who did not believe in an afterlife : In 23:6-8, where Paul appears before the Sanhedrin, when he mentions “the hope of the resurrection of the dead”, “a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees”. The Pharisees (who are not mentioned in this story) did believe in it. [ NOAB]

Verses 5-6: Perhaps the “rulers” are priests; with the “elders and scribes” they made up the Sanhedrin, or council, of which the “high priest” was head. “Annas” held this office 6-14 AD. [ NOAB] NJBC says that both “John and Alexander” are otherwise unknown.

Verse 7: The Sanhedrin sat in a semi-circle, so that each could see the faces of all the others.

Verses 8-12: Peter’s first discourse before the Sanhedrin. [ NJBC]

Verse 8: “filled with the Holy Spirit”: In Matthew 10:19-20, Jesus tells the twelve disciples as he prepares them for a missionary journey: “When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you”. [ NJBC]

Verse 9: “asked”: Some scholars suggest that this was a preliminary hearing before the Sanhedrin, rather than a trial.

Verse 10: “this man is standing before you” can also be translated as “this man has taken his stand”.

Verses 10b-11: This is a summary of 3:12-15, part of Peter’s speech to the crowd. [ NJBC]

Verse 11: For Jesus as the “cornerstone”, see also Mark 12:10 and 1 Peter 2:4-5. [ NOAB] Psalm 118:22 is quoted by Jesus in Luke 20:17, in telling a parable against the religious authorities. The application to the Church, only implied here, is explicit in 1 Peter. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “boldness”: The Greek word, parrhesia, connotes the freedom and confidence which the Holy Spirit gives those who speak for it despite all dangers. It is a hallmark of the apostles’ teaching (see 2:29; 4:29, 31) and of Paul’s (see 9:27-28 and 13:46) to the point of being practically the last word of Luke’s history: he writes in 28:31 of Paul: “He lived there two whole years ... and welcomed all who came to him proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance”. [ NJBC]

Verse 13: “uneducated”: Like Jesus, as was asserted by the religious authorities when Jesus began to teach in the Temple (see John 7:15), the apostles were considered “uneducated” because they lacked rabbinical training. [ NOAB]

Psalm 23

A song of trust, probably a royal prayer reinterpreted after the Exile. [ NJBC]

Verse 2: Revelation 7:17 applies these words to the “Lamb” (Christ). [ NJBC]

Verse 3: “soul”: i.e. the vitality, the individualized principle of life. [ NOAB]

Verse 4: “darkest valley”: NOAB says that shadow of death is an ancient, but probably fanciful, rendering. See also 44:19; 107:10; Job 3:5; Isaiah 9:2 where the same Hebrew expression occurs and is translated in terms of darkness. [ NOAB] NJBC disagrees; he says that shadow of death is possible.

Verse 5: Kings in the ancient Near East would give lavish banquets on special occasions; hence this image continues the theme of the provident shepherd-king. See 1 Kings 8:65-66 for a “festival” given by Solomon for all the people. [ NJBC]

Verse 6a: The psalmist prays that only the good effects of the covenant now pursue him throughout his life. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “I shall dwell”: NJBC offers may I dwell. The Hebrew verb can mean return or dwell; the ambivalence is probably deliberate, alluding to the exiles’ hope of returning home. See also 27:4.

Verse 6: “the house of the Lord”: The Hebrew term can also mean the land of Israel in general. [ NJBC]

Verse 6: “my whole life long”: The Hebrew literally means for length of days. [ NOAB]

For Yahweh as shepherd, see also Psalm 79:13, Isaiah 40:11, and Ezekiel 34:15ff.

1 John 3:16-24

Verses 11-12: Abel’s righteous deeds stirred Cain’s hatred: see Genesis 4:8; Hebrews 11:4; Jude 11 (which speaks of evil people as walking in “the way of Cain”). [ NOAB] Jewish traditions preserved in gnostic writers makes Cain an example of those who murder. 1 John evokes the image of those “children of the devil” (v. 10) who seek Jesus death (see John 8:39-44) and of Judas, whom the devil induced to betray Jesus (John 13:2, 27). The Gospel of John accuses Jews of killing Christians (see John 16:2) at the end of a section that begins with the parallel to 1 John 3:13, “‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you’” (John 15:18). [ NJBC]

Verses 16-17: For Jesus’ selfless love as the highest model of friendship, see John 15:13: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends”. [ NJBC]

Verse 17: The author’s concrete example is one that all can appreciate, without going as far as martyrdom. James 2:14-17 gives a similar example: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead”. [ NJBC]

Verse 18: James 1:22 advises: “Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.”

Verse 19: “reassure our hearts before him”: Since God, the source of forgiveness (see 1:8-2:2), is “greater than our hearts” the possibility of the conscience condemning us does not shatter Christian confidence. Even if the Christian is not conscious of sin, one is assured that God hears prayer: see also John 16:26-27. The test of acceptance by God is willingness to “do what pleases him” (v. 22). In John 8:29, Jesus says of himself: “the one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to him”. [ NJBC]

Verse 20: “God”, who “knows” everything, judges us by the abiding relation of love to others, rather than by our passing moods. In John 21:17, when Jesus challenges Peter with “‘do you love me?’”, and Peter answers “‘you know that I love you’”, Jesus tells him: “‘Feed my sheep’”. [ NOAB]

Verse 21: “boldness”: Boldness in prayer results from obedience to God, and strengthens assurance: 5:14 says “... this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us”. [ NOAB]

Verses 23-24: Belief “in the name of Jesus Christ”, i.e. in Jesus, makes people children of God: see John 17:11-12. “Love” (see John 13:34; 15:17) is evidence if God’s Spirit and presence. See also 4:12-13. [ NOAB]

Verse 23: “believe in the name of his Son ... and love one another”: this may be the Johannine version of the double love command in Mark 12:28-31, since in the Johannine tradition to believe in the Son whom God sent is equivalent to loving God. [ NJBC]

Verse 24: “he abides in us, by the Spirit”: 2:27 has pointed to the anointing received upon entering the community: see also John 3:5. The Spirit is the pledge elsewhere in the New Testament: see Romans 8:14 and 2 Corinthians 1:22. This passage also prepares for the next section, in which the Spirit inspires the true confession which unmasks false teachers. [ NJBC]

John 10:11-18

Verse 7: “gate for the sheep”: BlkJn points out that if this represents accurately what Jesus said after the parable in vv. 1-5, vv. 7-10 are in an almost intolerable state of confusion. But if in the Aramaic original the accidental repetition of one letter has caused the shepherd to be read as “the gate”, then vv. 7-8 give an interpretation consistent with the original parable, and the allegory does not begin until v. 9.

Verse 8: “thieves and bandits”: “Came” has the sense of claimed to be the coming one (see also Matthew 11:3 and Mark 11:9), so they are pseudo-messiahs, like Theudas and Judas (in Acts 5:36-39). While they had some success, the “sheep”, those who are truly Christ’s, “did not listen to them”. [ BlkJn]

Verse 9: Christ provides:

  • escape from the perils of sin
  • freedom (see also 8:36), and
  • spiritual sustenance – the bread (see also 6:35), water (see also 4:14 and 7:37), and light of life. [ NOAB]

Verse 9: “I am the gate”: i.e. he determines who will be admitted to his people. [ CAB] This is an allegorical interpretation of a feature of the parable in vv. 1-6. For Christ alone being the point of access to God, see also Hebrews 10:19-20. [ BlkJn]

Verse 9: “come in and go out”: An Old Testament expression suggesting the freedom of movement enjoyed by a trusted servant: see, for example, of David in 1 Samuel 18:13, 16.

Verse 10: “destroy”: The thief is not only selfish but murderous, as is the devil (see 8:44), i.e. fatal to the salvation of his victims. [ BlkJn]

Verse 10: “life”: i.e. participation in God’s life. [ NOAB] Spiritual life. [ BlkJn]

Verse 10: “abundantly”: i.e. beyond measure. [ NOAB] Literally more than is really necessary. [ BlkJn]

Verse 11: Note the change in metaphor. In the ancient world, shifting metaphors was common. Jesus now contrasts himself with shepherds who are not worthy of the name. [ BlkJn]

Verse 11: Jesus fulfills the prophecies of Isaiah 40:11; Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ezekiel 34 (especially v. 11) that God himself will come to shepherd his people. [ NOAB]

Verse 11: “good”: The Greek word, kalos, means real and proper rather than morally good. [ BlkJn]

Verse 11: “lays down his life”: The possibility of a shepherd dying in defence of his flock against wild animals or robbers was a real one. See, for example, David’s claim to Saul before killing Goliath (in 1 Samuel 17:34-36). However, such sacrifice is not part of the then-conventional picture of the shepherd-messiah – being Jesus’ own distinctive contribution. It looks forward to 15:13: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends”. [ BlkJn]

Verses12-13: “hired hand”: The description of him recalls the attacks of the prophets on the leaders of Israel, calling them unworthy shepherds of God’s flock:

  • “shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture ... you have not attended to them” (Jeremiah 23:1-2)
  • “you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves ... You have not strengthened the weak, ... healed the sick, ... bound up the injured, ... brought back the strayed, ... sought the lost ... So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals” (Ezekiel 34:2-5)
  • “a shepherd who does not care for the perishing, or seek the wandering, or heal the maimed ... Oh, my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock!” (Zechariah 11:16-17)

The point of the comparison between the “hired hand” and the religious leaders of Israel lies in their indifference to the plight of the ordinary people (see Matthew 23:4 and Luke 6:46), the “sheep without a shepherd” of Mark 6:34. [ BlkJn]

Verse 12: “hired hand”: This may include messianic pretenders and false teachers who came before Jesus.

Verse 12: “wolf”: For the “wolf” as the enemy of the flock, see also Matthew 10:16 and Acts 20:29. Here the “wolf” is probably the devil. 1 Peter 5:8 speaks of him in these terms: “Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.”

Verse 16: “other sheep”: To NJBC, they are the scattered children of God who are brought together by Christ after his death and resurrection. In 11:52, we read that Caiaphas, as High Priest, prophesied that “Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God”. In 12:32, Jesus says “‘I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself’”. This interpretation follows naturally from the allusion to Christ’s death in v. 15 (repeating v. 11).

Verse 16b: “they will listen to my voice”: Jesus as prophet.

Verse 16c: “one flock”: see Ephesians 2:11-22. [ NOAB] This looks forward to the fulfilment of the prophesies that the Gentiles will be brought into God’s flock (see Isaiah 11:10; 49:6; 60:1ff, etc.) under “one shepherd”, the Messiah (see Ezekiel 37:24). [ BlkJn]

Verse 17: A difficult verse. It appears to make God’s love for Jesus conditional on his death and resurrection.

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