For Sunday, April 29, 2012: 4 Easter, Year B

The Reading            Acts 4:5-12

In last week’s reading from Acts, Peter and John healed a man who had been lame from birth. This act gets them arrested. Today we listen in as they testify before the religious authorities that the power that brings health is through the dead and risen Jesus.

 

The Epistle            1 John 3:16-24

The first letter of John addresses a church that was split into factions—as the church still is. Today’s passage explains what is behind the power of Jesus to heal, whether the body be that of a person or that of the church. It is love: love that digs deep to help those in whatever sort of need, and love through which we feel no need to hide from God.

 

Further thoughts

Several extraordinary claims are made in these passages, some implicitly and some explicitly. In Acts, Peter explains the healing of the lame man: it wasn’t, he says, human activity but healing through the name of Jesus Christ. Peter’s statement “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved” has been used in history not merely to motivate believers to witness but also to entitle the authorities to compel belief. The word that is rendered as “salvation”, however, can (and possibly should) also be translated as “healing”, in which case the statement plausibly means that all healing flows through Jesus. This puts a different spin on Peter’s statement—and a spin that much better suits Jesus’ equally striking pronouncement, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also… So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

The letter of John taps into a related truth. Since the time of Adam and Eve and the fig leaves, human beings who are ashamed have hidden from others or from God—and our sense of shame often reflects the extent to which we feel we do not measure up to the expectations of faith or behavior that others have of us. Now none of us can measure up to the standards of God, ever; in John’s terms, our hearts condemn us. Our hearts are absolutely right—except that slinking off in shame separates us from the healing we need. John shows us that the way out of this impasse is to love in action. By moving to feed each other, heal each other, and welcome each other we give the love that allows those around us to give the love through which we can stand before God.

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