The Good Shepherd
Peter and John before the Sanhedrin – Acts 4: 1-12
This week I’m paraphrasing and adapting a study on the readings for Sunday by Jane Williams. Please do read them as they make for great reading! Jane was born in India of missionary parents and one of 5 sisters. She has been a lecturer at St Mellitus College in Liverpool and visiting lecture at Kings College, London.
In Acts, Peter and John have been arrested. They healed the lame man and then preached to the astonished crowds that gathered. But whatever the supposed reason for the arrest, the question that the religious authorities asked is a telling one. "How did you do it, and whose side are you on?" is what it boils down to. The Temple committee are already a bit suspicious of this new movement but, on the other hand, the healing did take place in the Temple, so it's possible that they are hoping to make religious capital out of it for themselves. If Peter and John are amenable, and say that they work through the power and in the name of God, then perhaps a happy compromise for all can be reached.
Yet Peter and John are not in the business of compromise. They are filled with the courage of the Holy Spirit, the life – giver, and they answer the question with alarming forthrightness. There is
only one name, Peter says, that connects heaven and earth, that expresses the way in which God relates to us, and that assures us of God’s powerful and saving love for us: The name of Jesus!
In the gospel reading the voice of the Shepherd (Jesus) would not be the one the disciples and followers loved and believed if they had not experienced it first as the voice of practical care and love. Jesus loved them not in word or rhetoric, but in action too.
This is certainly the point being made in 1 John 3, "Let us love not in word or speech but in truth and action". The words are the easy bit. They cost the speaker very little, but equally they yield very little. We have to live in the world as though we really did believe that Jesus, the good Shepherd who lays down his life to save us, is the way of God. Perhaps we need to emulate that more and not just to our own kind. We have to live together, one flock with one Shepherd, as though we knew that this is what we were made for. Any other way of living is out of tune with the whole purpose of the universe.
Thankfully, the voice of the Good Shepherd is still heard in the Holy Spirit, since we still need to learn how to be shepherds to ourselves. Peter's certainty may sound embarrassingly harsh, but if you look at our other readings for today the strong impression emerges that Christians can only make these claims about Christ - by living them.
Perhaps as we begin to emerge once again out of the current Lockdown situation, we can once again put such words of wonder, belief and certainty in the name of Jesus into practical action in our community, and live for what we, as His Church, were made for.
Here is the Parish Link for this week.