This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on April 24, 2016.
Our preaching of this text should take into account what precedes it. On this night before his death, Jesus is at table with his disciples. Unlike the other Gospels, John says nothing of bread and wine, but tells instead of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. More than a demonstration of servanthood, it is an acted parable of the laying down of his life for them. He tells them they should do the same for each other. Then he says that one of them will betray him, whereupon Judas departs into the night.
So as Jesus goes on to speak in our text, a basin of dirty water and a damp towel are close by, his listeners’ feet are freshly washed, and there is a conspicuously empty space at the table.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on April 17, 2016.
For most churches that observe the liturgical year, the fourth Sunday of Easter is designated, “Good Shepherd Sunday.” From the early centuries of the church and well into modern times, the day was observed only one week after Easter Sunday, and was regarded as a feast of exceptional importance. On Good Shepherd Sunday each year, the Twenty-Third Psalm is read, as is a portion of Jesus’ “Good Shepherd discourse” in John 10. A different segment of John 10 is read each year: verses 1-10 in Year A; verses 11-18 in Year B; and in our Year C text, verses 22-30.
It may seem puzzling to us that an entire Sunday every year is given to a single image of Christ (and of God) especially one that is so culturally remote from most modern listeners. But the New Testament makes many allusions to Jesus as a shepherd, and even the Roman catacombs are filled with depictions of him as the Good Shepherd. The 10th chapter of John is a rich meditation on the theme, with much to contemplate and to preach.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on April 10, 2016.
John’s epilogue provides a powerful conclusion to the gospel, despite the number of perplexing elements to the story. A number of unanswered questions arise from the text. Why do the disciples return to fishing? Why are we told the specific number of fish caught in the nets (153)? Why are there two different words for “love” mentioned in this text? Why were the disciples able to catch fish simply by casting their nets on the other side of the boat? While these enigmatic issues are fascinating, the preacher is better off centering the sermon on the clearer declarations within the text.
The setting invites some intertextual observations which can inform the sermon. The disciples are fishing on the Sea of Tiberius (21:1). The only other time the Sea of Tiberius is mentioned in the gospel is when it serves as the setting for the feeding of the 5000 in chapter 6. In that story, Jesus provides a miraculous meal for a large crowd. In this story, Jesus provides an ordinary breakfast for a small crowd. In both stories, Jesus proves to be the provider for those who follow him. Like God who provided manna in the wilderness, Jesus provides fish and bread to sustain his people in their need.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on April 3, 2016.
In a number of ways, this text serves as the pinnacle of John’s gospel. Themes which run like threads through the fabric of the gospel find their culmination in this text. If one views chapter 21 as the epilogue of the gospel, then this text serves as the conclusion to the core narrative. Its location in the narrative and its theological density demand that the preacher interpret this text against the overarching Johannine narrative.
The disciples were huddled behind closed doors. At this point in the story, they are no longer hiding from the horrors of crucifixion but the wonders of resurrection. The preacher might want to pause and illustrate ways in which resurrection upsets the status quo as much as crucifixion does. The resurrection says, “The world doesn’t work the way you’ve always thought it worked.” Many find it easier to huddle up and retain whatever normality remains rather than live into the subversion of resurrection. However, in this text, Jesus sends his followers out rather than blessing their huddle. Followers of Jesus cannot stay in our huddles, largely because he did not stay in his tomb.