Sunday April 25, 2021, The Fourth Sunday of Easter (Cycle B)
The tie in between today’s readings: The Stone and Shepherd
First, we’ll start off in Act 4:8-12. Here we find Peter, John, and the formally lame man in Acts 3 standing before the “Who’s who” of Jewish authority to answer for, of all thing, a healing. Among their inquisitors is Caiaphas, a notable adversary from the Gospels. In fact, it would be safe to say that many of the assembled there participated in Jesus’ illegal midnight trial that sent Him to the cross. Their intimidating cross examination begins:
“By what power, or in what name, have you done this?”
Spirit filled post Pentecostal Peter answers, “This man is healed by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene.” Then proving that he can give as good as he gets, he continues, “Whom you crucified and
God raised from the dead!” he quotes Psalm 118:22, “He is The stone which (you) the builders rejected and has become the chief cornerstone.”
You can imagine Caiaphas’ thoughts racing back to Jesus, the accusative rabbi who challenged their teachings and attacked their character. That miracle working king of the Jews charlatan, who thought Himself to be God, and nearly brought the hammer of Rome down upon their heads. “No, given what was at stake, the declaration that for everybody’s sake Jesus must die (John 11:49-51) was the right one and yet…look at what these ignorant fishermen can do.”
It is a sure bet that others in the counsel are disturbed by Peter’s remarks as well. They remember that Jesus, Himself, had told them that he was the cornerstone and warned them of the consequences of rejecting Him, as we read in Luke 20:16-19:
16 He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.” When they heard it, they said, “May it never be!” 17 But Jesus looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written:
‘The stone which the builders rejected,
This became the chief corner STONE’?
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.19 The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them.
Peter slaps them with the gauntlet of fate with his concluding statement that Jesus is the only name given under heaven by which men can be saved. Each of these rulers must do a 180-degree reevaluation of the Messiah and themselves or face their doom. Some will eventually repent and come to a saving faith in Christ, others will not…just as it is today. After the Council confers in private and decides that nothing punishable was committed, they release them with a threat not to speak about Jesus again. Fat chance. Peter and John are on a mission from the Lord, and they are just getting started.
The Apostles know the risks but, as it says in Psalm 118:8-9, it is always better to follow God rather than man. Men are like the hired hands in today’s reading in John 10:11-18. When the going gets tough, they’ll throw you to the wolves. Their leaders saw Jesus as a liability and gave their Messiah up to be crucified but, God was in control. The Lord used their actions for the redemption of mankind. We can see hints of this in Psalm 118:21;23-29: the acknowledgement of God’s purpose (vs 23-24), Christ’s coming as king (vs 26), His sacrifice (vs27), and salvation (vs21,25, 28-29). Jesus, as the good shepherd in our gospel reading, submitted to the Father’s intention, and said no less than five times that He was going to lay down His life for His sheep, unlike the hireling. Being aware of the plan and seeing God’s hand has made all the difference for the disciples. No longer the scattering cowards of Gethsemane, as before, now they are willing to lay down their lives for their good Shepherd and with this change they have become the good sheep.
In fact, our reading in 1 John 3:1-2 points out that change is the essence of Christianity. We become children of God and strangers to the world through faith in Jesus: a change in relationship. A child of God has a new role as Christ’s disciple: a change in purpose. Even our very existence will alter when He comes back, and the Lord transforms us to be like Himself: a change in destiny.
So, how about you? Have you changed? Are you still standing defiantly against God? Are you indulging yourself, staying away from Confession and rationalizing your bad behavior? It won’t end well. Kneel before Jesus, God’s Rock of salvation, the foundation of the Church, and your cornerstone of forgiveness. Acknowledge your sin and repent. He will never cast you away but, instead, calls out to you to come follow Him and be part of His fold, where He will shepherd you through life until you reach the gates of glory…and dwell in the house of the Lord forever.