You are welcome to use the writings on these pages or pass them on to others who might find a touch from God in the words. Our purpose is always to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the world. Please remember to give credit to the Author who has given you everything, and keep in remembrance the vessel which He used to bring these words to you. We pray that this site may be a blessing to you and anyone with whom its been shared. All rights reserved. Peggy Hoppes
Christian Bible Study Pages
Our Lord is so good, He grants us many blessings. We can see Him in the daily course of events, in our homes, our jobs, our lives. I pray that these words help you to grow in your faith and recognize His hand in even the most mundane circumstances.
The picture to the right is of a Celtic Chapel located in Cornwall England. This building is approximately 1700 years old, and contains a holy well known for its healing powers.
(Click for enlarged)
“Now if Christ is preached, that he has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith also is in vain. Yes, we are also found false witnesses of God, because we testified about God that he raised up Christ, whom he didn’t raise up, if it is so that the dead are not raised. For if the dead aren’t raised, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable.” 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, WEB
My children attended a Department of Defense Dependents School when we lived in England. They had some wonderful programs for them, including field trips to London and castles. They also brought in guests to visit with the children. One guest led writing workshops for the older children. Another read his stories to the younger children. I helped with the PTA, so I had firsthand experience with the authors. They often brought books and signed them for the families.
One author, Dr. Alvin Granawsky, wrote a series of books that told common fairy tales from another point of view. His books both stories in one volume. On one side you’ll find a well-known fairy tale like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” or “Jack and the Beanstalk.” When you flip the book over, you find another story. The story about Goldilocks is titled, “Bears Should Share” and Jack’s story is told from the point of view from the Giant’s wife. She describes Jack, who is normally seen as the hero, as a mischievous thief.
Gregory Maguire does the same thing. The most famous of his writings is “Wicked” which looks at the relationship between the Wicked Witch, whom he has named Elphaba, and Glinda from Elphaba’s point of view. Elphaba had a hard life, after all she was born green. She is capable of falling in love, of doing good things. She is also passionate and opinionated, willing to stand up for her beliefs and do what she thinks is right. I don’t think Gregory Maguire makes her more likable, but you do see beyond her wicked witch image. Gregory Maguire has rewritten other fairy tales, like Snow White and Cinderella, giving us those stories from another point of view.
Zack once asked for a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. They were discussing the stories in one of his classes and he realized that what is written in the book is very often different from what we remember of the story. Take, for instance, the story of Cinderella. In the Grimm’s version, one of the ugly stepsisters actually cuts off her toes to make the shoe fit. The descriptions are harsh and dark, not sweet like the Disney version we remember. I love the movie “Ever After” which is a more real world and less fairy tale telling of the story.
We are a few weeks into the Easter season. Can you imagine what it might have been like for the disciples at this point? They had seen Jesus multiple times. Jesus was spending time with them, opening up their minds and their hearts to prepare them for the work that they were to do. In the meantime, however, rumors were running rampant around the city of Jerusalem. I’m certain that the Roman and Jewish leaders were investigating the claims. Even now there are those who offer opinions about what happened on that first day.
Have you ever notices that around Eastertide, television shows discuss the story of Christ from an analytical and critical point of view. I remember watching one show that documented the story of the Shroud of Turin, pointing out inconsistencies with its history and theories about it. A study was done on the shroud a few years ago which dated the linen to the middle ages, and thus confirming that it was a fraud. However, this particular show made the claim that the linens that were tested were fake, and that the real shroud was never really tested. The experts went on to say that a forensic study of the shroud reveals that Jesus was not dead when laid in the tomb, but that He was actually saved by Joseph of Arimathea and laid in that unused tomb in a coma for a few days. Then they reported that when Christ was seen in those days following the crucifixion, it was a resuscitated man not a resurrected man. They even claimed the Bible proves their point, and quoted several scriptures.
They have rewritten the story. There are times when it is good to see a story from another point of view, and there are often lessons we can learn from other characters. It really doesn’t matter much when the stories are fairy tales. But when we make these changes, we should consider what sort of impact will it have on the hearer. Will we learn not to judge a witch by the color of her skin? Or will we accept that wickedness is acceptable because it is a response to a harsh life? What happens when we change the story of Jesus to fit the theories of those experts? Is it enough for Easter to be resuscitation day?
The experts who make the claims that scripture proves their point ignore the scriptures that tell us differently. Today’s message from Paul clearly states that Christ died and was raised. If this is not true, then the entire mission of the Christian church is pointless. Without the resurrection, our preaching is futile, and so is our faith. A coma on the cross would never finish the work God started, the work of forgiveness that came with the shedding of Christ’s blood. Christ overcame death, winning for us eternal life. He could not have done so if He simply slept for two days. But then, these other versions of the story are as old as the one we believe and love. So let us begin this new day telling the story of Christ without twisting it into something new. His story is best told as it was given to us and it is as true today as it was in the days of Paul.
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Lectionary Scriptures for April 25, 2021, Fourth Sunday of Easter: Acts 4:1-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18
“By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” 1 John 3:16, WEB
Psalm 23 is one of the most beloved passages of scripture, perhaps even one of the best known. Even if you can’t quote it word for word, I suspect that you are familiar enough with it to give a decent rendering. We love this passage because we find comfort in it, especially in those tough times. It is, of course, used often at the beside of the sick and dying and is very popular at funerals. In it we can experience God’s presence and His care through the good times and bad.
Yet, I have to admit that we use it an awful lot in the lectionary. It is the psalm of the day at least six times in the three year lectionary, so we’ve looked at it more than any other text in the past three years. It might also be used at other times, for special festivals or remembrances. It is always used on the fourth Sunday of Easter, which is Good Shepherd Sunday, so we hear it each year at this time.
So, how do we look at something that is so familiar with new eyes?
Perhaps we should look at them in the context of the Psalms. Though many of the psalms were written separately, by different writers, at different times in the history of Israel, the editor of the book of Psalms (perhaps Ezra) was inspired by the Holy Spirit to put them together in an order that places these songs and prayers in ways that tell a bigger story. The Songs of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) are pilgrim psalms, sung as the Jews traveled toward Jerusalem for festivals. The Egyptian Hallel (Psalms 113-118) are used during the Passover Seder. The same is true of the Shepherd Trilogy which is Psalm 22-24; our understanding is so much fuller if they are taken together. They focus on Christ the King. We see Him as the Suffering Servant, the Loving Shepherd and the Reigning King. It is a trilogy of the past, present and future of our Eternal King.
Psalm 22 is very familiar. We read it on Good Friday as we strip the altar. We do this because Jesus quoted Psalm 22 on the cross. He said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The imagery of the Passion is found in this psalm. He is forsaken. He is scorned and mocked. He thirsts. He is surrounded by ruthless people. His hands and feet are pierced. His garments are divided and lots are cast for his clothing. As we read Psalm 22, we see the suffering of Jesus. The psalm also shows us, however, that the afflicted one is not forsaken. God has not hidden his face from him; God has heard his cry. Affliction is not the end of the story. The suffering one will eat and be satisfied.
Affliction leads to deliverance. Jesus knew, despite the cry of abandonment on the cross, that God can be trusted. God is faithful. One day the whole world will join in worship of Him. Psalm 22 gives us a vivid portrait of affliction, alludes to the resurrection and then closes with a future-facing kingdom reign. Jesus fulfills in the Gospels everything we see in the psalm.
Psalm 24 is less familiar, but the theme of kingship continues. This comes at a high point when the King takes his place on the throne. It is a coronation song. The righteous king ascends to the Lord’s hill. He has triumphed, and he proceeds to the seat from which he will rule the nations, until every last one of his enemies become his footstool.
We see affliction and a glimmer of hope in Psalm 22. We celebrate a victorious monarchy in Psalm 24. Psalm 23 comes right in the middle. Psalm 23 is the bridge between affliction and triumph, both for Jesus and for us. The pain of the afflicted one in Psalm 22 is translated into contentment and trust in Psalm 23. There is still pain. Real pain. Darkness surrounds the suffering one, but God is the rescuer. God is the Shepherd. He leads and restores. Even though the afflicted one walks through the valley of the shadow of death, God is there to guide and rescue and comfort.
The afflicted one is forsaken, but not utterly forsaken. And therefore, the afflicted one doesn’t fear. In fact, he’s satisfied. He shall not want. God prepares a table for him in the presence of his enemies. He is victorious, and God anoints him. The afflicted one says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Even through affliction. Even through the valley. Even through the grave. God’s goodness and steadfast love and faithfulness will pursue those who trust in Him. Psalm 23 ends with the psalmist dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.
This is the hope that gave Peter and the disciples they courage to stand for Jesus Christ.
We can look at Psalm 23 from Peter’s perspective. Peter, zealous to continue the work Christ began, met a beggar at the door of the Temple. Instead of handing him money which Peter did not have, Peter gave him the one thing he did have: healing in Jesus’ name. The crowds were amazed, but Peter quieted their questions with a proclamation of the Gospel. “Jesus was the fulfillment of the promises found in Moses and the prophets. All those who believe in Him will be heirs, forgiven and transformed and blessed.” The leaders of the Temple were offended by their preaching. Who was Peter to offer forgiveness? This was as blasphemous as the things that Jesus was preaching. The words Peter preached usurped the authority that the Temple leaders though belonged to them.
He and John were arrested. We don’t really know how much time passed between that first Easter Day and the day they were arrested. It was at least seven weeks, after Pentecost. The early Christian community, not yet identified by that name, was beginning to grow. As a matter of fact, those who believed after the healing of the crippled man numbered over five thousand men, not to mention the women and children. This was a quickly growing community of faith. They had established some customs, meeting together for meals, learning from the apostles, breaking the bread as Christ commanded, sharing everything with one another. They praised God together and were making a difference in the world in which they lived.
Peter and John knew that some day they would face inquiry from the Temple leaders. Jesus had told them that they would be hated as he had been hated. They would suffer the same persecution; they would even drink from the same cup. Yet, Peter faced this arrest and false trial calmly with confidence. It wasn’t his words or abilities that gave him hope or peace. It was the knowledge that Jesus Christ was his Shepherd. The comforting words of these psalms may have been on his lips that night he spent in prison. He was walking through a valley, and did not know what would happen the next day. He did know that the suffering servant obeyed God and that in the end He triumphed and is King. Peter trusted in the One who did know, and who had prepared that table of goodness on which Peter could feast even in the presence of his enemies. He was happy, content. He knew God’s lovingkindness surrounded him, despite the circumstances he had to face.
We can face our difficulties with the same trust and confidence. The Lord Jesus is indeed our Good Shepherd and we can trust that He will be faithful because He suffered death and was buried but was also raised from the dead. Now He walks with us, helps us through the good times and the bad. He prepares a place for us and provides all we need. Our cup runs over, not by any work of our own but because God loves us as His own. We are His sheep and we need not fear.
Have you ever thought how wonderful it might be to be a animal? I look at my cats occasionally and think I would enjoy living their life. They sleep all day. They are fed when they are hungry. They have plenty of toys and someone to clean up after them. They don’t have to make any decisions. They are well loved and get all the love and affection they could desire. Who wouldn’t want that kind of life? I hate to make decisions, especially those that affect others. Some aren’t important; are lives won’t be different no matter where we go out for dinner. However, the decision whether to take a sick child to the doctor could be life and death.
We have to make other decisions through our lives. Have you ever wondered where you might be if you had made different decisions along the way? What if you went to a different school or pursued a different career? What if you didn’t turn down that prom date or if you went on that spring break trip? What might be different? Do you have any regrets? Do you think it would have been easier if there had been someone telling you what you should do every step along the way? That’s not the way life works, is it? We aren’t sheep. Jesus is our shepherd, but that doesn’t mean that He will do everything for us.
Instead, we are called to be shepherds right alongside our Lord and Master, helping others to live and learn and love. Jesus is our cornerstone and we have been built on that foundation.
The work we do for our neighbors might seem insignificant. The words we say might not seem life changing. Yet, there can be hope in those works and words. Peter and John did little more than say, “Get up in the name of Jesus” and a man was healed. If it hadn’t been for the crowds in the Temple at the time, we might not have even heard that story. They crowds saw a man they knew had been begging by the Temple gate jumping for joy. How can a lame man dance? Was the man faking all these years? The man wasn’t even a very good beggar. He didn’t care. Peter and John had to say, “Look at us” before the man even realized they were there. He was in despair and felt that nothing he did would make a difference.
It was not a very good life the beggar was leading, but it was much easier to be dropped on the doorstep of the Temple for the day than to deal with the realities of his life. Bad circumstances make us think that we aren’t capable of making the right decisions, so we want someone else to do it for us. If we were sheep, we’d never have to worry. If we are hungry we can blame someone else. When we are sheep, we just look to others to provide all we need. But we aren’t sheep. As a matter of fact, God calls us to be shepherds.
So, as we go about our day, is there someone sitting at the gate who needs a word of hope from Jesus? The impact of that word might be greater than we would ever expect. The Good Shepherd has given us the gifts we need to make a transforming difference in the lives of those who are lost in the darkness of this world, but we can’t accomplish anything with those gifts if we are expecting others to do everything for us. We are blessed to be a blessing. It might seem hard sometimes. We might even fail to do what we should do. But we can go forth in faith knowing that Jesus has accomplished the hard work of salvation, doing our best to share His grace with others in whatever manner we are able. God knows our limitations and He is with us through it all.
We’ve all seen the images. The reporter and cameraman follow animal control officials into a compound where the caretakers have lost control. Animals are found in cages that are much too small, lying in their own waste. They are diseased and malnourished. The owners are arrested or fined for animal abuse and the animals are taken away to someone who will properly care for them. It is heartbreaking to see those animals: the cry for help in their eyes, the frighteningly thin bodies and scruffy exteriors.
In another example, a family has a heart for caring for animals. They take in a stray cat or two, but soon the numbers are unmanageable. They can’t afford to have the cats neutered, or they adopt the pets when they are already pregnant. One or two cats quickly becomes a dozen, which quickly becomes too many for one home. Though they may offer food and water for the animals, it is difficult to keep a home with so many pets clean. Carpets become stained and the furniture infested with fleas. The house smells of urine. The people meant well. They had the heart to take care of the needs for those first strays, but they did not have the resources or know how to deal with all aspects of pet ownership. It is expensive to take each animal for shots and other medical services. In the end, the picture is not pretty and the animals are not really given the care they need.
These two examples might be models of bad shepherds. What does it mean to be a good shepherd? Let me tell you a third story. In Warwickshire, England, animal control officers found a whimpering dog cowering inside a locked shed, obviously not given the care she needed. She was timid from abuse, as well as dirty and starving. They took her to a wildlife sanctuary where the keepers help injured or abandoned animals heal before they are released back into the wild or given to good families. They took very good care of the dog and she rebounded quickly. She was brought back to full health and her trust in human beings was restored. The man who runs the sanctuary, Geoff Grewcock, began looking for a new home for the dog they had named Jasmine. Jasmine had a different plan.
As new animals were brought into the sanctuary, Jasmine took it upon herself to be a one dog welcome wagon. She loved those animals like a mother. It didn’t matter what type of animal was brought it, she stayed with them, cuddled with them, cleaned them. She ensured their comfort and gave them the love and support they needed. I heard about this story through an email, and in the email there are pictures of Jasmine interacting with deer, bunnies, foxes, badgers, guinea pigs, and even birds. In one picture, Jasmine is on a coach with some of her friends: two dogs, a deer, a rabbit and an owl. Not only has Jasmine made the other animals trust her, they trust each other even though in the wild they may be enemies or prey.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. John writes about a shepherd as he might be in the field with a flock of sheep. It doesn’t matter what dangers he might face, he will not abandon his flock. Unlike the hired hands, he will stay with them despite the angry wolves. Jesus is like Jasmine, embracing every hurt and frightened animal. He provides all we need so that we might have life and have it abundantly. In this story, Jesus told the disciples that whatever happened to Him (and they would soon learn about His horrible end on the cross), He would not be destroyed by others. He laid down His life for His sheep. Whatever happened, Jesus told them, He had the power and those who would harm Him did not. Even today we listen to His voice and follow Him because He knows us and we know Him. It is in His care we will find peace and love.
There are bad shepherds, but we can trust that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and that He will take care of us. We are called, then, to be good shepherds, too. Not to do harm, but to do good for our neighbors.
Peter and John did good for their neighbor, the lame man at the gate of the Temple. Unfortunately, the shepherds inside the gates disapproved and arrested the disciples. The disciples had no authority to offer forgiveness. The Jewish leaders did not understand where they got their power but they didn’t believe it was from God. Peter answered, “If we are examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.” Jesus is the source of their power.
From the beginning of this thing called Christianity we’ve heard what Peter says so clearly in today’s lesson. Jesus said it, too. “I am the way.” Salvation comes only through the blood of Jesus Christ. This does not mean that somehow Christians are better than others. It also does not mean that the Christians you know today are the only ones who will spend eternity with the Father. But there is no doubt, from Jesus’ own words and the witness of those first Christians: those who reject Jesus will not be saved. It is up to us to be bold witnesses to that Good News, to tell the story so that they will hear and believe. We can’t be wishy-washy. We can love, honor and respect all our neighbors no matter what they believe. But we are called to tell the story of Jesus to them all so that they will be saved.
This attitude is seen as arrogance, haughtiness, superiority, conceit, or pride by those who do not believe. “You just think you are better than others,” they say. So we concede and encourage our neighbors to follow their own hearts. I agree that there are some wonderful aspects of other religions. Yes, there is grace and mercy, kindness and peace. Yes, there are people in every faith tradition who do good and wonderful things. It is even possible that God is working through those faith traditions in His own way. We are not meant to be arrogant, haughty, superior, conceited, or proud, but called and gifted to be loving, joyful, peaceful, longsuffering, kind, good, faithful, meek, and self-controlled. We are called to a humble life of sharing the story of Jesus Christ with bold confidence so that everyone will be saved.
A woman stabbed her husband. The motive was unclear. Was she abused? Did she lose her temper? We don’t know if the stabbing was self-defense or aggression. The woman responded to the event in a most unusual way. When she was speaking with a policeman on the scene, she asked if the knife would be returned to her. The policeman was a bit shocked by the question, but asked her, “Why?” She answered, “Because that knife was part of a set that was given to us for our wedding.” Isn’t it ironic that the gift was seemingly more important than her husband? The marriage was obviously broken, and she did not want the same thing for that set of knives.
What kind of love makes person have more concerned about material goods than human need?
Another example is the man who works eighty hours a week to keep his family in a lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. Yes, it is the loving man who willingly sacrifices his time and energy for the sake of his family, but is he making the right sacrifice? Are the big house, the state of the art electronics and the expensive clothes worth the lost time together as a family? He loves his family by doing for them, instead of being with them. Perhaps the real sacrifice would be letting go of some of the stuff so that true love between people can be maintained.
Jesus’ sacrificed Himself for the sake of those He loves. He died on the cross so that we might have life. He did not do this so that we might have bigger houses or fancier clothes. He did not do this so that we would put the symbols that mean something to us ahead of the needs of others. What kind of life do we have if stuff is more important than people? We are called to live the life that lives sacrificially for others. This means laying aside our own selves and desires to aid those who need us.
John writes, “Let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth.” What does it mean to lay down our lives for another? It means, like Peter and John, facing the questions from the Sanhedrin with the confidence that God is the one who is able to transform lives and spread the Gospel message. It means living humbly in the world, realizing that an incomplete set of knives is trivial but a broken heart or shattered relationship requires mercy and compassion, forgiveness and hope. Love isn’t found in the good things we collect. God doesn’t dwell in that kind of love. He abides in the hearts of those who live in the forgiveness of God and share the transforming power of God’s grace with others. As the song says, “They will know we are Christian by our love,” and that love is manifest through the deeds we do for the sake of others.
Peter, like the rest of us, would probably have preferred just going to the temple that day to share in the fellowship, worship and sacrifice being offered there. He was on his way to be a sheep - to be fed - as many of us do each Sunday. On his way, however, he met a sheep in greater need. Offering Christ to that man forced Peter to sacrifice his time, his freedom, and even eventually his life. It might not be so convenient for us to offer Christ to our neighbor. It might cause friction and even threaten our relationships. It might be a sacrifice of our time. We may even have to give up something that means a great deal to us.
We don’t want to do it. We don’t want to take the risk. We don’t want to step out of our comfort zone. We want to be sheep: fed, watered, and led. Yet, the love of God calls us to be more. The Good Shepherd first loved us so that we will love. In this we will truly know God, know that we abide in Him and know that Jesus Christ is the name above all others names. For through His name we will see the power of God healing the sick and making whole those who are broken. And there we shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
The following links provide some specially chosen scripture that tell the stories of the Birth and Passion of our Lord as Saviour Jesus Christ, as well as a fictional perspective of the Crucifixion. Spend time in God's Word, read about His life and learn of the wonderful gifts He has for you. Know Jesus Christ and honour Him today. Thanks be to God.
When researching, I use several versions of the bible, including the New International Version and English Standard Version. Due to copyright restrictions, I have not included quotes for the scriptures on some of the archives, but highly encourage you to open your own bibles to read the scripture passages for yourselves. Where scripture is quoted, it is usually the American Standard Version or World English Bible which belong to the public domain. Any other versions used in quotes are identified.
The devotion posted on Wednesday is based on the Lectionary texts used by millions of Christians each Sunday. The Lectionary consists of four texts: an Old Testament passage, a Psalm, a passage from one of the Epistles and a Gospel text and follows the church calendar. Archives for these writings are found at Midweek Oasis.
You are welcome to use these words to share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. Please remember to give credit to the Author who has given you these gifts, and keep in remembrance the vessel which He used to bring them to you. We pray that this site may be a blessing to you and anyone with whom you've shared it. Peggy Hoppes