Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 20, 2012
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
Today our reading in Acts returns to the opening chapter. We hear about the election of Matthias to fill the vacany in the apostles left by the exclusion of Judas. There were to be twelve members. Because there had been twelve tribes of Israel, twelve had become a sacred number.
I would guess that our bishops thought the story they cut from the middle of our reading was too unpleasant for such nice folks as we. Judas takes his ill-gotten gains and buys a field. As soon as he steps into it, his abdomen bursts open, his guts spill out, and he dies. Luke, if he is the author, seems not to have known Matthew’s story of Judas hanging himself (Matt 27:5).
First John 5:9-13
Our reading continues those of the last two Sundays. Human testimony that Jesus is the Christ, from, for example, John the Baptist, is inferior to God’s own testimony. That testimony is found in our own hearts. (Suggestive of Jeremiah 31:33, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.”) God testifies that he gives eternal life to those who do not have the Son. His sweeping statement would seem to include, not only sinners and non-believers, but non-Christian people as well. This is disappointing to me, for I do not believe that atheists and people of other faiths are cut off from God’s love. But I don’t think John really meant that, In the opening of this sermon-letter, he had said the contrary, that Jesus’ atonement is not only for “us,” but “for the sins of the whole world” (our reading of April 15, 1:1 – 2:2). His remark here is probably directed toward Gnostics and other groups he considered herital, splinter Christian sects that have lost Christ.
Arthur H. Cash is a historian and distinguished professor emeritus, State University of New York at New Paltz.