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Bible Study: Easter 4 (B) – April 21, 2024

April 21, 2024

RCL: Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

Acts 4:5-12

This passage finds Peter and John having been arrested for teaching the Gospel to crowds of people. When they’re brought in front of the powers-that-be, rather than denying what they were doing or keeping silent, Peter doubles down and reaffirms that the healing and teaching they were doing was, in fact, in the name of Jesus Christ. When the chips were down, Peter chose not to lie to avoid trouble. Instead, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” he tells the truth, even while knowing that it could have dire consequences.

It’s exceptionally difficult to maintain a commitment to the truth when your personal safety and well-being are at risk. And yet, this is the call that the disciples knew they must answer. They take a big risk to continue preaching the Gospel, even and especially after seeing how the authorities tortured and killed Jesus. Their courage and commitment speak to the significance and depth of their belief in the Gospel, as well as their charge to continue to teach others about Jesus even in the face of personal danger.

  • What examples from history can you think of where an individual or group refused to compromise on telling the truth? What were the consequences? Was it worth it?
  • What are your most deeply held beliefs? Where do they come from, and how do they influence your life?

Psalm 23

This psalm is one of the most well-known pieces of Scripture in the entire Biblical canon. It is often memorized and recited to provide comfort, reassurance, and hope in difficult situations. Like many people, I often get nervous while flying. During takeoff, I find myself often whispering this psalm to myself under my breath as a way to provide comfort and remind myself that God is present even in frightening or dangerous situations.

Here, the psalmist proclaims God’s faithfulness and steadfastness. God never leaves us alone to fend for ourselves, nor forgets us when we need guidance, reassurance, or help. When we are in the midst of trouble, these truths can feel far away. The words of the psalm, however, help us to remain strong in our faith even during those times of uncertainty and fear.

  • Are there certain prayers or words from Scripture that bring you comfort?
  • What have been some of the “valley[s] of the shadow of death” that you’ve walked through in your life? Were you able to feel God’s presence during those times?

1 John 3:16-24

Most of us have probably heard the expression, “It’s not enough to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.” This sums up this passage well, as it reminds us that living the Gospel demands not just saying the right things, but also taking action for truth and justice. Following God’s commandments isn’t something we do to earn God’s love – that, after all, is a gift freely given to us. Instead, it’s a way of demonstrating the love that we have received and the desire to act with integrity in the world, loving others and doing what is right.

  • Is love an action, a feeling, or something else? How do you know when you are seeing someone act out of love?
  • What does it mean to lay down one’s life for another? How might you be being called to live out this commandment in your own life?

John 10:11-18

The Good Shepherd is one of the most enduring and powerful images of Christ, and a metaphor that helps us to understand the ways in which God loves us. In this passage, Jesus makes the distinction between a hired hand who abandons the sheep when times get tough, and a shepherd who never gives up on protecting his flock, even when it requires him to lay down his own life.

It is a powerful thing to know that we are loved so deeply and relentlessly, as Jesus describes to his followers here in this passage. Although difficulties and dangers are part of living a human life, Jesus assures us that ultimately, we have the protection of his self-sacrificial love which will never leave us out in the cold.

  • What would you do if you knew you were protected and could not fail?
  • What metaphors for Christ’s love do you find most powerful? What do you picture when you hear “the Good Shepherd?”

Sarah Neumann is a senior in seminary at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale and a candidate for holy orders in the Diocese of Massachusetts. She studied sociology and religion at Williams College and worked in nonprofit development before pursuing a call to ordination. Prior to seminary, Sarah served most recently as minister for youth and young adults at Trinity Church in Boston and is passionate about preaching, congregational development, and Christian formation. Outside of church, she enjoys being outdoors, solving word puzzles, and befriending other people’s pets.

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