In the Bible, salvation is not concerned with the person entering eternal life but has much to do with the person’s life in this world, and the removing of obstacles to someone living as full a human life as possible. The social justice is an important part of the Gospel message. Whatever structures keep people trapped in hopeless situations fall into the biblical category of sin.
A related theme in our readings this weekend is that of the rejection of the prophet. The stone rejected by the builders is applied to Jesus in the context of his being raised from the dead after the apparent triumph of his enemies. In his two-part work of the Gospel and Acts, Luke draws upon this motif of initial rejection and subsequent acceptance. Moses, the patriarch, Joseph, and Jesus were rejected at first by their contemporaries; the apostles suffer the same fate when they exercise their mandate as prophets of the Good News, but they are still empowered by the Holy Spirit and an early setback is not the end of the story by any means.
The Church has a prophetic mission: but we might remember that the Church is not primarily an institution, it is the People of God. By virtue of being baptised, every Christian has a prophetic role, to bear witness to what she or he believes. Whether this commitment leads us into public social action or to living out our Christian calling in mundane ways, there is always the danger that we can become discouraged when we meet with failure and are tempted to abandon the effort. It could help us to remember that even the apostles found themselves facing opposition and hostility, but today we are reminded that the Holy Spirit is with the disciples of Jesus, and the giving of the Holy Spirit is the final act in the Easter mystery: it is an integral part not an afterthought. The Holy Spirit is the life-force of the Church.
The self-giving of Jesus is very much at the heart of the Gospel this weekend. Jesus is described as the ‘Good Shepherd’, but the expression ‘model shepherd’ might capture the sense better. Jesus is the model for all shepherds within the People of God. We might bear in mind that in the scriptures, the criticism of the prophets and of Jesus is directed at the leaders (shepherds) of the community, not the people in general.
Canon Francis Brown