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Bible Study Guide for Fourth Sunday of Easter

April 30, 2023

[Acts 2:42-47,  1 Peter 2:19-25,  John 10:1-10,  Psalm 23]

Easter season is occasionally so extensively festive and joyful that I get restless. Seven weeks of cheerful celebration – it takes work to maintain good spirits for so long. Besides, old problems start to rear their heads after a while. It’s right around this time in Easter season that the celebrations wind down and I find myself admitting that humanity is still struggling and injustices are still being done. The happy confidence of Easter morning can seem a long way off. If Jesus lives and reigns today, why do we still see pain and suffering in the world around us? In response, we turn to the figure of the Good Shepherd.

Though Paul’s letter can seem harsh with his apparent valorization of suffering, I think he names a central theme of today’s readings that help capture the fullness of the resurrection, the Good Shepherd, and Jesus’s message. As long as we live in a world where sin holds power, we will also experience pain and suffering. Jesus knew this when He came to Earth, and He did not exempt Himself from living a full human experience. He had the final triumph over sin and death and showed us that we will be freed from pain and suffering with our new life in Christ. The resurrection of Easter is a true promise that we have a future full of life ahead of us. Yet while we await His second coming and final victory, sin and pain remain – and so we follow the example of Christ who gave us a model of a holy life pleasing to God in a world full of sin. In this way, the Good Shepherd both models for us the suffering we endure and protects us as we make our way through the world. Rather than pretending sin and suffering don’t exist, we are guided to acknowledge pain as something to bring us closer to Jesus’s own life, overcoming pain together with Jesus while we build the Kingdom of God.

Growing up in the church, Psalm 23 was quite familiar and the Good Shepherd appeared in Sunday School about once a month, or so it seemed. The familiarity of the words can make it easy to gloss over this profound statement of courage, faith, and perseverance. The Psalmist isn’t living a peaceful, easy life – he speaks about enemies, death, and evil as his constant companions. Even Jesus’s parables of the Good Shepherd and the gate admit that thieves and bandits are everywhere, attempting to kill and destroy the Shepherd’s flock. The Shepherd is well aware that we are in a perilous situation, as are the sheep. We, the sheep, must also stay vigilant and discerning, not following an easy or misleading shepherd who does not have our best interests at heart. It takes courage to make our first steps towards following the Shepherd, a tremendous amount of courage to put our full faith and lives in the hands of the Shepherd. But the Shepherd’s promise is an Easter promise: life, abundant life, for those who follow Him.

– Betsy Noecker


What does the Easter season mean to you?

Where in your life have you been shepherded by Jesus?

Has your experience of pain and suffering informed your faith in the resurrection?


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