The Fifth Sunday of Easter (5/2/2021)

Ps. 150; Acts 8:26-40; 1 Jn. 4:1-21; John 15:1-8

Vine, “I Am the true vine … Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me … Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (vv. 1a, 4, 5b, c).

Israel was God’s vineyard in the Promised Land; a planting that proved faithless, yielding only wild grapes (Isa. 5:2). God sent his Son in Israel’s stead to be faithful or “True Vine” for a vineyard in the world in whom all would be oriented, nourished, pruned, and increase in love toward God.

The Father’s new planting followed with Jesus’ Supper and Passion beginning in Gethsemane. Jesus is God’s “Seed” lifted upon the cross for planting into the earth (Jn. 12:24).

From the cross Jesus watered the earth with his blood, revealing God’s love for the world (3:14-16) and drawing all men to himself (12:32). Jesus germinated three days in the earth to rise and ascend to the Father; delivering the HS’s baptismal nurturing water for God pleasing fruit.

At the Lord’s Supper the Apostles partook of a new fellowship with Jesus in his body and blood, the church’s Passover food for a new exodus in and out of a dying world coming to fruition in the Resurrection.

Fellowship in Jesus’ NT Cup bespoke apostolic blood, making them and us, fruit of God’s Vine; that abiding in Jesus’ flesh and blood, the life we now live is by his holiness in every Eucharist celebration for love of God, brother and sister.

Last Sunday Jesus taught, “I Am the Good Shepherd” (Jn. 10:14) of the sheep, whose proper end is zealous sacrificial consumption to be the Place of his Father’s eternal dwelling (Ps. 69:9; Jn. 2:17, 18). In Jesus’ flesh and blood, we share the Holy things of our Thanksgiving in Christ; the Lord crushed, pressed, and poured-out for forgiveness in blended union with the Lord.

As we remain in Jesus, we possess life by the power of the Spirit in Word, Baptism, and Eucharist. God desires of his vineyard fidelity, right confession, catholic worship, and deed (1 Jn. 4:2; 3:18, 4:4).

God is love revealed on the cross; we are not. So also, love is God’s desired fruit from his vineyard. As always in Jesus, God gives what we do not possess of ourselves. Jesus is source of our new being; He puts a fine point on the matter, “[A]part from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5c).

That Jesus is source of our new life and God’s love in the world is on display in our Reading from Acts; the conversion and Baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch. In the Resurrection the church took her testimony of Jesus from Jerusalem, north to Gentile Samaria. But an angel directed Philip to open a southern campaign at Gaza. There the Evangelist engaged an Ethiopian proselyte to Judaism returning from pilgrimage, reading Isaiah’s final Suffering Servant prophesy (Isa. 53).

The eunuch was doubly restricted from Jewish worship; a Gentile, he was not permitted beyond the temple’s “soreg” wall dividing Court of Gentiles from the temple proper. The “soreg”, in stone relief warned, “No foreigner is to enter the barriers surrounding the sanctuary. He who is caught will have himself to blame for his death which will follow.”

Even had the eunuch converted to Judaism, and perhaps that was the point of his Scripture study, Mosaic Law forbad his participation in the community’s worship, “No one whose testicles are crushed or whose male organ is cut off shall enter the assembly of the LORD” (Deut. 23:1). Mosaic law deemed the man’s defect irremediable by animal or other sacrifice. The eunuch n the community affronted the assembly that God is Creator and Author of life in league with men for procreation and conception.

Nevertheless, the hobbled Gentile was captive to God’s word. At the angel’s direction, Philip caught-up to the Ethiopian, inquiring if he understood what he was reading. The man confessed his need for guidance.

Philip, baptized in the Spirit and taught the doctrine of the Apostles, witnessed, all Scripture is comprehended in the man Jesus (cf. Acts 8:35), God’s Suffering Servant, crucified and risen for sin, ascended to God, and abiding with his church in his flesh for our unrestricted access to the Father.

The Eunuch, as the Jewish man blind from birth on the outskirts of the temple (John 9), is descriptive of man’s excommunicate extremity. Apart from Jesus, we are dry branches, destined for destruction. But God’s gracious word, in belief, results in confession and desire for Baptism into Jesus’ wounds for miraculous regeneration (Acts 8:36, 37).

On the Last Day the Eunuch will be physically restored; more importantly, by the Spirit’s bestowal of faith in water and word, the man was restored to spiritual wholeness; releasing him from any impediment into the NT assembly of believers.

The Ethiopian’s restoration, if not to male physicality; was a circumcised virgins’ heart in the body of the militant church’s 144,000 (Rev. 14:4). The Eunuch’s belief in Jesus as God’s Suffering Servant at the cross was the greater offense for forgiveness in belief, that the man’s physical condition was no longer an offense.

By Baptism in Jesus’ Name, the Eunuch is a son of God and brother alive in God’s true Vine. No doubt the Ethiopian continued reading Isaiah on his way to Candace; three chapters later after the man’s joy would be magnified in the revelation of Jesus:

“Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the LORD say, ‘The LORD will surely separate me from his people; and let not the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree … ‘To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose the things that please me and hold fast my covenant … I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off … these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer … their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar …” (Isa. 56:3-7).

The fruit God desires is not only right confession of Jesus; but to partake of his love; being fruit to brother, sister, and neighbor; not love as the world loves, but as he has loved us; spontaneously, selflessly, and active to those in need as we are given sight. Amen.