Saturday, April 11, 2015
Isaiah 25:1-9; Psalm 92; Acts 4:13-31; John 16:16-33
We are in the apocalyptic section of First Isaiah, leading scholars to think it was written by Second or Third Isaiah and later inserted here. It begins as a hymn praising God for having fulfilled ancient plans by destroying the enemy (who that might be is uncertain), leaving others who are strong, absorbed in praise, and the ruthless nations surrounding Israel standing in awe and fear. God has been a refuge and shelter to the needy. Now, the poem turns to the future, following God’s intervention. On this mountain (Zion), the Lord will make a feast of rich foods and well-aged wines to celebrate its redemption. He will destroy the shroud cast over the people and swallow up death forever, wiping away the tears from all faces. In that day it will be said, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have waited; let us rejoice in his salvation.” This text had profound impact on both Paul, as he wrote to the Corinthians about the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:54), and John of the Apocalypse (Revelation 7:17).
Psalm 92 is a hymn of thanksgiving and is identified in its header as a song for the sabbath. It is perfectly suited for remembering and praising the Lord in sabbath rest, when the worshipper is to reflect on God’s goodness. The hours of prayer are cited, as well as the music to accompany such prayer in the temple. The Lord has made the psalmist glad by God’s work. At the sight of it, the psalmist sings for joy. He then turns to reflect upon what God has done. The dullard cannot know and the stupid cannot understand the ways of God. Though the wicked sprout like grass, they are doomed for destruction forever, for the Lord will destroy his enemies. In addition, the Lord has exalted the psalmist’s strength (horn), like that of a wild ox, and poured fresh oil upon him in blessing. His eyes have seen the downfall of his personal enemies and his ears have heard of the doom of his assailants. The psalm ends in typical wisdom tradition with the affirmation that the righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon planted in courts of the house of the Lord. In old age, they continue to be fruitful, full of strength and sexual potency—showing that the Lord is upright and a rock to those who fear him. “There is no unrighteousness in him.”
The religious leaders are astonished at the boldness of Peter and John, especially since they are people with no formal religious or legal training. Yet, their speech is clearly authoritative and informed, not unlike that of Jesus with whom they now recognize Peter and John to have been associated. More, seeing the man who had been cured standing beside them, it was clear—here was a miracle at their hand that was substantive and could not be easily dismissed. What to do? They order Peter and John out of the room while the council (Sanhedrin) confers to determine precisely how to proceed. A “notable sign has been done through them. All who live in Jerusalem will know about it.” The council decides the best thing to do is to curtail things by forbidding Peter and John to speak again in Jesus’ name. Calling them back into the room, the council delivers its judgment, but Peter and John will have none of it. Acting in full respect of the religious leaders, Peter issues his famous speech: “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge,” and then announces that, as for them, they will not keep silent, no matter how severely threatened by the council. The council, for its part, is unable to find any reason to further detain them, and so, upon warning and threatening them further, they let Peter and John go. Not only can they not deny what has happened, but more, the people are praising God for it. After all, the man who was healed had borne the affliction for his entire life—forty years—and is now completely healed. Upon their release, Peter and John return to the other disciples and report on what had happened. Immediately, all break into prayer, using Psalm 2:1-2, praising God for his sovereignty over all the powers of the earth. They recognize that, in and through the raging of the Gentiles, their own people have colluded against God’s holy child Jesus, but, in doing so, have ended up doing precisely what God has planned from the beginning. It all serves God’s greater purposes. The lesson concludes as they pray that God will, in the midst of their being threatened, grant the disciples boldness to speak God’s word, as well as continue to stretch out his hand to heal and perform other signs and wonders in Jesus’ name through them. As they pray thus, the place where they are gathered is shaken and all there are filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to speak the word of God with boldness.
Jesus speaks to the disciples about what is soon to happen to him. They will not see him, and then they will see him again—he is “going away” to the Father and then will be “coming again.” The disciples are confused by these words. Jesus warns that, when he is gone, they will weep and lament while the world rejoices. They will grieve, but their grief will suddenly be turned to joy. All of this will come upon them as unexpectedly as labor pains come to a pregnant woman, and, like her, there will be nothing they can do about it. But, just as a mother’s anguish is turned to joy when the child is born, so, too, the disciples’ grief will give way to an unimaginable joy, a joy that no one will be able to take away. On that day, whatever they ask of the Father in Jesus’ name, the Father will give them. Until now, they have asked for nothing in Jesus’ name. And so he tells them, “Ask, and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.” Until now, Jesus has been talking about these things using “figures of speech,” but the hour is coming when he will tell them plainly of the Father. Then, they will ask the Father in his name, but, it will not be Jesus asking the Father on their behalf, but the Father, who loves them, responding directly to them, because they have loved Jesus and believed that he came from God. Again, Jesus reminds them that, as he came into the world from the Father, he is leaving the world to go to the Father. The disciples now affirm that he is speaking to them directly rather than in figures of speech. Consequently, they now know that he knows all things, and they no longer have a need to question him. They believe that he came from God. Jesus responds to this confession by telling them that the hour is coming, indeed has come, when they will be scattered, each to his own home, abandoning Jesus. Still, Jesus is not alone because the Father is with him. All of this Jesus says to them so that they may have and be at peace. In this world, they face persecution. But, they are to take courage, for Jesus has conquered the world!
Friday, April 10, 2015
Daniel 12:1-4, 13; Psalm 96; Acts 4:1-12; John 16:1-15
The closing chapter of the Book of Daniel portrays Michael, Israel’s guardian angel, rising and a time of great anguish taking place, “such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence.” The prophecy announces that Daniel’s people shall be delivered—everyone whose name is found written in the book [of life]. The Book of Life is a common image in apocalyptic literature, a volume in which the names of those who will live after resurrection and judgment are inscribed. This leads to the first overt expression of the resurrection of the dead, using the imagery of Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones, and helps transform that text from a prophecy about return from exile into one about resurrection. “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake.” Some will be raised to everlasting life and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who have been prudent, wise and have led many to righteousness, will rise and shine like the brightness of the stars in the heavens and will do so forever. As for Daniel, he is to keep these words secret and the Book of Life sealed until the time of the end. Until then, many will run back and forth and evil will only increase. Skipping over the book’s epilogue, the book concludes with instructions and one last promise to Daniel: he is to go his way and enter into his rest (die). He shall be among those who are raised at the end of days.
Psalm 96 celebrates God’s goodness as King, and calls on all creation to “sing a new song to the Lord!” It celebrates the goodness of God’s sovereignty over all things and is a reminder that God is not only sovereign, but judge, and will judge with righteousness and truth. Every line is a call to worship. It is, perhaps, the finest example of a hymn of praise we have in the entire Psalter, filled with familiar and beautiful words and phrases that praise and thank God. In addition, it keeps before us the important truth that God not only reigns in goodness, but is coming in judgment that is righteousness and truth—another form of God’s goodness, and that justice will ultimately be done.
The Sadducees, who do not believe in resurrection, are greatly annoyed by Peter and John proclaiming that, in Jesus, there is the resurrection of the dead, and so they go to the religious officials and together come to the temple to arrest Peter and John, taking them into custody overnight, for it is already late in the day. It appears that they also took the healed man into custody as well. Nonetheless, many who heard the word that day believed; Luke tells us about five thousand. The next morning the Sanhedrin gathers. Luke, ever concerned with documentation, lists among them the names of the high priest Annas, who reigned from 6 to 15 CE, and Caiaphas who followed him, as well as two others of the high priestly family, John and Alexander. The council then makes the three who had been held overnight stand before them and its members ask, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” As Jesus had promised, under such inquiry Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit and preaches his third sermon—this one directly to the religious leadership. Are they being questioned for having done a good deed in healing this man standing before them, or for how they did it? Then let it be known, not only to them, but to all of Israel, that this man is standing before them in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (notice that Jesus and Christ are now conjoined into a single name) whom they crucified, but whom God has raised from the dead. Peter then quotes Psalm 118:22, and announces that there is salvation in no one else, “for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
Jesus continues to teach his disciples about the promised coming Advocate, reminding them that he is doing this to keep them from stumbling. They will be put out of the synagogues, persecuted and even killed by those who think that in doing so they are serving God (as indeed many of those reading this gospel for the first time were experiencing these things themselves). They do this because they do not know the Father or the Son. But he is telling them this now so that when that time comes they will remember his warning. He did not tell them this from the beginning because he was still with them. But now that he is going to the One who sent him, sorrow has filled their hearts. Nevertheless it is to their advantage that he goes, for until he does, he cannot send the Advocate and Helper to them. But if he goes, he will send him to them. When the Advocate comes he will prove the world wrong about sin, righteousness and judgment: sin because they do not believe in Jesus, righteousness because Jesus goes to the Father and they see him no longer, and judgment because the ruler of this world has been condemned. Jesus still has many things to say to his followers, but they could not bear to hear it now. Consequently, when the Spirit of Truth (the Advocate and Helper) comes, he will guide them into all truth, speaking not on his own, but repeating whatever he hears from Jesus, declaring to them the things that are to come. The Advocate will glorify Jesus, taking what belongs to Jesus and declaring it to them. All that the Father has belongs to Jesus. It is this that the Spirit will speak to them.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
Ezekiel 37:1-14; Psalm 47; Acts 3:11-26; John 15:12-27
This famous lesson describing Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones originally had to do with God restoring Israel after Babylon’s deadly invasion in 587 BCE. God has brought Ezekiel out to the place of the battle, which is strewn with the dried bones of the Jews who died there in battle. God addresses Ezekiel, as he does throughout the book as “Son of Man,” (translated by the NRSV as “Mortal” in an attempt to be gender neutral) and asks, “Can these bones live again?” Ezekiel rightly replies, “O Lord God, you know.” The Lord commands Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones—preach life back into them—saying, “Thus says the Lord ….” As Ezekiel does, the bones come together, bone to bone. Then, they are covered with sinews, then muscle, then skin, but still, there is no life in them. Then, the Lord tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath, calling on it to come from the four winds of the earth to breathe upon the bodies of those who had been slain that they may live. Ezekiel does, and, as he does, the breath comes and the dead bodies come to life and they stand on their feet, a vast multitude. Then, the Lord interprets this prophetic action: these bones are the whole house of Israel. And though they say, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost and we are cut off completely,” they are not. Tell them that the Lord is going to open their graves and bring them up out of exile and back into the land of Israel. When that happens, then they will know that the Lord is their God. This text, which was originally written to give hope to the Jews in Babylonian exile, is not only about their return to Israel, but also about the power of the word spoken in God’s name. God speaks and it happens. And, as God breathed his spirit into Adam to bring him to life, so, too, God breathes his spirit into his word when it is spoken to bring new life, just as those dead lying in the valley of dry bones were brought back to life as Ezekiel spoke God’s word to them. This word, initially spoken to revive a people dead in exile, later took on further meaning as a witness to God’s power to raise the dead back to life in a general resurrection at the end of time.
Psalm 47 celebrates God’s reign over all the earth. It is a hymn of praise that may have been used during a festival commemorating God’s covenant with Israel, and calls on the people to celebrate God’s ritual enthronement. It remembers how the Lord, the Most High, is God of the gods, awesome and king over all the earth—not just Israel. Not only has God subdued the nations, the Lord has chosen Israel as his heritage, “the pride of Jacob whom he loves.” “God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of the trumpet.” All are called upon to sing praise to God as king. “Our King is King of all the earth.” The phrase, “God has gone up with a shout,” caused the church to associate this with Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, while “with the sounds of a trumpet” suggests this was used as part of the liturgy for Rosh ha-Shanah, when the ram’s horn is blown to announce the new year.
The lame man that Peter has just healed in the name of Jesus clings to Peter and John as they enter the temple, and everyone there who has seen the man, daily, sitting in the temple courtyard, asking for alms is utterly astonished. Luke utilizes this occasion for Peter to preach his second major sermon in the Book of Acts, asking the people why they are staring at John and himself, as though it was by their own power that the lame man had been healed. Rather, the God of Abraham, the God of their ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom they rejected and handed over to Pilate. Though Pilate had decided to release Jesus, the people rejected the Holy and Righteous One—new titles for Jesus that Luke will use again in the Book of Acts—and they demanded his death, while asking that a murderer be released. In doing so, they killed the Author, Founder and Prince of Life—the Greek word can mean all three—and again, forms additional new titles for Jesus. But, in spite of their rejection and attempt to destroy Jesus, God raised him from the dead. Peter and John are witnesses to that. It was by faith in Jesus’ name and its power that this man has been healed and now stands in their presence as a witness to who Jesus is. But the miracle is not enough. Peter continues to preach to those gathered in the temple and the sermon becomes a theological mouth full. Peter says, “I know you acted in ignorance, as did your religious leaders.” Further, it was God’s plan, announced through the prophets beforehand, that the Messiah would suffer. Peter calls on them to repent and turn to God so that their sins may be wiped out and a time of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. Their repentance will not only atone for killing the Messiah, it will wipe out all their sins and renew their lives. But more, it will cause God to send back to them the Messiah appointed for them, that is Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration occurs, the Day of the Lord that the prophets announced long ago. Do they not remember what Moses said to them? The Lord would raise up from among them a prophet like Moses to whom they must listen and obey (Deut.18:15). Those who do not listen or obey will be rooted out of the people of God. This was said not only by Moses, but by all of the prophets, beginning with Samuel and all who came after him who predicted this day. Peter now tells them that they are the descendants of the prophets and inheritors of the covenant God made Abraham, when God said, “And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” When God raised up his servant Jesus, God sent him first to them to bless them by turning each of them from their wicked ways.
Jesus restates his commandment that his disciples are to love one another. He then defines the greatest possible act of such love in terms of what he is about to do—lay down his life for them. They are no longer his servants; they are his friends. After all, servants do not know what the master is doing and they, his friends, know what he is doing because he has made everything known to them, things that he has heard from his Father. Their friendship with him is not based upon their choosing, but upon Jesus’ choice of them. He has chosen and appointed them to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last. Again, Jesus promises that what they ask in his name, the Father will give them, because Jesus is returning to his Father. And now, Jesus’ repeating his command to love one another takes on new significance. They are to lay down their lives for one another! The world into which they are being sent will hate them as it has hated him. Why? Because they belong to him. If they belonged to the world, it would not hate them. But they belong to him. They are to remember then, what he said to them about servants not being greater than their master. They will be persecuted as he has been persecuted. If his enemies had kept his word—which they didn’t—his enemies would then keep theirs as well, which they will not. Rather, his enemies will hate them on account of Jesus’ name because they do not know the One who has sent Jesus. Had Jesus not come and spoken to them, they would not have hated him and would not have sinned. But now, they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates him hates his Father also. If he had not done the works he did among them, his enemies would not have sinned. But now they have seen and hated both Jesus and his Father—witness to their sin. All of this has been done to fulfill the word that is written in their law that says, “They hated me without a cause.” (He is actually quoting psalms and not Torah; Psalm 35:19 and 69:4.) Such hate is the opposite of love and, consequently, is what separates human beings from God; therefore, it is sin. When the Advocate comes from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who Jesus is sending to them, the Spirit will testify on Jesus’ behalf. They also are to testify to Jesus, because they have been with him from the beginning.
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Micah 7:7-15; Psalm 99; Acts 3:1-10; John 15:1-11
This text was spoken by the prophet Micah in Jerusalem during the last years of the divided monarchy of Judah and Israel, 721 BCE. Micah, in the previous six verses, has just announced that no one is just—not one person in Judah—all are treacherous. There is no one who can be trusted. Now Jerusalem, speaking to her enemy, confesses that God’s judgment on her has been just, because of her sin. She must bear the indignation of the Lord until he takes her side, as he will, for she expects the Lord’s forgiveness and her own ultimate restoration. Then, she will see her vindication among those nations who have ridiculed her, those who said to her, “Where is the Lord your God?” She will see their downfall. Then Micah speaks again, calling on God to be the shepherd among the people, to rebuild the city walls, to expand and restore its boundaries from Assyria to Egypt and from sea to sea and mountain to mountain—the boundaries of the unified kingdom under Solomon. Give the people abundant food and wonders similar to those they experienced when the Lord brought the people out of Egypt. This text was later read by the early church through “Christological eyes”—through the lens of Christ and his life—seeing it as a prophetic commentary upon Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. He bore the indignation of the Lord, because he took upon himself the sins of the world. Those who looked upon Jesus in his hour of need, mocking him with “Where is your Lord,” will be covered with shame. Yet, it was the love of the Father who restored him to life to shepherd his people and lead them into abundant life.
Psalm 99 is a psalm of praise that extolls the Lord’s holiness and sovereign power—the mighty King of the universe—who is also a lover of justice. The Lord is enthroned on the cherubim in the Holy of Holies in the temple; let the whole earth quake. For God is not only sovereign in power, but has also established equity, justice and righteousness among Jacob’s people. This, the last of the psalms that praise God as King, was and continues to be used in the church as a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, ascension and triumphant reign. Because the church of the New Testament regarded the psalms as the work of the prophet David, it quickly understood him to be writing about his greater son, the Messiah. As Moses, Aaron and Samuel all went before the Lord on Israel’s behalf, so also did Christ go into heaven on our behalf. This psalm then blesses God for being forgiving, but also remembers God’s need to avenge wrong doings. The psalm ends, calling on everyone to extoll, praise and worship the Lord at his holy mountain.
As the church grows in Jerusalem, the disciples continue their worship discipline in the temple. Peter and John, on their way to the temple for prayers, encounter a man, who has been lame from birth, being carried to the temple gate named “Beautiful,” where he would sit and beg. (Remember, the lame were not permitted into the inner portion of the temple because of their malady.) Seeing Peter and John about to enter the temple precincts, the lame man cries out to them, asking for alms. Peter focuses his attention on the lame man and announces that he has no silver or gold to give to him, but what he does have he will give to him. Taking the man by the hand, Peter says, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk”—and the man does. Immediately, strength comes into the man’s feet and ankles and he begins to leap and praise God, and, for the first time in his life, enters the temple. All those who have regularly passed the lame man recognize him and are now filled with wonder and amazement at what has happened to him.
In one of his many “I am” sayings, in which Jesus uses the ineffable name of God as a designation for himself, he says, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine dresser.” The image of the vine was a strong one in the Old Testament for the people of Israel. Jesus tells his followers that he is the true vine and they are the branches. Every branch that does not bear fruit, the Father takes away. Every branch that does bear fruit, the Father prunes so that it may be even more fruitful. After reminding them that they are clean because they belong to him, he tells them that no branch can bear fruit unless it is connected to the vine, therefore, they are to abide in him, and he in them, that they may bear much fruit, for apart from him they can do nothing. After warning that those who do not abide in him will be broken off, gathered up and thrown into the fire, Jesus repeats the promise he made to them earlier: whatever they ask in his name he will do for them. By this, his Father is glorified, that they bear much fruit and so prove to be his disciples. As the Father has loved him, so he has loved them. If they keep his commandments they abide in his love, just as in keeping his Father’s commandments Jesus abides in his Father’s love. Thus, his joy will be in them and their joy will be complete.
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Isaiah 30:18-26; Psalm 98; Acts 2:36-47; John 14:15-31
Isaiah speaks words of hope to Jerusalem. The Lord has acted against them, giving them adversity, but is waiting to be gracious to them, to show them mercy and act to deliver and heal them. The people of Jerusalem shall weep no more. At the sound of their cry, the Lord will answer and act. They have eaten the bread of adversity and drunk the waters of affliction, yet the Lord will provide for them a Teacher who will follow close at hand to give them instructions about turning to the right or to the left. They will abandon their idols like filthy rags. Thereafter, rain will water their seed to produce grain. The ground will produce crops and abundant pasture for their animals, with produce so abundant that the oxen and donkey will eat silage. Every lofty place will spring forth with abundant water. The text then falls into apocalyptic imagery of great slaughter at the Lord’s deliverance and the cosmos reacting, with the moon shining brighter than the sun for seven days as the Lord binds up the wounds of his people. The language here clearly lies behind that which Third Isaiah uses in its vision of God creating new heavens and a new earth (Isaiah 65:17-25).
Psalm 98 exhorts us to “Sing to the Lord a new song!” But the imperative is about more than us; all creation is called on to sing joyfully for what the Lord has done—marvelous things! Israel is called to remember the way the Lord has gotten victory for them in the midst of the nations. In their distress, the Lord remembered his steadfast love for them and his faithfulness to them and vindicated them in the sight of their captors. All the ends of the earth have seen God’s victory on Israel’s behalf. The earth is especially called to join in the song of praise using all the musical instruments at hand: lyre, lute, trumpets and horns. The personification of aspects of creation is rich and expressive: let the sea roar, and all who live in it; let the floods clap their hands and the hills together break into song at the presence of the Lord, for he is coming to judge the earth. And when he comes, he will judge the entire world with righteousness and its peoples with equity. Joy to the world! Isaac Watts paraphrased this psalm into that well-known and deeply loved hymn. Though most think it was written as a Christmas carol, it is really a metrical setting of this psalm.
Peter’s first sermon on Pentecost continues: Jesus has been exalted to sit at God’s right hand—the seat of honor. Having been so exalted, and having received the Father’s promised Spirit, Jesus has poured out that Spirit upon his followers, giving them power to speak languages foreign to them in order that all Jews gathered in Jerusalem might hear and believe. Again, quoting David (Psalm 110:1) and the text Jesus himself had earlier used against the Pharisees (Matthew 22:41-46), Peter proclaims that Jesus is to remain at the Father’s right hand until the Father defeats all of Jesus’ enemies—making them his “footstool.” Peter continues, “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know that God has made Jesus, who they crucified, Lord and Christ.” “Jesus is Lord,” is the earliest confession in the Church. It quickly added that he was and is “the Christ—God’s anointed.” And soon the two were conflated into “Jesus Christ,” shorthand for “Jesus, the Lord, is God’s Christ,” God’s anointed means of salvation. At this point “Lord” probably means “Sovereign” or “Master,” and has not yet taken on the connotation that he is also the God the Israelites call The Lord.” That will, however, soon be the case. As soon as the people heard this, they are cut to the heart and say, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter responds, “Repent, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The promise is for them, for their children and for all who are far away and who are near (the dispersed children of Israel), “everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” With these and many other arguments, Peter exhorts them to save themselves from their evil generation. About three thousand people respond, welcoming Peter’s message and are baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Thereafter, they devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread (Lord’s Supper) and the prayers. Awe comes upon everyone because of the wonders and signs being done among them by the apostles. The believers stay together and hold all things in common, selling their possessions as others have needs. And day by day, they spend much time in the temple and continue to break bread (metaphor for what will become the Eucharistic meal) in their evening worship, eating their shared food with glad and generous hearts as the Lord continues to add to their numbers those who are being saved.
Jesus turns from the subject of leaving his followers to prepare a place for them to promising the gift of the Holy Spirit. If they love him, they will keep his commandments and he will ask the Father to give them the Spirit, an Advocate and Helper, who will be with them forever—the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive. Though the world cannot know or see the Spirit, they will know him because he will abide in their hearts. Jesus will not leave them orphaned; he will be back. It is the promise, not only of his resurrection, but also his post-ascension presence in their worshipping community. And because he lives, they too will live. When that happens they will know that he is in the Father and the Father is in him. Returning to the theme of his commandments, Jesus tells his followers that those who keep them love him and will be loved by his Father as Jesus loves them. The authentic sign of their obedience to him in his community is their love for one another. Those who love him will keep his words, and he and the Father will come and dwell within them. Conversely, those who do not keep his word do not love him. But know this: the word that they hear is not his, but the Father’s who sent him. He is saying all this while he is with them. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in Jesus’ name will teach them all things as well as remind them of all that he has said to them. He then blesses them with the gift of peace, a peace unlike any in the world, and tells them not to be troubled or afraid by what is about to happen to him. He is going away, and then he is coming back. If they loved him, they would rejoice in this, because he is going to the Father who is greater than himself. Jesus is telling them this beforehand, so that when it occurs, they may believe. He will no longer talk much with them about this, for the ruler of the world is coming. He has no power over Jesus; for Jesus is doing what the Father has commanded him to do so that the world may know that Jesus loves the Father. All that is about to unfold is neither an accident nor a victory by the ruler of this world. It is precisely what the Father has planned. When it is over, Jesus will be back after he goes to the Father, and will be with them through the gift of the Spirit, who the Father will send in Jesus’ name. If Jesus is the door to the Father, the Spirit is the conduit through whom we enter into fellowship with the Three-in-One.
Author: The Rev. Dr. Fred R. Anderson
Created: June 21, 2012
The Rev. Dr. Fred R. Anderson, Pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church, offers thoughts on today’s lectionary readings.