Reading Ramblings – May 10, 2015

Reading Ramblings

Date: Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 10, 2015

Texts: Acts 10:34-48; Psalm 98; 1 John 5:1-8; John 15:9-17

Context: The context of love in Christ is obedience. Love flows first, or most naturally, to other followers of Christ, but extends beyond them always, seeking in love to draw others into fellowship with Christ.

Acts 10:34-48 – Another post-Pentecost speech that emphasizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Once again the preaching of Christ crucified and resurrected has the effect of the Holy Spirit being received by those who are listening. The power of the Gospel can bring life to anyone who hears it, even someone whom the speaker or preacher does not expect this for. Peter is undoubtedly perplexed by his summoning to Cornelius’ house. While he acknowledges that calling Gentiles unclean and refusing to associate with them is no longer a valid stance for him, he probably also doesn’t expect his summary of Jesus of Nazareth to have the effect it does. What is important is that the Gospel is proclaimed. Our estimations and expectations of effectiveness are unimportant. We should be willing to share whenever the opportunity is given to us, trusting that God the Holy Spirit is not only present but at work.

Psalm 98 – Another psalm that summons us to praise God. The psalmist may have had the Exodus in view for the first three verses, but these verses also perfectly describe the true salvation God has brought about in the resurrection of his Son, Jesus, from the dead. This has become his salvation and righteousness worked in the eyes of all the world. The natural response to such an act of salvation is praise and worship.

But that praise and worship is directed not only to what God has done in the past, but what He promises to do in the future. Verse 9 directs our gaze forward to our Lord’s return, to the culmination of the plan of salvation and the Day of Judgment. While we may be inclined to shrink from this language because of our concern for those who have not yet accepted Christ, we must affirm that this will be a Day of celebration, for evil will finally and completely be condemned. And we can trust that God will administer his justice both in righteousness and equity.

1 John 5:1-8 – John continues his treatise on love. It is only natural that Christians should feel love for other Christians. Not just in the vague and generalized sense, but love for actual, specific, individual Christians, the brothers and sisters in Christ that surround us each day or each week. This may not always be a simple or easy matter, so we are reminded that it is not just something we should be inclined to do, but actually a command. We are to love God and love our neighbor, and particularly our neighbor in Christ. This should not be burdensome, but it certainly can feel like it some times. We are more inclined to focus on our friends and family in the faith as the recipients of our love, but this is a narrow fulfillment of God’s commands. A more intentional and broader obedience to the law of love is evidence of faith, and it is in this faith that we are declared victors with Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Who is the Christ? It is Jesus of Nazareth, whose identity as the Son of God was attested to in three ways – through water, through blood, and through the Holy Spirit. We can think of water as a witness to Jesus’ identity in his baptism, when the voice of God the Father declares him as such with power and with the coming of the Holy Spirit to Jesus. We can think of the blood that testifies to Jesus, for it is blood that poured form Jesus’ body as He was beaten and crucified. Blood and water flowed from his side when He was pierced by the spear (John 19:34). We might also consider Jesus’ words of institution at the Last Supper, when He assured his followers that the new covenant was formed from his blood. As such, the blood of Jesus Christ shed for sinners testifies to his identity. Finally, the Holy Spirit testifies to Jesus’ identity as the Son of God by raising him up from the dead.

We are not to love one another in just anyone’s name, but in the name of the Son of God, Jesus the Christ.

John 15:9-17 – Jesus continues his emphasis on abiding in him, and abiding specifically in his love. His love is manifest in the love we show to God and the love we show to one another (Matthew 22:36-40), both of which summarize of all the commandments. So it is that we are not free to determine how we would like to love someone else, or to arbitrarily affirm someone’s insistence on love as they define it. Love is in accordance with God’s organization of creation. By abiding in and by this organization, we can have true joy.

Echoing the Good Shepherd verses in John 10 from two weeks ago, Jesus indicates the highest love someone can show. Notice He does not command his disciples to lay down their lives. Rather, what He alludes to is what He will himself do in laying down his life for them and for all people. In seeking to emulate his love, his disciples will indeed lay down their lives, as many other of the faithful have done over the centuries. But this can also refer to self-sacrifice on a smaller scale, the continual dying to self so that Christ might live within us.

Jesus embraces his inner circle in this beautiful affirmation of the nature of their relationship. They are not just servants they are friends. They have received from Jesus all that the Father has given to him. They did not determine their role with Jesus – He initiated and called them, just as He calls each person to faith in him. His disciples are specifically chosen by him and empowered by him to bear lasting fruit. He determines the nature of the fruit, but they are commanded to bear it. And all of these things are fulfilled and borne out when they demonstrate obedience to the commandments by loving one another and loving God.

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