Reading Ramblings – May 1, 2016

Reading Ramblings

Date: Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 1, 2016

Texts: Acts 16:9-15; Psalm 67; Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27; John 5:1-9

Context: The next to last Sunday of the Easter season, and the readings point us towards the purpose of the Incarnation and resurrection, the ascension and the promised return of Christ. We inherit the righteousness of Christ, which means that we inherit eternal life with Christ. The readings point us in various ways towards the blessings of that life, the outworkings of the resurrection as we close in on the end of the season of Easter in anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Acts 16:9-15 – The Holy Spirit continues his work of converting hearts and minds in Christ. Last week’s reading prepared us that the Holy Spirit did and does work in the hearts and minds of people we might not anticipate. As such, we should never be surprised when a conversation or encounter turns to matters of faith and we are able to share our hope in Christ. Sometimes this sharing will be natural, and other times, we might be led to rather extraordinary lengths by the Holy Spirit, as was Paul! But not before Paul was denied his desire to preach in Asia. We may have strong ideas about what God would like us to do, and yet God may have other ideas. We should trust that in all situations, God the Holy Spirit is with us and can and will work through us, whether in the ways we had envisioned or not.

Psalm 67 – This psalm makes use of the Aaronic blessing God commanded Aaron to give to God’s people in Numbers 6:24. Yet the psalm takes that blessing, which is a blessing on God’s people, and re-interprets it as a means of glorifying God. As God blesses his people, God’s name should and will be hallowed and praised. God’s justice, furthermore, will be a cause for people to praise his name. Some people struggle with the scandal of particularity, that God would work through some people(s) and not others. But Scripture doesn’t see it as a scandal. In such particular blessing, God will ultimately be praised by the nations of earth and all the peoples.

Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27 – The description of the City of God is impressive, to be sure. But the crowning glory of that city is the presence of God the Father and Son. In that new heaven and earth, the wisdom and rule of God will be everywhere, and will be the greatest glory to which all other glories are subsumed. Moreover, in this City of God, no unclean person will be permitted. Only the people of God, in obedience to God, will dwell there, receiving his care and attention.

John 5:1-9 – A man is healed. An unnamed man, one of many sitting around the pool of Bethesda, hoping not only for a miracle, but for the means to avail himself of miraculous healing if and when it should come. When Jesus poses him a question, the man thinks in the terms that he’s used to – he needs to get into the pool because of the angelic presence that stirs the water from time to time and enables healing. But he can’t make it into the pool in time – others beat him to it and receive healing.

Your translation likely omits v.4, which provides explanatory information implied in v.7 but not explicitly stated. The man considers healing in one form. What Jesus offers him is another source of healing in himself. Thirty-eight years of paralysis is healed with a word from Jesus (three words, in the Greek). The man is healed completely and immediately. His body is able to walk. His brain is able to coordinate his legs. He is able to follow the command of Jesus to not simply get up, but to carry his mat with him.

We are excited for the man’s healing, and rightly so! Yet despite his healing, this man one day dies. What the resurrection of Jesus promises is healing that is permanent, that is not temporary until we die from other causes. The healings in the Bible are to be seen as foreshadowing the perfect healing made possible in the obedience, death, and resurrection of Jesus. They are historical realities and important to the people involved (of course!), but they are also pointing towards the day of perfect healing described in Revelation.

We would do good to remember this in our own prayers and lives. It is good and proper and right to pray for healing, but healing is not our ultimate and greatest goal. Our goal is not simply to live as long as possible under any conditions and circumstances. Our goal is to live the days of our lives, whether few or many, healthy or ill, in anticipation of our life to come. As such, our prayers are for God’s wisdom in each situation, trusting that if healing is not granted here and now, that healing will come in the day of Christ’s return. If death comes rather than healing, death is not the end, the victor. We await life for eternity in a perfect state of body, mind, and spirit.

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