Reading Ramblings – May 26, 2019

Reading Ramblings

Date: Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 26, 2019

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

Context: The resurrection is the vindication of Jesus as the Son of God, and of everything that He did and say prior to his execution. It is the power of the triune God, a power that has been at work since the dawn of creation and continues at work throughout creation today.

Acts 16:9-15 – Paul is on his second missionary journey. He goes to visit the churches he founded in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. He intends to head further north to preach the Gospel but the Holy Spirit prevents this. Instead, in response to a dream-vision, Paul and his associates Silas (Silvanus) and Timothy (as well, most likely based on Acts 16:11, as Luke himself) head from Asia Minor to Europe, starting their missionary work along the Via Egnatia, a Roman military and trade road that runs from east to west across the southern edge of the European continent, between modern Greece to the south and Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north. Their first stop is Philippi, the site of today’s reading. Settled by retired Roman military veterans and other colonists, it appears the city did not have a synagogue, but rather a small Jewish community that met outdoors near a river. Lydia is mentioned prominently here and throughout the chapter as an important ally for Paul and his associates. Upon receiving faith, she has her entire household baptized and is a host to Paul and his associates both prior to their arrest in Philippi and afterwards. She is the first European Christian mentioned by name in Scripture, followed rapidly by the unnamed jailer later in this same chapter.

Psalm 67 – A short, beautiful psalm that integrates echoes of the Aaronic blessing from Numbers 6:22-27. It would be familiar language to God’s people, hearing it regularly during worship and prayer services. But here the blessing is explained. It isn’t simply for the benefit or comfort of God’s people, but rather towards the end that God’s saving power would be experienced among all the nations. It recognizes that in choosing a special people to work through, they were to be examples so that all who knew or heard of them would recognize their God as sovereign. All should be brought in to praise God who is the creator of all things and the giver of all blessing. Moreover, contrary to human ideas that are subject to change and have no basis beyond opinion (popular or otherwise), all of God’s creation should be glad and relieved to know that God provides solid, reliable guidance for his creation, as well as the assurance of perfect , equitable judgment. While our judgment sometimes errs or is sometimes corrupted, God’s is not. As people recognize this, creation will flouris, and truly the blessings of God can and will flow throughout it!

Revelation 21:9-14, 21-27 – Where the story of creation begins with a garden, it ends with a city – the City of God, the new Jerusalem, the place where God will once again dwell with his perfected creation. Since the city is referred to as the bride, the wife of the Lamb (v.9), it is synonymous with the Church – with all those who have, do, and will put their faith in Jesus as the sacrificial lamb which removes our sin from us and reconciles us to God. This is the Lamb introduced in Revelation 5 and mentioned 30 times throughout the book of Revelation. While earthly Jerusalem as the capital of God’s people is just another earthly city, the city of God described here fairly glows and radiates with beauty and perfection. The prominence of the number 12 likely indicates a completeness, representing the totality of God’s Old Testament people through the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and the totality of God’s New Testament people through the 12 apostles. Everything about this place denotes the abundance of God’s grace and blessing. This is because God dwells here, with his people. While there is much scholarly debate about how to interpret this passage, at the very least we get a positive and beautiful picture of what the resurrection makes possible – the reconciliation of God with his faithful, and the final abolition of Satan, sin and death.

John 5:1-9 – The other possible reading was out of John 16 and a continuation of last week’s Gospel reading. But I like this passage, and the continuity of God’s restorative power both in the life of Jesus during his ministry as well as in the years that follow his resurrection and ascension. The psalm nicely reminds us that God’s power has been at work at all times throughout creation history to sustain us.

John provides a great deal of detail in this passage regarding the where of this healing. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of the pool that corroborate John’s description. It was a place associated with healing, and you might have noticed that verse 4 is missing in some translations. That verse reads something to the effect of:

waiting for the moving of the water; 4for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water: whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had

In this context, Jesus asks the man if he wants healing, and the man responds with the reason he has not received healing already – he doesn’t have anyone to help him into the waters when they stirred. Perhaps the man wonders if Jesus will stay and help him, or if Jesus knows that the waters are about to be stirred. Likely the man doesn’t expect that Jesus will simply speak his healing to him. But when Jesus does, the man responds obediently, standing up and grabbing up his mat from off the ground. We aren’t sure how Jesus knows the man or his story. Is it revealed to him by the Holy Spirit? Does He remember the man from his many other trips to Jerusalem over his lifetime? Should we be comforted with the knowledge that our Lord knows each one of us by name? Perhaps all of the above, with an emphasis on the latter. How and why God does what He does is not our privilege (or duty) to know, but we are to trust that what God does is ultimately for us, ultimately that we might praise him eternally.

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