Vision is not a unique interest of books such as the book of Revelation, but also features in Acts 16:9-15 as Paul’s motivation to bring his ministry to Greece. In Psalm 67, Israel celebrates the praise of God by those outside its community. John 14:23-29, for its part, reinforces Jesus’ love commandment from last Sunday. It also links the commandment to the gift of Spirit and the capacity of Spirit to teach in a way that includes Jesus’ words. Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5 continues from last week John of Patmos’ vision of the new Jerusalem. The new Jerusalem also provides a setting for this week’s alternative Gospel (John 5:1-9).
The First Reading
Paul’s Call to Macedonia
Following his sharp disagreement and subsequent break with Barnabas, Paul is set back on course by a vision of a man calling him to Macedonia. Paul concludes that God has called him to preach the gospel in Macedonia, and his witness to the gentiles accordingly spreads into Greece.
A vision came to Paul in the night: a man from Macedonia was standing and calling to him, “Come to Macedonia and help us.” So when he saw the vision, we all immediately sought to go to Macedonia, agreeing together that God had called us to proclaim the message to them. After setting sail from Troas, we went straight to Samothrace and came upon the city of Neapolis and from there we went to Philippi, a colony which was the most prominent city of Macedonia. We remained in that city some days. Now on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate beside the river where we understood there to be place of prayer, and we sat down and were speaking to the women who gathered. A woman named Lydia of the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple cloth and a worshiper of God, was listening, and the Lord opened her heart so that she was responsive to what Paul was saying. So she and her household were immersed for cleansing. Then she pressed us, “If you have considered me to be faithful to the Lord, then come into my house and stay.” And so she persuaded us.
The Bounty of the Earth is Evidence of God’s Blessing
The Lectionary’s choice to read this psalm together with the First Reading in Acts 16 casts it as a foundation for Paul’s call to bring his ministry to Greece. It serves this purpose insofar as it calls upon all people, including those who are not of Israel, to praise God.
- God be gracious to us and bless us;
God’s face shine upon us.
- So shall your way be known upon the earth,
your saving power among all the nations.
- The peoples shall praise you, God;
all the peoples shall praise you.
- The nations shall rejoice and give a joyful cry,
for you judge the peoples equitably,
and guide the nations upon the land.
- The peoples shall praise you, God;
all the peoples shall praise you.
- The land has yielded its produce;
May God, our God, continue to bless us.
- May God bless us;
all the ends of the earth shall revere God.
The Second Reading
Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
Worship and the Tree of Life in the New Jerusalem
The heavenly city that John of Patmos sees needs no physical temple, because the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple (Revelation 21:22). The dimensions of the new Jerusalem accommodate all the righteous, founded on stones that stand for the twelve Apostles (Revelation 21:14) and opening with gates that stand for the twelve tribes of Israel (Revelation 21:12). Here the tree of life is available and sheds its blessing (Revelation 22:2), so that what was once prohibited to humanity (Genesis 3:22-24) becomes freely accessible.
He bore me up in Spirit on a great and high mountain and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven, from God…. And I saw no temple in her, because the Lord God, the All-Ruling, is her temple, and the Lamb. The city has no need of sun or moon to shine on her, since the glory of God provides her light, and her lamp is the Lamb. All the nations shall walk by her light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory to her. Her gates are not closed by day, and there will be no night there, so they will bear the glory and the honor of the nations to her. Anything unclean and anyone performing pollution and deceit shall not enter into her—only those written in the scroll of life of the Lamb.
And he showed me the river of living water, gleaming as crystal, which flows out from the Throne of God and the Lamb. In the midst of the city’s center, extending across the river, the tree of life makes twelve harvests, each yielding its own harvest, and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. There shall no longer be a curse: God’s Throne and the Lamb will be in her, and his servants will attend him, and they shall see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There shall no longer be night, and they have no need of lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will provide them light, and they will rule forever.
The Promise of the Holy Spirit
As the community of John’s Gospel wrestled with their experience of Jesus’ death and absence, the words of the Gospel encourage faith that living in the reality that Jesus embodied makes Jesus present among them. That reality is included in Jesus’ teaching, his words, but also goes beyond them; thus the author could use both the singular “logos” (reality) and the plural “logous” (words) to convey their relationship. The idea that God is known in three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—though fully developed only after the biblical period, appears here in a narrative form, as John seeks to undergird the community’s devotion to Israel’s God, its embrace of Jesus as Master, and its continuing experience of divine revelation and insight.
Jesus answered his student, “Anyone who loves me will embrace the reality that I embody; my Father shall love that person and we shall come and make a home with that person. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. Yet the reality that you see me embody is not mine alone, but also my Father’s, who sent me. I have spoken these things to you while with you: the Father will send the advocate in my name—the holy Spirit—who will teach you everything and remind you of everything that I said to you. Peace I leave you, my peace I give you: not as the world gives do I give to you. Your heart shall not be troubled nor afraid. You heard that I said to you, ‘I depart, and come to you.’ If you loved me, you would rejoice because I make way to the Father, since the Father is greater than I. Now I have spoken to you before it happens, so that when it happens you can believe.”
or John 5:1-9
The Healing of a Person Unable to Walk
In John’s Gospel, the presence of a timeless reality embodied by Jesus renders history and sequence secondary. Throughout his ministry, Jesus moves seamlessly between an earthly present and a transcendent reality. So at this unnamed festival time in Jerusalem, the healing of the nations that is promised for the age to come becomes real in the life of one man.
After this there was a feast of the Judeans and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate, at a reservoir having five porticos—called in Aramaic Bethzatha—lay masses of those who were ill, blind, unable to walk, paralyzed. One man there had been ill for thirty-eight years. Jesus saw him lying and knew that he had been there a very long time. He said to him, “Do you want to become healthy?” The ill man answered him, “Master, I have no one to put me in the reservoir while the water is churning; so when I finally get there, another has gotten in before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take your stuff, and walk.” And at once the man became healthy and took his stuff and walked.