Acts 16:16-34 • Ps. 97 • Rev. 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 • John 17:20-26
Signs attend the death of Jesus, showing his demise to be the death of death itself. Three-hour darkness falls over the land, his writhing death rips the curtain; his dropping blood disrupts the earth and splits the rock; tombs become doorways to the living and a pathway to the holy city. So St. Matthew tells us that his cross is the way of life and peace (Matt. 27:51-53). This life-giving reversal has a way of repeating itself, its repetition the essence of being alive in Christ. Though we die, yet shall we live!
Thus when we discover Paul and Silas languishing in prison, stripped, beaten, flogged, and kept securely, we wonder in hope that life itself is not restrained by the innermost cell of a dark prison and the clamp of cold stocks. Singing hymns to high heaven, praying to God and the opened ears of prisoners, the earth shakes, doors open, chains break. This is the harrowing of hell again and the announcement of new life in Christ. For when the jailer asks, “What must I do to be saved?” there is no hesitation (Acts. 16:30). “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). Having converted, the jailer washes the wounds of Christ etched in the skin of Christ’s body, for Paul and Silas are that body. The jailer then sets a eucharistic table to feed the broken flesh of new friends. And now we see it, new life spilling all over the canvas.
Before this scene, before every scene, there was a vast emptiness in which God alone imagined the foundation of the world. God was going out in love and was love’s object, and was the going out and coming in of love, a moving essence that remained unmoved, love’s power in the presence of nothing, for there was no thing in the beginning. When God made and then peopled the world, God wanted persons to share a oneness rooted in the life of God, love given and received and shared. So Jesus prays “that they all may be one.” Saying “glory” and “your name” and “love,” Jesus insists that the disciples share by grace in the divine nature and thus oneness comes as a sheer gift (John 17:20-26).
In the Patmos Revelation an exalted Christ chants a summons: “Come!” “Let everyone who hears say, ‘Come.’” The invocation is shared from mouth to ear, cascading over a marching multitude. “Let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift” (Rev. 22:17). The water is pristine Trinity suffused with an inner unity. Taking it means taking on a new humanity.
That is why Paul and Silas so endure, praying in the black and singing in their sorrow. They have already discovered that nothing can separate them from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. And when the jailer catches on to the life they leak, he wants to drink it too. In the end, we return to our scene, the jailer and his household and Paul and Silas at table, at peace, at one.
These stories can only be told as stories of hope, and are never to be invoked as a sure cure for killing sorrows. The risen Jesus has his wounds and a risen church yet cries before the cross. One has to wait then, letting sorrows be what they are, letting death hang in the air, letting an army of questions go unanswered. Rising with Christ comes as the strangest surprise, a gift that opens on its own terms, a language of babbling hope. One waits and Christ helps with the waiting.
Look It Up
Read Rev. 22:16. Are you going?
Think About It
Your name is glory begotten of the Father.