“All gods bow down before him” (Psalm 97:7b )
Throughout the lessons in the Revised Common Lectionary, there is a note of determined excitement – the most appropriate state for those who know the truth of Jesus’ resurrection and his invitation to the whole world. Believers have good news to share, and they are dedicated to doing just that regardless of opposition and difficulty.
The theme is set squarely in the gospel, whose text chronologically precedes the texts of the other lessons. The gospel is a portion of the deep and lengthy prayer that Jesus offered to the Father after the Last Supper and before he took his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. His prayer in the Garden before his arrest is about his imminent suffering and death, but the prayer he offers in today’s reading is for his disciples and “those who will believe in [Jesus] through their word” — namely, the billions of future believers that include us. In his prayer Jesus mentions glory, unity with himself and the Father, and love that will be deeply infused into believers. He prays about witnessing to the world of these things, the world that “does not know” the Father. A sharp divide is revealed in this prayer, a divide between the unbelieving and ignorant world and believers who are not of the world (even though they are in it) who do know the Father – and who therefore know glory, love, and union with God.
In the lesson from Acts we see this divide lived out. The owners of a fortune-telling slave girl have Paul and Silas beaten and thrown into prison after Paul casts the spirit of divination out of her. The owners’ objection is clearly over the loss of income they suffer from the removal of the girl’s “talent,” since they made no objection to the preaching of the gospel before Paul’s exorcism of the girl. The owners are of “the world that does not know the Father.” Paul and Silas are not downcast by their reversal of fortune; on the contrary, they pray and sing even in their imprisonment. The situation becomes the means of further preaching when the jailer is brought to Christ. He who was ready to take his life when he thought the prisoners had escaped is very soon thereafter heedless of the danger of their escaping when he takes them home to wash their wounds, receive baptism for himself and his family, and set out food.
The final word comes from the lesson from Revelation — the words with which the entire Bible closes. In this lesson is the invitation to the world to “take the water of life as a gift.”
Look It Up
Examine 2 Cor. 5:17 for how Paul described what happens at conversion. Consider also the meaning of Jesus’ words in Matt. 10:34.
Think About It
What shall we think about people who claim to believe in Jesus but live no differently than unbelievers?