Knysna Methodist Church, Lectionary Notes – 1 May
Saul was passionate about ridding the world of the Way (the earliest name for Christianity) which threatened all that he believed. He hated those who followed this new ‘sect’ as he saw it. It was not enough for him to work in Jerusalem alone. There was a large Christian community developing in Damascus and he asked the High Priest for the appropriate letters to continue persecuting Christians there. These were granted and he set off on the 210 kilometre journey which would take him about six days. Before Saul and his companions reached the city, Saul had an encounter with Jesus in the middle of the day when the sun was at its highest. This meeting was to change his life. He told people that the light he saw outshone the sun, even at that time of day. In sheer terror and as an instinctive response, Saul fell to the ground.
The rabbis believed that God did not speak to people in those days – but Paul heard God speak directly to him. The repetition of Saul’s name shows the deep feelings God had for him. Saul had thought he was serving God as he persecuted Jesus’ followers, but now Jesus asked him why he was persecuting God. When Jesus told Saul who He was, Saul understood immediately, even though Jesus was a fairly common name at that time.
Saul asked two questions everyone needs to ask: ‘Who are you, Lord?’ and ‘What do you want me to do?’
Something had been niggling Saul’s conscience. It may have started when he stood and watched Stephen being stoned to death; it may have been the way he had been persecuting Christians. Whatever it was Jesus knew how hard this was for Saul. And He lovingly told him so. This account does not include much detail of what actually happened during this encounter, but there are references to it elsewhere which give more information (Acts 22:3-11; 26:12-18; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8; etc).
In spite of the light, which would have make Saul close his eyes tightly, he still saw Jesus in front of him. In Galatians 1:11-12 Saul tells his readers he received the Gospel message in that meeting from Jesus Himself. He spent the rest of his life sharing that message. In response to his question about what Jesus wanted him to do, Jesus gave him instructions for that moment in time – and Saul followed those instructions exactly.
This psalm is entitled: A Song at the dedication of the house of David, but it is not certain whether this is David’s palace or a psalm written in preparation for the dedication of the temple, which David’s son, Solomon was to build. David wanted to have all the praise directed to God and not to himself for the work that had been completed. He knew that God had raised him up as king over Israel but that the kingdom belonged to God, not David. God had continuously protected him from his enemies.
In addition, God had healed him from both injury and illness when David appealed to Him even when he was close to death. God had not allowed him to die. At this time of dedication it was important to remember that it was God who had brought them to this day. He invited others to praise and thank God with him because they were also God’s special people. David continued to give reasons why God should be praised. When He was angry it was only for a short time; whilst His favour and grace lasted forever. David knew what it was like to cry during the night, but he also acknowledged the joy of God’s mercies every morning. David also knew it is easy to be satisfied when everything is going well, but he was very aware that the blessings he received were not from his own strength but from God. When David did not rely on God things did not go so well and he found himself greatly troubled, or even terrified.
He knew that he would continue to praise God if his life was spared, but he was uncertain if he could continue to praise God when he was dead. In the Old Testament there was no assurance of life after death. It was an unanswerable question until Christ Himself rose from the grave and conquered death. David had listed some good reasons for God to answer his prayer, but in the end he simply asked for God’s mercy and help. David had used the occasion of the dedication of his house to remember God’s goodness and the times He had turned sadness into joy, mourning to dancing, sackcloth to gladness. He knew that God had been good to him and David would praise Him with all the passion and joy that was possible. He also seemed to sense that praise in song was special to God. It would have been a sin to stay silent. Once again, David ended the psalm as he had begun – in praise and thanksgiving to his God.
In his vision, John saw countless angels gathered around the throne of God. They and the elders fell before the Lamb (Jesus) in worship. This is the eastern position of worship – flat on the ground, in total submission. The angels had watched Jesus save people by His sacrifice on the cross and sang of this redemption as they praised the Lamb who was slain. There were so many of them they could not be counted. People can also praise God like this for the work they see Him doing in one another. In fact, every creature can praise God. They credit Him with blessing and honour, glory and power. This, once again, affirms the deity of Jesus Christ. The eternal God is worthy of praise for ever.
Jesus appeared to His disciples on several occasions. On this day, Peter decided to go fishing and he was accompanied by several others, some of whom are named, some not. Whilst Jesus had been with them, it seems as if their needs had been supplied by the many people who followed Him around. But now, with Jesus gone, the disciples were uncertain about their future, and may have thought it was necessary for them to begin to earn a living again.
Matthew records that Jesus had instructed them to go to Galilee (18:7, 10) and, perhaps, returning to familiar territory was reassuring for them in a world that had turned upside down. They had not caught a thing. As morning dawned, they were tired and hungry and headed back to shore. They could see someone there, but did not recognise Him. When Jesus used a common greeting and asked them if they had any food, they had to reply they did not. When Jesus told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat, there was no reason, from a good fishing point of view, why they should so in the early morning light. They still did not know the man instructing them was Jesus, yet they followed his suggestion.
As they struggled to pull in the seething mass of fish, they must have been reminded of an earlier occasion, when Jesus had performed a similar miracle. On this morning, Jesus used the catch as an indication of how they would be ‘fishers of men’, spreading the Gospel and drawing people into the Kingdom of heaven.
It was only now that John realised who was talking to them. When he told Peter the man was Jesus, Peter did not hesitate. He was dressed to fish, but at that time, no one would present themselves to a person in authority without being fully dressed so he grabbed his outer garment and leapt out of the boat to reach the shore in the fastest possible way. The other disciples followed more slowly in the boat, dragging the catch with them.
Jesus already had breakfast on the go. He was still willing to serve them, even in His resurrected state, having prepared both a fire and fish. Peter dragged the heavy, wet net and the fish onto the shore. The exact number of fish indicates that this was probably an eye-witness account by one of the fishermen, for they would always count their catch. Whilst there are many theories about the number, the actual meaning is unknown, other than to affirm that it was a substantial catch. Jesus invited them to join Him for breakfast. No one asked Him who He was – by now each one of them must have known. The picture of the group sitting down for breakfast on the lakeshore gives an idea of their intimate relationship with one another. When the meal was over, Jesus talked to Peter. He called him Simon bar Jonah (son of Jonah), rather than Peter, perhaps as a gentle reminder of his betrayal in the courtyard. Jesus asked Peter three similar questions. In the first two questions He used the word agape for love – meaning an unselfish, generous love – and Peter replied using the word phileo – meaning brotherly love.
Jesus, of course, knew the answers – and so did Peter – but it was a time of self-examination for Peter to consider what had happened and how he felt. As Peter answered Jesus instructed him to feed and care for His sheep – His people. Jesus asked the same question a third time. Peter understood the significance of this triple questioning as a reference to his denying Jesus three times. This time Jesus used the word phileo asking if Peter had a brotherly love for Him. Peter knew that Jesus knew him better than he did himself. This time, in the presence of the other disciples, Jesus restored Peter by once again instructing him to care for His sheep.
Jesus then spoke of Peter’s past when he had little responsibility, and of his future, when he would be led to a death that would glorify God. Ancient records tell that Peter was crucified upside down as he did not consider himself worthy to die in the same way as Jesus had died. Jesus ended the conversation with two words – ‘Follow Me’ – in an echo of His first call on Peter’s life. The tense used implied an on-going action, as Jesus challenged Peter, who now knew how his story would end, to follow Him for the rest of his life.
Points to Ponder
• How do you respond to God’s instructions, if they involve a drastic change in the way you live your life?
What would you do if He told you to change jobs, move to another country, stop a favourite pastime? How
would you know this was God speaking to you? What would it take for you to follow?
• Who do you know who seems to be very far from God? How have you tried to introduce Jesus to them? What
happened? Do you believe they heard what you were saying to them? How do you feel about speaking to them
again? What has God said to you about them? Spend some time in the coming week praying for them and asking
God to show you what He wants you to do in regard to sharing the Gospel with them. Ask for a breakthrough –
whether because of what you do or say, or whether God uses anyone else to draw them close to Him. Praise
Him for what He is going to do. Be accountable to one another.
• How do you praise God – when you are alone and when you are in a small group? How often do you use music
and singing to do this? Set aside your inhibitions and choose a couple of hymns or praise and worship songs
to sing. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, for He is good. Share with one another how that felt.
• What is the largest crowd you have ever been in that sang praise to God? How did it feel to be part of such
a large assembly? How did you feel personally? Where was God as you worshipped together? What does that
memory mean to you now?
• Peter was called to follow Jesus and preach the Gospel – even though he knew the end of his life (and the
journey) would be hard. What is Jesus calling you to do? How do you know it is His call? How do you feel
when you follow and do what He asks you to do? How do you feel when you turn away and do you own thing? At
the end of the day, which have you found to be the best way? Why do you answer in this way?
https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/ Acts 9; Psalm 30; Revelation 5; John 21