Knysna Methodist Church Lectionary Notes – 15 May
The apostles in Judea had not understood the scope of the call of the Gospel as Peter had. As far as they were concerned it still only applied to the Jewish race. When Peter returned to Jerusalem they tackled him on his interaction with Gentiles. They accused him of eating with them, something which was not acceptable.
Great changes were happening. The Gentiles had been told that they did not need to become Jews or be circumcised to follow Jesus. All that was needed was repentance and faith in Jesus. The Jews were being told that they should accept their Gentile brothers and sisters in Christ as part of the family of Christ. Peter had been wise to take six witnesses with him when he went into the home of Cornelius to uphold his account of what occurred.
Peter explained in detail what had happened to him. He told the apostles about his vision (Acts 10:9-43). The vision seemed to be about food, but Peter began to understand that it was actually about people. Peter saw an angel in Cornelius’ house which seemed to give him the assurance that he go in. If an angel could be in the home of a Gentile, so could Peter. He told the Jews who were questioning him that the Holy Spirit fell on those people who were gathered in the house, just as He had on the apostles themselves when the Church was born. When they heard this, the apostles were shocked into silence, but then they realised that what had happened was the work of God, and they glorified Him. Whilst they accepted these Gentiles into their number, it would be a long time before all their questions and objections were answered.
This psalm is one of pure praise. There is no reference to anything negative in its lines. In the same way as the psalms that surround it, this psalm begins with the word ‘Hallelujah!’ All of creation is called upon to praise the Lord. The psalmist begins with the heavens encouraging angels, planets, stars, outer space and the earth’s atmosphere to praise God. The idea of creation praising God runs throughout Scripture, but this is the only place where the sun, moon and stars are encouraged to praise Him. At the time the psalm was written, the belief was that the blue sky and the night sky and God’s throne all formed part of the heavens. The psalmist included the clouds too in this chorus of praise to their Creator. God not only gave the command for all of these heavenly bodies to be created, He also commanded that they would continue forever. Because of these things, the Lord is to be praised for eternity. Now the earth is invited to join in this hymn of praise. Everything that lives in the sea; the weather, the land and the creatures that live there, from the smallest of worms to the greatest of kings, all these are to take part in the song. Every man, woman and child are invited to raise their voices in praise.
The Lord alone is worthy of such praise. Creation is obliged to praise its Creator. He is greater than anything or anyone else. Whilst He loves all of His creation, He has a special affection for those who are His people – Jew and Gentile. He stays close to them. Once again the psalmist ends his song in the way he began it – Hallelujah!
The whole tone of the Book of Revelation changes with the beginning of this chapter. From the disaster and horror of the previous chapters, it is as if the reader moves from chaos into peace and light as John describes the glorious perspective of the new heaven and the new earth. In this context the word new means fresh, and heaven means the sky, rather than the place where God dwells. This is not a renewed, restored heaven and earth but a fresh one – Jesus said the earth shall pass away but His Word will last forever (Luke 21:33). There do seem to be physical changes in this new earth, for there will be no more sea, which, in Jewish thought, was a place of evil and the dead. Now the sea has been removed. The history of time has ended. The history of eternity is just beginning.
As John watched he saw the New Jerusalem, the holy city of hope, descend from heaven. This is a place where the people of God live in harmony with one another in a pure, sinless community, unlike any humanity has ever known.
John described the city, using terms people could relate to. It was as beautiful as a bride walking towards her soon-to-be husband. The desire of God is to live in close fellowship with people. Humanity’s purpose is to be the people of God. Both of these goals will be fulfilled in the New Jerusalem. Many things will be missing in this new city: tears, sorrow, death and pain, but there will also be no temple, sacrifice, sun, moon, darkness, sin etc. All the tears ever shed will be wiped away by God Himself Verse 5 is one of the few references to God speaking directly from His throne. John used the present tense to record the words that were spoken. This is an on-going work, but when John hears these words, God’s work is complete and all things are new. It is possible that John was so amazed at what he was seeing and hearing that the voice he heard had to remind him to carry on writing. Everything God planned has been accomplished. There is an echo of Jesus’ words on the cross – ‘it is finished!’ The only way to satisfy a thirst is to drink. God, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega, assures all people that anyone who wants to drink from the Fountain of Life is welcome to come and drink. There are no conditions. All that is needed is the desire to quench their thirst and come to drink and they will be satisfied.
Partway through the last supper, Judas left the room to go to the Temple and betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the events that would lead to His arrest, crucifixion and resurrection had been set in motion, even though the disciples did not see to realise the importance of his leaving, in spite of the conversation they had just had.
In the next sentence, John reports Jesus as saying five times that His death on the cross would glorify both the Father and Him. Contrary to the world’s opinion of such a death as a shameful, degrading event, Jesus sees it a supreme act of bringing glory to God. He tells His disciples He will not be with them much longer. This is the only time Jesus addressed His disciples as ‘little children’ and He used the term as one of care and affection. He understood their dependence on Him and their immaturity. He told them He would be leaving them soon. This must have come as a huge shock to the men gathered around the table. They had expected Him to take over the government of Israel and had imagined themselves in positions of power when He came into His own as Messiah. But now He said He was going to leave them, and they would not be able to go with Him. Instead He gave them a new commandment. The word for new implies freshness – the words themselves, and the instruction were not new – but the way they were to be lived would be different to anything that had gone before. Love one another. This was not an instruction to love the Father or Jesus, but to have a special love for each other amongst themselves just as Jesus had loved them. This would be such a special love that other people would notice it and know that they were followers of Jesus.
Later, the disciples took these words to heart and lived them out, which caused Tertullian, reporting to the pagans one hundred years after John had written his Gospel:
‘See how they love one another!’
Points to Ponder
• When have you had to justify your actions as being those God has led you to do in the face of opposition
and accusation by other Christians? How did you respond to their words? Were you aware of God’s support at
the time? How did He help you? Did you continue to serve Him in the same way, or did the opinion of others
make you change your methods a little or a lot? How do you feel about the situation now?
• Spend some time brainstorming your own psalm of praise. Let everyone suggest a line or two. Polish it – and
then share it by email with one another. Send it on to other Christians that they may catch the joy of the
praises of the people of God in the 21st century.
• Does this picture of the New Jerusalem appeal to you – or not? Why? What, specifically, will you be glad
not to have in your life as a result of the arrival of this ‘fresh’ earth? What are you looking forward to?
Who can you bring with you to drink at the Fountain of Life? Pray for them this week, that they may turn to
Jesus and be with you there.
• Love one another. How does Jesus command impact your life? How do you love people you find it difficult to
• ‘See how they love one another.’ Would people look at you, in your group, your office, your family, your
social environment and say this to one another? Why/why not? How can you love one another more?
Acts 11; Psalm 148; Revelation 21; John 13