Knysna Methodist Church Lectionary Notes – 29 May
Whilst Paul and his companions were still in Philippi, they met a slave girl who was possessed by a spirit which enabled her to tell fortunes. She made her owners a great deal of money. The spirit which possessed her recognised the Holy Spirit in Paul and his group, and, day after day, she shouted about God as she followed them. In the end, Paul turned around and ordered the spirit out of her in the name of Jesus. At once the spirit fled. The girl’s owners were angry that their lucrative source of income had been dried up. They detained Paul and Silas who were the Jewish leaders of the group. The other two members of the group were Luke, who was a Gentile, and young Timothy who was half Jewish. The leaders accused Paul and Silas of making trouble in the city. This was enough for the magistrates and the multitude to have them arrested. They did not like Jewish people and they presumed they were not Roman citizens. As Roman citizens themselves, the townspeople were indignant that two Jewish travellers would cause such trouble in their city.
The two men were severely beaten and then put into the most secure prison in the town. Jewish custom was to limit the number of strikes in a beating but Rome had no such limit. In spite of their rough treatment, the two men were exuberant in their praise of God, and sang hymns whilst the other prisoners listened to them. Then God acted. A supernatural earthquake at just the right time and place broke the chains of the prisoners and flung open the prison doors. The jailer was terrified. It was Roman law that anyone who let a prisoner escape would receive their punishment. Paul reassured him that they were still all in the prison. Their willingness to stay saved the life of the jailer. He ran to them and fell at their feet. He had seen (and perhaps even administered) the treatment Paul and Silas had received; he had heard the hymns and the praise; he had experienced the earthquake and seen its results. Now he wanted what Paul and Silas had! So he asked them what it was that made them so different and Paul, always willing to speak about Jesus, told him and the rest of his household about the Lord. Each one of them believed, and each one was saved. The jailer tended to Paul and Silas’ wounds and gave them some food. Paul then baptised the whole family around midnight. The jailer was full of joy.
Psalms 96-98 affirm God’s coming to the world as King. In this psalm attention is drawn to the outstanding quality of His rule. The psalm begins with a statement – God reigns. He has absolute, universal authority over all of creation – everywhere, in every place, and at all times. This is the reason for great joy which extends, says the psalmist for whom this would have been an amazing realisation, even to the Gentiles (implied by the phrase ‘the multitude of isles’). Clouds and darkness surround the Lord, which increase the notion of the mystery of God. He can only rule in a righteous and just way. The lightning around Him echoes the description of the scene on Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:16-20). In the King’s presence, the mountains – solid rock which would take men a great deal of work even to dent – merely melt away like wax. Such power will enable all people to see His glory. No false gods can stand up to the glory of God and they are put to shame.
It was the custom in Israel for young women to gather in choirs to sing at celebrations or after a victory.
Now, briefly, the psalmist speaks to God directly and praises Him for He is much higher than any other god. The psalmist then turns back to the people and commands those who love God to hate evil; not merely the thought or consequences of evil, but evil itself. God will bless and watch over those who love Him. Their souls are precious to Him and He will not let any harm come to them. Although His persecuted followers may suffer physical harm no spiritual harm will affect them. Every time a Christ-follower denies him or herself, Christ’s light shines more strongly and their blessings increase. It is as if seed is sown and produces fruit in the believer and in the world. As a result, God’s people will rejoice in Him and thank Him for every blessing He gives them.
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
Jesus now speaks directly to John and tells him He is coming quickly – so people need to be ready. Jesus will reward everyone according to their faith. Once again, Jesus reminds people who He is: the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End and also the First and the Last. When people understand this, they will have no problem preparing for His return. The titles Jesus uses for Himself here are the final statements in Scripture that He is God, Yahweh, and that He has been in existence forever. If that were not so, there would be no Gospel worth preaching. Christ is the centre as well as the beginning and the end.
Jesus confirms that it was He who sent His angel to tell John about all the things that John has recorded in the Book of Revelation. It is one of the most precisely dictated and trustworthy writings that exist.
The book is written for the churches – that is for all believers. Jesus calls Himself other names by using the terms the Root and offspring of David which is a Messianic title. Jesus is both the Creator and the descendent of King David. He is also the Bright and Morning Star, welcoming the new day.
He then extends an invitation: ‘The Spirit and the Bride say ‘Come’’ to anyone who hears; to anyone who thirsts for Jesus; to anyone who wants to come. Jesus offers an open invitation to all people to receive salvation from Him, no matter who they are or what they have done, or even how they feel about themselves. It is the individual’s choice to accept or reject it.
The Bible ends with this open invitation. It sums up the message from Genesis to Revelation. ‘Come’.
Once again Jesus reassures people that He is coming quickly. John adds his own invitation to Jesus, using an Aramaic expression that was well known in the early church: ‘Maranatha!’ The last sentence of the Word of God is a blessing, praying grace on all people.
Jesus has been praying for His disciples. Now He broadens the prayer to include all those who would believe in Him due to the disciples’ testimony. In other words He prayed for us. The disciples would desert Him within hours, but He knew they would carry on the work He had given them and many would come to faith as a result of their ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit. He prayed that His followers would be united whatever their race, background, language, class, or any other aspect of life that could divide them. He prayed that they may live in unity with one another in the same way as the Father and Son do. The unity of the Church is very important to Jesus; but it goes further than that, for He prays that they may live in unity with the Father and the Son too.
The unity Jesus was praying for was not a legalistic uniformity but the unity of the Spirit based on love. It is this unity of the Church that will enable the world to judge the truth of His message. When the Church is divided the world will come down in judgment against Him. Just as God shared His glory with Jesus so Jesus passes it on to His followers. The glory of Jesus often seemed to be humble, suffering and weak. It was the glory of sacrifice and it was, in due course, shown on the cross. The glory of Jesus leads His followers to a life of service and self-sacrifice. It is this glory that brings about the unity of love Jesus prayed for. Jesus repeated His prayer that the unity experienced by God’s people originated in the belief that Jesus was sent by God the Father; and that Jesus loves His people in the same way the Father loves Him. It was very important to Him that this was so. Jesus longs for the work He gave to His followers to be completed so they may be gathered up to Him in heaven and there see His glory which was based on the love that existed between Him and the Father throughout eternity.
In spite of the fact that Jesus was about to go to the cross, He revealed how He honoured and loved the Father as He reached the conclusion of His prayer. The world did not recognise Him for who He was but the disciples did know that the Father had sent Him to the world. He ended on a note of triumph. He would continue to do His work until it was completed as He declared the Name of God to all people. He prayed that this same love would fill His disciples and that His presence would dwell in them forever.
Points to Ponder
• How has prejudice affected you personally? What sort of prejudice was it? How did you cope with it? How do
you feel about the people who were prejudiced against you? What did you say to them then? What would you
say to them now? How did Jesus help you to deal with it – how do you need Him to help you to deal with it
• What does it mean to you to deny yourself? How do you do that? Are some things easier to deny yourself than
others for you? What do you find it easy to deny; what do you find it the most difficult to let go? How do
you need God to help you? How can the group help you, especially if you are struggling to give up something
that is really hard for you?
• Are you ready? Are you ready for Jesus to return? Are you watching with expectation? With hope? With
excitement? How do you feel, right not about the fact that Jesus is coming back at any time – maybe tonight
– maybe in a year’s time or ten years’ time? Can you join John in his own invitation, ‘Maranatha, come,
Lord Jesus, come!’ Why/why not?
• How do you feel when you read that Jesus prayed for you? What does that mean to you? How might it influence
the prayers you pray for others? How does it inspire you (or not inspire you) to serve Him with joy? How do
you feel when you think about Him praying for the people in your church you do not agree with? What
difference does that make to your response to them?
Acts 16; Psalm 97; Revelation 22; John 17