We continue in the season of Easter with our lessons from the book of Acts that replace our Hebrew Bible reading. In this week’s lesson we read of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (better known as the apostle Paul). The conversion of Saul happens as he is traveling to Damascus with orders to arrest the followers of Christ that he finds there. While on his way Saul encounters the risen Christ who appears to him as a blinding light. Saul is sightless as a result of this encounter and fittingly learns to “see” while he is “blind.” The choice of Saul (a zealous Pharisee) to be the missionary to the Gentiles is yet another instance of the “divine reversal” which is reoccurring theme found throughout the biblical narrative.
Our Psalm this week is a fitting response to our lesson from the book of Acts. The Psalmist remembers the deliverance he/she received from the Lord. The Psalmist writes, “His anger is but for a moment; his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” The apostle Paul was instructed to seek the help of disciple in Damascus named Ananias. Ananias healed Saul’s eyes. From that point on Saul “began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues.” The psalmist sums up God’s blessing in Saul’s story, “You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.”
John the Seer is transported to the throne room of God. There he sees a scroll in the right hand of the one seated on the throne. John begins to weep because there is no one “in heaven, on the earth, or under the earth” that was found worthy to open the scroll. Then one of the elders surrounding the throne tells John to not weep, “See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” In our reading from revelation that follows the scene just described John tells us of a “lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered” and John witnesses all the heavenly host giving praise to the lamb. John is making a christological point–Jesus is above all the heavenly hosts, and because he has conquered he is able to open the scroll. The subsequent unraveling of the scroll (not included in our reading) is what brings about the eschatalogical (final) end of the ages.
John 21 describes the post-resurrection miraculous catch of fish. This is an interesting story, in part because the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke choose to include the story at the calling of the disciples. John’s choice of using it as a resurrection story tells us the importance of the “second calling” of the disciples to take the Christian message to the whole world. Indeed the miraculous catch of fish contains an interesting detail that points to the global scope of the new commission. John tells us that the fishermen pull in 153 fish. Many scholars believe this is in reference to the ancient
belief that there were 153 nations (people groups) in the world.
Celebration of Worship
This week in our readings we encounter two occasions of Jesus prodding early disciples to take the message of Christianity to the world. We have received the same commission. How does our worship encourage us to do this? How do the wonderful heavenly doxologies of Revelation 5 give us strength for the long journey that is the Christian mission to the world? As you prepare your songs, thoughts, prayers, hearts, and minds for worship consider the one who is “worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12) As we engage in our worship what do we make of the fact that the heavenly host, including the vaunted 24 elders introduced in Revelation 4, “fall down [prostrate] and worship” the lamb that was slaughtered?”