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Wrestling with the Word, episode 71: Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C (May 2, 2010) April 22, 2010

Posted by fostermccurley in Wrestling With The Word podcast.
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Fifth Sunday of Easter

Some people are big picture folks. Others focus on details. When we speak of God as a person (or three persons), how do we imagine God? Big picture? Details? The lessons for today enable us to see that God is both. God is so big that the whole universe owes its origin and its praise to God. God is so detailed that God wipes away tears from the cheeks of those who weep and mourn. Nothing demonstrates the universal and personal nature of God better than the love God gave in the death and resurrection of Christ.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 71: Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year C.


Psalm 148
The psalm is a hymn of praise.  It calls for the whole creation to join in a hymn to glorify the name of God.  It begins with a call to the heavens (vv. 1-6), then moves to earth to summon natural phenomena and animals (vv. 7-10), addresses humanity from royalty to children (vv. 11-12), and focuses finally on the people of Israel for whom the Lord has given strength (a horn) and who “are close to him.”


Acts 11:1-18
On the basis of the commission to baptize with the Holy Spirit and persuaded in a dream of the inclusive nature of that commission, Peter explained why he had brought Gentiles to faith by baptizing them.

The pericope actually summarizes events of the previous chapter, culminating in the baptism of Cornelius and his family.  The sermon Peter preached on that occasion (10:34-43) about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ led to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles who heard the word.


Revelation 21:1-6
Against the present reality of chaos, death, and mourning, God will make a new creation in which God’s presence with humanity will end all the horrors of the present.

John the Seer had just reported the vision of the demise of Satan and of the judgment before the great white throne.  Now the Seer begins his report of the final vision.

Key Words
V. 1.  “a new heaven and a new earth”:  Note the similarity to the vision reported in Isa. 65:17-22, along with Genesis 1:1.  The new represents the opposite of what is experienced in the present universe.

V. 1.  hē thalassa = “the sea”:  The sea is an image of the chaotic force which is opposed to God’s Reign.  In OT often portrayed as a sea monster (sometimes called Leviathan or Rahab); see Job 9:8; Psalm 74:12-14; Isaiah 27:1; 50:2; 51:9-10; Nahum 1:4; and often.  In NT see Mark 4:35-41 and parallels; also Mark 6:45-52 and parallels.  (For a discussion of the theme throughout the Bible and in ancient Near Eastern stories, see my book Ancient Myths and Biblical Faith [Phila.:  Fortress, 1983] 11-71.)

V. 2.  “the holy city,… Jerusalem”:  An eschatological reference with the same words occurs at Isa. 52:1 where Zion is commanded to put on power and glory; the context there is the coming salvation of the exiles from Babylon.  See also Neh. 11:1, 18.

V. 2. katabainousan ek tou ouranou apo tou theou = “coming down out of heaven from God”: The expression seems to imply the collapse of the three-storeyed universe (recall 5:13; Phil. 2:11) in order to remove the barriers between God and people.

V. 2.  “a bride adorned for her husband”:  See 19:7.  Cf. Isa. 61:10 where an individual represents the community redeemed by the Lord and dressed for the occasion.  On the image of marriage between Yahweh and Israel, see Hos. 1:1-3; 2:15; 3:1ff.; also Ezek. 20; Isa. 54:5-8.  On marriage as an image for Christ and the church, see 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:31-32, and here.

V. 3.  hē skēnē  tou theou … kai skēnōsei met’ autōn = “the dwelling/tent of God … and he will dwell with them”:  skēnē appears in the LXX for the tabernacle that God instructed Moses to build in order to be present with the people (Exod. 26–27); for similarity of this whole expression, see Exod. 29:45 (although a different verb used in LXX).  On God’s presence among the people, see also Lev. 26:11-12; Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 37:27.  On God’s dwelling place in heaven, see Deut. 26:15; 1 Kings 8:30, 39, 43, 49.

V. 4.  “wipe away every tear from their eyes”:  See Isa. 25:8, a vision of the Day of the Lord. The same sentence appeared at Revelation 7:17.

V. 4.  “mourning … crying … pain”:  See the prophecies about the eschaton at Isa. 35:10 = 51:11; esp. 65:17, 19 in the new creation.

Vv. 4-5.  “former things … things new”:  For the contrast elsewhere, see Isa. 43:18-19. In Second Isaiah, the “former things” are the acts of divine judgment that will disappear in order for the act of salvation to occur.

V. 6. egō  tō dipsōnti dōsō ek tēs pēgēs tou hydatos tēs zōēs dōrean = To the thirsty I will give from the fountain of the water of life without payment”:  See the background in Isaiah 55:1-2 and Jeremiah 2:13. Then see the use  of the same imagery at John 4:13-14; 7:37-38; and then surprisingly 19:28.


John 13:31-35
Even though Jesus Christ departed physically from the world, his presence continues through Christians loving one another.

At supper Jesus spoke of a disciple who would betray him (v. 21).  When Satan entered Judas (v. 27), that disciple went out into the night (v. 30).

Key Words
Vv. 31-32.  edoxasthē = “glorified”:  While the word “glory” has many ramifications, it can be, as apparently here, a visible form of God’s power.  Cf. 7:39; 8:54; 11:4; 12:16, 23, 28; 14:13; 15:8; 16:14; 17:1, 4, 5, 10; 21:19. While the passage does not say directly, the context of Jesus’ teaching seems to focus the glory of God in Jesus’ imminent crucifixion.

V. 33.  eti mikron = “yet a little while”: For the same sense in John’s Gospel, namely, the limited time left for Jesus’ earthly life, see also 7:33; 12:35; 14:19.  In LXX the expression signifies that God’s wrath against Israel will come to an end (Isa. 10:25) and that God’s judgment against Babylon will occur (Jer. 51:33; LXX 28:33).

V. 34.  hina agapate allēlous, kathōs ēgapēsa hymas hina kai hymeis agapate allēlous =”so that you love one another; just as I have loved you so that you also love one another”:  The love of Christ appears in the aorist (ēgapēsa), thus the single act of passion and crucifixion, while the love for one another is the continuing present (cf. also 15:12). At 17:26, Jesus attributes his love for the disciples to be from God and prays that divine love may be in them.