|Revelation 5: 11-14
by Benjamin D. Cowan
The reading from Acts focuses on the conversion of Saul (later Paul) to the good news of Jesus. Saul had passionately persecuted the followers of Jesus believing that they were perverting the true word of God. In his quest to arrest some of the followers of Jesus, he ended up encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus. Saul’s conversion story is a call to its readers to evaluate what they know. Have you ever been certain that you were correct on something and then suddenly discover you were wrong? This is what happens to Saul when he encounters Jesus. His understanding of the followers of Jesus is radically altered because of his Christophany. Saul is put in a position to make a decision to accept the words of Jesus or reject his vision. The effect of his misconception is visualized in the text as being blinded with scales over his eyes for three days. Humbled, Saul uses the time to fast. Fasting was a common tradition among the Jewish people as an act repentance and acknowledgment to God for the need to depend on God. After three days, Ananias comes and proclaims to Saul, Jesus. Saul accepts Jesus, is filled with the Spirit, has his eyes reopened, is baptized, and becomes a preacher of the gospel. There are many things that can be drawn from this text but here are three that I will highlight: 1) the text serves as a warning against dogmatism. Paul was certain that he was right without even considering what the followers of Jesus had to say. Listening is an important skill that the followers of Jesus should cultivate with 2) humility. Through his encounter with Jesus, Paul was humbled, physically and spiritually. The man who thought he saw clearly learned that he was not seeing at all. In such a situation, Saul could have chosen arrogance but instead fasted in acknowledgment of his ignorance of not knowing the truth of God. Life will provide us with opportunities between being humble or prideful; hopefully, we will choose humility because we ourselves are not overly dogmatic in dealing with things. Too many of our political problems in the US are caused by people who are dogmatic versus being willing to listen and work together. 3)Finally, the text asks to consider fasting. Saul, recognized the importance of being humble before God in the light of him being wrong? How do you humble yourself before God and others when you are wrong?
In our text, the psalmist reflects the trials and tribulations of life. Life has times of jubilation and sorrow. In the midst of this, the psalmist reflects on how it felt to be in both states. On one hand, the sense of abandonment by God during tribulation while also hoping in God’s salvation.On the other hand, the gratitude towards God for healing and deliverance from the tribulation. In the midst of all that happens, the psalmist states that her/his ultimate purpose in life is to worship God and to praise God for God’s goodness. This is not always easy. The psalmist acknowledges the trauma of the pain that has been experienced. To be human is to experience suffering. Like the psalmist, it is good for us to reflect on how we handle suffering and joy and to acknowledge the good and the negative feelings that those situations bring. The psalmist tells us that we can be open and honest with God!
The text here explains why Jesus is worthy to be worshiped. The revelator states that it is because he endured great suffering as the Lamb of God that all the host of heaven and earth give honor to the Lamb and to God. Like the psalmist above, the Lamb put his hope in God for deliverance from death. However, the death of the Lamb was the price for preaching good news to the outcast of society. God vindicated this message as true wisdom by resurrecting the Lamb and seating the lamb at God’s right hand.
The gospel reading details the third appearance of Jesus after his resurrection. The disciples had returned to their normal lives as fishermen and were having an ordinary day. Then, Jesus appears. Once again the disciples have trouble recognizing him at first, but by his actions and words (Jesus had performed many miracles with fish!) they recognize that it is Jesus who is with them. Like the days before his crucifixion, they once again share a meal together. Important to this story is how much Jesus valued his relationship with the disciples and spending time with them, not only in minster but in life. Pope Francis in his recently released Amoris Laetitia notes that love requires time and space. By coming to have a meal with his disciples, Jesus’ is affirming his love for them by fellowship with them. During the course of their fellowship, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. This not only symbolic act of reversing his three denials but it also allows Peter to have the confidence to know that despite his denials he still loved Jesus. We all make mistakes and have moments when we act out fear/weakness. Jesus is allowing Peter to give expression to what he truly believes. But also, by his responds to each of his confessions of love, Jesus is letting Peter know that his love will be shown not only by his words but by the life that he is going to live. Peter will rise to be an important figure in the early church and will die a martyr’s death. Peter will feed the lambs, the sheep of Jesus ,and tend to them. Jesus and Peter comes full circle in this passage. Earlier, Jesus had told Peter that he would deny him three times before the roaster crows (John 13:31-38) and he does (John 18:1-27); now, Jesus tells Peter that his actions will glorify him in life and in death. Like Peter in the gospel, or Saul in Acts, our mistakes do not destroy our potential but can become stepping stones, if we choose humility.