Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder
April 28, 2013 – Easter V
Acts 11:1-18, Psalm 148, Revelations 21:1-6, John 13:31-35
From the book of Acts:
When they heard this they were silenced. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance unto life.”
From the Revelation to St. John:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And from the Gospel of St. John:
Little children, yet a little while I am with you; you will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going you cannot come.”
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.
Have you heard the expression: Night and Day? “Night and Day” was a popular song by Cole Porter. It was written for the 1932 musical play Gay Divorce. It is perhaps Porter’s most popular contribution to the Great American Songbook and has been recorded by dozens of artists. Porter was known to claim, that the Islamic call to worship on a trip to Morocco inspired the song. In this case the expression meant a length of time: He thinks of her night and day; meaning all the time.
It could also mean two opposites. You could have two brothers; one is into sports and the other isn’t. So, you could say that their knowledge of baseball is night and day. It could also represent darkness and light; Satan and Jesus Christ. The expression could also mean the difference between right and wrong.
Paul Ryan, the House Budget Chairman and Republican Vice Presidential candidate said, “Only by taking responsibility for oneself, to the greatest extent possible, can one, ever be free, and only a free person can make responsible choices – between right and wrong, saving and spending, giving and taking.”
At the Last Supper, Jesus was eating with His disciples. Jesus became troubled and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” They all looked at each other and wondered, who it could be. Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Jesus said to Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”
A dark shadow now fell across the scene as Jesus dealt with Judas, the traitor. It is important to note that Judas was not a true believer. At that hour, Jesus had two concerns: to fulfill the Word of God (John 13:18-30) and to magnify the glory of God (John 13:31-35).
The remarkable thing is that the others at the table with Jesus did not know that Judas was an unbeliever and a traitor. Up to the very hour of his treachery, Judas was protected by the Saviour whom he betrayed. Had Jesus openly revealed what He knew about Judas, it is likely that the men would have turned on him. Remember what Peter did to Malchus when the soldiers came to take Jesus; he cut his ear off.
From the very beginning, Jesus knew what Judas would do (John 6:64), but He did not compel him to do it. Judas was exposed to the same spiritual privileges as the other disciples, yet they did him no good. He chose darkness over light.
Keep in mind that Judas knew what he was doing and that he did it deliberately. He had already met with the Jewish religious leaders and agreed to lead them to Jesus. They wanted it to be in such a way that there would not be any public disturbances (Luke 21:37-22:6). Judas had heard Jesus say, “Woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born!” (Matt. 26:24). Yet, he persisted in his unbelief and treachery.
The instant Judas was gone, the atmosphere was cleared, and Jesus began to instruct His disciples and prepare them for His crucifixion and His ultimate return to heaven. It was after Judas’ departure that Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, something that Judas as an unbeliever certainly could not share. Judas was out in the night, controlled by the prince of darkness, Satan; but Jesus was in the light, sharing love and truth with His beloved disciples. Night and day; what a contrast!
From the human perspective, the death of Christ was a dastardly deed involving unspeakable suffering and humiliation; but from a divine perspective it was the revelation of the glory of God. “The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified” (John 12:23).
What did it mean for Jesus to glorify the Father? He tells us in His prayer: “I have glorified Thee on the earth; I have finished the work which Thou gave me to do” (John 17:4). This is the way all of us glorify God, by faithfully doing what He calls us to do. In our Lord’s case, the Father’s will was that the Son die for lost sinners, be raised from the dead, and then ascend to heaven. The Son glorified the Father and the Father glorified the Son (John 17:1, 5).
There would come a time when the Son would be glorified in these disciples (John 17:10), but they could not follow Him at that time. Peter boasted that he would follow the Lord even to death, but unfortunately ended up denying Him three times. One day the believing disciples would go to be with Him, and they would also see Him after His resurrection. But during this time of His suffering and death, it was important that they not try to follow Him.
It is still fresh in our minds of the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon. Four people were murdered and countless others were hurt and maimed. Memorial and prayer services were held this past week for the victims; and the important question is “why?”
From the very beginning, man was given the ability to choose right or wrong and man unfortunately chose sin. Judas chose to betray his Lord and Master and set in motion the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Why did these two men and others come to the point of believing that by murdering innocent civilians, would somehow bring glory to their god? And it isn’t just the few who actually carry out the dastardly deeds who sin, it’s also a large number of people around the world who feel that it is justified. This is truly night and day; and Jesus Christ is the light who came into the world to shed light on the darkness. Obviously, darkness still exists; and it will exist until Jesus Christ returns.
Human history begins in a Garden and ends in a City that is like a garden paradise. In the Apostle John’s day, Rome was the admired city; yet God compared it to a harlot. “That which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). The eternal city of God is compared to a beautiful bride (Rev. 21:9), because it is the eternal home for God’s beloved people.
The first heaven and earth were prepared for the first man and woman and their descendants. God had readied everything for them when He placed them in the Garden. Unfortunately, our first parents sinned, ushering death and decay into God’s beautiful world. Too often man chooses darkness, instead of light. Creation is in bondage and travail (Rom. 8:18-23), and even the heavens “are not clean in His sight” (Job 15:15).
God has promised His people a new heaven and earth (Isa. 65:17; 66:22). The old creation must make way for the new creation if God is to be glorified. Jesus called this event “the regeneration” of the earth (Matt. 19:28), and Peter explained it as a cleansing and renewing by fire (2 Peter 3:10-13).
It is difficult to imagine what the eternal city will be like. John characterizes it as a holy city, a prepared city and a beautiful city, as beautiful as a bride on her wedding day.
But the most important thing about the city is that God dwells there with His people. The Bible gives an interesting record of the dwelling places of God. First, God walked with man in the Garden of Eden. Then He dwelt with Israel in the tabernacle and later the temple. When Israel sinned, God had to depart from those dwellings. Later, Jesus Christ came to earth and “tabernacled” among us (John 1:14).
Today, God does not live in man-made temples (Acts 7:48-50), but in the bodies of His people (1 Cor. 6:19-20) and in the church (Eph. 2:21-22).
In both the tabernacle and the temple, the veil stood between men and God. That veil was torn in two when Jesus died, thus opening a “new and living way” for God’s people (Heb. 10:19ff). Even though God dwells in believers today by His Spirit, we still have not begun to understand God or fellowship with Him as we would like; but one day, we shall dwell in God’s presence and enjoy Him forever.
This “new and living way” is open to everyone: Jews and Gentiles. Peter had the task of uniting the converted Jews and Gentiles in the Christian faith. Having fellowship with the Gentiles was a new experience for these Jewish Christians, who all their lives had looked on the Gentiles as pagans and outsiders. Tradition said that a Gentile had to “become a Jew” in order to be accepted; but now Jews and Gentiles were united in the church through faith in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3:26-28). It was not only a matter of religion, but also of culture; and cultural habits are very hard to break.
Peter had nothing to fear. After all, he had only followed orders from the Lord; and the Spirit had clearly confirmed the salvation of the Gentiles. Peter presented three pieces of evidence: the vision from God (Acts 11:5-11), the witness of the Spirit (Acts 11:12-15), and the witness of the Word (Acts 11:16). Of course, none of these men had seen the vision, but they trusted Peter’s report, for they knew that he had been as orthodox as they in his personal life.
Peter reviewed the entire experience from beginning to end; and, when he was finished, the Jews dropped their charges and glorified God for the salvation of the Gentiles (Acts 11:18). The conversion of the Gentiles was God’s gracious work. He gave them the gift of repentance and the gift of salvation when they believed. In later years, God would use the letters of St. Paul to explain the “one body,” how believing Jews and believing Gentiles are united in Christ (Eph. 2:11-3:12).
Christians are to receive one another and not dispute over cultural differences or minor matters of personal conviction (Rom. 14-15). Some of the Jewish Christians in the early church wanted the Gentiles to become Jews, and some of the Gentile believers wanted the Jews to stop being Jews and become Gentiles. This caused problems in the early church, but through love it was overcome.
Jesus left His disciples with two important commandments: first to love God with all your heart, mind, and soul. The second is like unto it: to love your neighbor as Jesus had loved them. Love would take on a new meaning and power because of the death of Christ on the cross (John 15:13). With the coming of the Holy Spirit, love would have a new power in their lives.
Jesus said to the people and says to us today: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). He also said: “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35-36).
Let His light so shine through you, so that others will know Him through you.
Let us pray:
O Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.