Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5
I want to look briefly at the Gospel passage and then move on into Acts. Today our passages are about the spread of the good news of God’s Realm.
Picture the scene . . .
Jesus is sat with the disciples. It is their last meal together. Jesus has already modelled leadership in the new community of believers. He served them as a servant by washing dirty, dusty feet. Now it is a special time, Judas has left, the end is near. I’m sure even those who didn’t fully understand sensed something significant was about to happen. Have you ever felt that? A sort of spiritual unrest, like the whole of nature is disturbed.
Therefore these last words of Jesus are important. I’m sure the disciples were hanging onto every word. Jesus’ mission on earth would continue through them. These words would set the way for the church to grow and develop.
Already a new commandment had been given. It was nothing to do with how they behaved, how they lived, what they ate, etc. It was so simple “love one another”. Love as Jesus loved, serving and willing to lay down one’s life.
Then (in our passage today) Jesus passes something onto them.
What would you have expected? If you had been there, what would you have hoped for?
The ability to heal?
The ability to raise from the dead?
The ability to change water into wine
The ability to multiply food and feed the hungry?
These would have certainly been good things to have and, indeed, we do see that the disciples on occasion were able to do miracles.
However, that is not what Jesus left with them on this auspicious occasion. They were not the most important things. That was peace
Peace for themselves, what we would call inner peace today (Do not let your hearts be troubled)
Peace for others, peace to pass on (do not let them be afraid)
I think that is wonderful. The message for the spread of God’s Realm is love and peace.
Then the passage in Acts gives a specific example of the spread of God’s Realm.
Paul and Barnabas were travelling together. The reading tells us they got a very mixed reception, from being welcomed and received with joy to being stoned. Eventually Paul and Barnabas separate and Paul takes Silas and Timothy along with him.
Then during the night Paul has a vision. He saw a man saying come to Macedonia.
He was obedient to the dream and he went. They met Lydia and the women gathered for prayer.
I wonder if Paul’s vision had shown a woman he would have still gone. What do you think?
I wonder if meeting this woman after his vision of a man (aner) had the same effect on Paul as Peter’s experiences which led him to proclaim “I truly understand that God shows no partiality”
Lydia, a woman who worshipped God, a woman in charge of a household, a woman who was in business. Probably not what Paul expected, yet obviously Paul recognised God was in this and stayed at her home.
Here is another significant woman in the life and development of the community of believers in Acts. Perhaps this story is a little more well know than the one about Tabitha. Yet, her significance as the first believer (or at the very least first named believer) in Macedonia is lost.
I think it is really important that we recover a part of our Christian heritage that seems to have been lost. That is the significance women played in the history and spread of the gospel.