In John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks with his disciples on the evening before his death and resurrection, telling them of his coming glory. By means of his death on a cross, Jesus is going to God and the events that follow (his resurrection and the Easter faith of his disciples) will glorify God. In the meantime, they must above all witness to the world by loving one another as Jesus loved.
In the lesson from Acts 11, the meaning of Easter expands “outwards.” The Jewish followers of Jesus are confronted with the vision that led Peter to engage non-Jews, in this case a Roman officer, with the message of faith in Christ (told in chapter 10). The coming of the Holy Spirit upon people of other cultures provides an overwhelming indication of God’s desire to bless all people who will receive His life.
Another vision is presented in Revelation 21 that moves “downwards.” In this vision a “new heaven and a new earth” appear and the “holy city, new Jerusalem,” comes out of heaven from God. A voice comes from God’s throne declaring God’s desire to dwell in the midst of humanity.
Comment: The call to love each other as Jesus loved is a severe challenge. When in history Christians have actually approached this (“See how these Christians love one another!”) it has led to dynamic advancement of God’s life in this world. When we love as Christ loved, our love for one another is not self-serving or self-contained. It moves us out towards the “other” and opens us to the movement of God’s kingdom life from “above” to come among us. I very much need the help of God’s presence, the Holy Spirit, to move and strengthen my spirit for this kind of love that is open both to those whose faults or failures I know “all too well”, and those who are just “too different.”
David S. Robinson, Rector
Saint Matthew’s Episcopal Church
Maple Glen, PA 19002