Scripture reading notes for 5/19

The Fifth Sunday of Easter begins a transition from the resurrection to the times in which our Lord is no longer visibly present. However, even though we do not see him now with our eyes, Jesus is still present. He has not abandoned us to a world of frustration and pain. He has sent his Spirit to be with us and promises to turn sorrow into joy—here and now in small ways, but completely when he returns to eliminate sin and its effects and bring the new creation.

  • In the Gospel reading, Jesus prepares us for his departure from this earth as he promises the Holy Spirit who brings peace and joy through an always-deepening knowledge of the truth.
  • The History reading focuses on God’s inclusion of non-Jewish people in his gift of the Holy Spirit, bringing peace and joy to all groups of people.
  • The New Testament reading shows us the glory of the new creation Jesus has promised. All sorrow caused by sin is absent, and Christ himself is personally present.

The Gospel reading:

John 16:12-22 Jesus told his disciples about his coming physical absence from them, and comforted them by promising to send them the Spirit of truth, who would guide them into a deeper understanding of his Word. Jesus clearly described the Spirit as a person, not merely a power without a will, like electricity. The Holy Spirit is equal in participation in the work of the Triune God. Jesus’ teaching was not his own, but what he received from the Father. In the same way, the Spirit gives what he received from the Son and leads believers to a deeper understanding. The Spirit does not speak new words on his own, but the words of Jesus in the Bible.

When Jesus said, “He will tell you what is yet to come,” he did not promise new revelations, but rather that the disciples would understand how Christ’s death and resurrection applied to the church after Pentecost. Jesus has shared everything regarding salvation—not everything he knows about God the Father, his plans, and the future. Mistakenly, we sometimes think that Jesus’ physical absence places us at a disadvantage. In fact, Jesus is present with us through the witness of the Spirit, who works among us through God’s Word and Sacraments. No one can take away this joy.

The History reading:

Acts 11:1-18 Although Jesus had clearly told the disciples before his ascension that the gospel would go out from Jerusalem to Samaria, to Judea and then to the furthermost parts of the world, Jewish Christians had great difficulty at first with associating in any way with Gentiles. The vision received by St. Peter at Joppa clearly indicated that Jewish ceremonial laws were no longer binding as God’s law. He was also directed to go to the home of a Roman officer in Caesarea. Baptism of those people marked the beginnings of the first non-Jewish church. God withheld neither the gift of grace nor the Holy Spirit from the Gentiles. Peter, having seen Christ’s ministry, death, and resurrection, was also an eyewitness of the Gentiles’ receiving of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of the gospel.

The New Testament reading:

Revelation 21:1-7 The events of these verses happen on the Last Day, following the final destruction of the Devil and his angels. There will be a re-creation of the heavens and earth. Out of heaven comes the new Jerusalem—the people of God, the perfected church—and God will live with them. The great hope of Revelation and the whole Bible is the elimination of the division between where God lives and human beings live. Instead, restored humanity will again see God face-to-face and live in his immediate presence. The church today is meant to be the gate to heaven and a preview of this union of heaven and earth.

Since we have no experience of anything as fantastic as this new earth, St. John can describe it only in terms of what will not be there: tears, death, crying, or pain. Death doesn’t exist today because God doesn’t love us or isn’t powerful enough to destroy it; it exists because of sin. But when all evil passes away, death too will be destroyed forever.

Jesus has already defeated sin and death through his perfect life and his own resurrection. This new creation has already begun to appear through the preaching of the gospel and the work of the Spirit. The spring of the water of life is found in each of us through Baptism, but the work will not be completed until the day of Christ’s return.