1 Now the apostles and the believers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also accepted the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him, 3 saying, “Why did you go to uncircumcised men and eat with them?” 4 Then Peter began to explain it to them, step by step, saying, 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. There was something like a large sheet coming down from heaven, being lowered by its four corners; and it came close to me. 6 As I looked at it closely, I saw four-footed animals, beasts of prey, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 I also heard a voice saying to me, `Get up, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I replied, `By no means, Lord; for nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But a second time the voice answered from heaven, `What God has made clean, you must not call profane.’ 10 This happened three times; then everything was pulled up again to heaven. 11 At that very moment three men, sent to me from Caesarea, arrived at the house where we were. 12 The Spirit told me to go with them and not to make a distinction between them and us. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house and saying, `Send to Joppa and bring Simon, who is called Peter; 14 he will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as it had upon us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, `John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave them the same gift that he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could hinder God?” 18 When they heard this, they were silenced. And they praised God, saying, “Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to life.”
The book called “The Acts of the Apostles” was written around 85 to 90 CE by the anonymous author of the Gospel According to Luke. The first 15 chapters of Acts are a didactic “history” of the early Jesus Follower Movement starting with the Ascension of the Christ and ending at the so-called Council of Jerusalem where it was agreed that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised and keep all the Kosher dietary laws to become Jesus Followers.
Chapters 16 to 28 of Acts are an account of Paul’s Missionary Journeys, his arrest, and his transfer to Rome – and the stories are not always consistent with Paul’s letters.
The Gospel According to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles see the Holy Spirit as the driving force for all that happens. The events surrounding today’s reading exemplify this.
Today’s reading serves as a predicate for the decision made at the so-called Council of Jerusalem.
In his response in Jerusalem to the “circumcised believers,” Peter defended his association with Gentiles (which association would have rendered him ritually unclean) by recounting his vision of foods that was previously described in Acts 10:10-16. In the vision, God told Peter not to call “profane” that which God made clean (10:15 and 11:9).
The references in the vision to animals, reptiles and birds are understood by some scholars as allegorical references to Gentiles upon whom the Holy Spirit had come.
Peter went on to tell the Jesus Followers in Jerusalem that the Holy Spirit “fell upon them [the Gentiles] just as it had upon us at the beginning” (v.15) – a reference to the tongues of fire upon the disciples on Pentecost (2:1-4).
The entire account re-emphasized the role of the Holy Spirit as the force that brought the Gospel to the Gentiles.
1 I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.”
The Book of Revelation is also known as the “Apocalypse” (from a Greek word meaning an “unveiling” or “disclosure” of a new age or of heaven, or both). Apocalyptic writing generally described a dire situation ruled by evil powers that could be overcome only by the “in-breaking” of a force (such as God) to bring about a new age.
Like the apocalyptic writings in the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Revelation used extreme images and metaphors to describe the conflict between good and evil. Apocalyptic literature is often presented as a revelation from God conveyed by an angel or other heavenly body. Apocalyptic writings used symbolic language to convey God’s hidden plan.
The author identified himself as “John” but most scholars conclude that the author of Revelation was not John the Apostle because of the reference to the 12 apostles in 21:14. Because of the internal references in the Book, most scholars date the book to the late First Century. In today’s reading, the author stated that good has prevailed, the world entered a new phase, and the time of the New Jerusalem has begun. Jerusalem was presented as a bride who welcomed God as her husband. The author declared that turbulence and unrest (using the metaphor of the sea) have been overcome.
Today’s reading presented a renewal of creation, freed of imperfections, and transformed by God. The sea (symbol of chaos and disorder) will be no more (v.1), a victory of creation over chaos and life over death. The New Jerusalem is prepared as a bride (v.2) in contrast to Rome portrayed as the whore Babylon in Chaprters 17 and 18.
Echoing Ezekiel 37 (the Valley of the Dry Bones), the author affirmed that God will be with his “peoples” (v.3) – a reference to both Jews and Gentiles. The author also quoted from the “Isaiah Apocalypse” (Isaiah 25) and declared that death is no more (v.4). As Christians, we affirm that Resurrection overcomes death for all.
God speaks directly in verse 6 as the Alpha and Omega, an echo of 1:8, and the promise of water is derived from Isaiah 55:1a (“Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the water.”)
31 At the last supper, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The Fourth Gospel is different in many ways from the Synoptic Gospels. The “signs” (miracles) and many stories in the Fourth Gospel are unique to it, such as the Wedding at Cana, Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well, and the Raising of Lazarus.
The chronology of events is also different in the Fourth Gospel. For example, the Temple Event (“Cleansing of the Temple”) occurred early in Jesus’ Ministry in the Fourth Gospel, rather than late as in the Synoptic Gospels. In the Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, but in the Fourth Gospel, it occurred the day before the first day of Passover so that Jesus (who is described as “the Lamb of God” in the Fourth Gospel) died at the same time lambs were sacrificed at the Temple for the Passover Seder that was to be held the night he died. At the Last Supper in this Gospel, there was no institution of the Eucharist, and Jesus washed the feet of the disciples.
Most scholars agree that the Gospel was written around 95 CE, at a time when the “parting of the ways” between the Jesus Follower Movement and Rabbinic Judaism was accelerating.
Today’s reading is placed between the departure of Judas to betray Jesus (v.30) and the exchange between Jesus and Peter in which Jesus predicted Peter will deny him three times (vv. 36-38).
Today’s reading is the beginning of the “Farewell Discourse” of Jesus that continued in Chapters 14, 15, 16 and 17. The Farewell Discourse is reminiscent of Moses’ farewell discourse (the Book of Deuteronomy) and the shorter farewell speech of King David (2 Sam. 23).
The reading is significant in that Jesus announced his departure to a place the disciples “cannot come”(v.33); and there is a statement that the Son of Man has been “glorified” and that God has been “glorified in him” (v.31).
In this reading, Jesus gave a “new” commandment (v.34) that the disciples (and by extension, we) should love one another as he loved them. The Jewish Annotated New Testament points out that the commandment is not entirely “new” in that it is largely based on Lev.19:18b (“You shall love your neighbor as yourself”) and Lev.19:34 (“You shall love the alien as yourself”), both of which Jesus would have known well.
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary asserts, however, that the commandment is “new” because “it is grounded not in the love commands of the Jewish tradition… but in the self-offering of Jesus.”