In the few verses preceding this passage, Paul and his group are heading off in this direction or that, only to have “the Spirit of Jesus” clearly tell them “no”. They want to preach the Good News, but don’t know where to go. They are at a standstill.
- Finally, Paul has a dream in which a man tells him to “come over to Macedonia”. Macedonia is just north and east of present day Greece. (v. 9)
- They set sail from Troas (which is located in northwestern Turkey), and head for the seaport city of Neapolis, in Macedonia. They have chosen Philippi as their destination. Philippi is the capital of Macedonia. It is on the main highway connecting Rome with its colonies to the east. Many retired Roman soldiers live here. It has been developed to be a model Roman city, to show others what the ideal life looks like under Roman rule. (vv. 10-12a)
- They rested “some days” from their journey. On the Sabbath (Saturday), they went to the place where they thought there would be a meeting of the Jewish inhabitants of Philippi. It takes a certain number of people to establish a synagogue; less than that, and you simply find a place to meet for prayer. (vv. 12b-13a)
- They start chatting with some women there, and meet a woman named Lydia. Oddly enough, she is from Thyatira, which is one of the places that Paul was told not to go to. She is a businesswoman dealing in expensive purple cloth. Apparently, she was well to do. The Lord opens her heart to the Good News. (vv. 13b-14)
- She accepts Jesus as the Messiah, and her whole household is baptized. She urges Paul and his companions to stay with her, and continue teaching. (v. 15)
Paul and his followers are much attuned to the direction of the Holy Spirit. They await orders, and obey them when they are conferred. Most of the action in this story is not Paul, but the Holy Spirit. It is even the Spirit that opens Lydia’s heart to hear the Word. Paul provides a good model for our spiritual lives—listening for and obeying the Holy Spirit’s direction.
REVELATION 21:10, 22-22:5
Remember that this book is a vision given to John to strengthen the faith of Christians under his spiritual care. This book offers a big-picture perspective of how God will bring an end to evil and injustice, and provide a comfortable home for the faithful.
- An angel carries John away to a high mountain, where he can view the new holy city Jerusalem. John gets a birds-eye view of the city. (v. 10)
- In the verses that have been omitted from this selection, the city is described in great detail. It is interesting to note that there is not one set of pearly gates, but twelve. There are three gates on each face of the city walls, which face north, south, east, and west. Yes, these gates are made of pearl, but St. Peter is not peeking out from them; they are all wide open, for us the faithful to freely enter! (vv. 11-21)
- The city does not have a temple representing God’s presence, because God (Father and Son) are the temple! (v. 22)
- This place is so special, that the source of daylight the glory of God. (v. 23)
- All the nations of the earth walk here, including rulers and everyday people. And those pearly gates are always open. (vv. 24-26)
- This is a pure place, where nothing imperfect exists. Only we believers live there, those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. It is a perfect world. (v. 27)
- Wait! There’s more! A beautiful crystal river flows from the throne of God and the Lamb right through the heart of town. There are trees along the river which continually provide the inhabitants with fruit. (vv. 1-3)
- As was said earlier, there will be nothing bad in this city. There is no night, because God’s brightness shines continually. God reigns forever! (v. 3-6)
I find comfort in this passage, knowing that the gates to heaven are open wide to believers from the whole world. God dwells with us. We are home.
This reading is taken from Jesus’ long discourse in the upper room, the night before his crucifixion. He has just told his disciples that he is leaving them. He has reassured them that they will see him again, even though others will not. Judas (not Iscariot) asks Jesus “How does this happen?” Jesus does not directly answer the question, but the answer is there. Let’s look for that, and see what else he says.
- Jesus’ first words (answer?) is that there are those who love him and his father, and keep his word. They have the ability to see him, whereas “the world” is blind. Jesus and his Father will come to them, and make their home with them. This is the answer to Judas’ question. Love God and keep his word, and they will come. (v. 23)
- The next statement is a sort of opposite of the first. Jesus says that if you following other’s teachings, then you’re not keeping his words. “It’s the message of the Father…” was a little confusing to me at first. Jesus is saying that the message he has been sharing is from the Father, and other messages are not. (v. 24)
- Then, Jesus tells them to be at peace. Don’t be worried. He is sending “The Friend” (in this translation), the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will make everything plain. (vv. 25-27)
- They must have still seemed sad, because he tells them that they should be happy! I’m sure that was hard advice for them to take. (v. 28)
- Finally, he tells them why he’s told them all of this ahead of time—so they’ll believe even better when it all happens. (v. 29)
It is nice that we already know the end of the story. We know of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. We know that the Holy Spirit did come as promised. We must put our trust in Jesus and his teachings. By trusting and keeping them, we will see him!