Many signs and wonders were done among the people at the hands of the apostles. They were all together in Solomon's portico. None of the others dared to join them, but the people esteemed them. Yet more than ever, believers in the Lord, great numbers of men and women, were added to them.
Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and mats so that when Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on one or another of them.
A large number of people from the towns in the vicinity of Jerusalem also gathered, bringing the sick and those disturbed by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.(P) The word of the Lord.
Let the house of Israel say, "His mercy endures forever." Let the house of Aaron say, "His mercy endures forever." Let those who fear the Lord say, "His mercy endures forever." (R)
I was hard pressed and was falling, but the Lord helped me. My strength and my courage is the Lord, and he has been my saviour. The joyful shout of victory in the tents of the just. (R)
The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it. (R)
I, John, your brother, who share with you the distress, the kingdom, and the endurance we have in Jesus, found myself on the island called Patmos because I proclaimed God's word and gave testimony to Jesus.
I was caught up in spirit on the Lord's day and heard behind me a voice as loud as a trumpet, which said, "Write on a scroll what you see." Then I turned to see whose voice it was that spoke to me, and when I turned, I saw seven gold lampstands and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, wearing an ankle-length robe, with a gold sash around his chest.
When I caught sight of him, I fell down at his feet as though dead. He touched me with the right hand and said, "Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last, the one who lives. Once I was dead, but now I am alive forever and ever. I hold the keys to death and the netherworld. Write down, therefore, what you have seen, and what is happening, and what will happen afterwards."(P) The word of the Lord.
On the evening of the first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe."
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe."
Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed."
Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
We are currently following the Liturgical Year C, and mainly studying and reflecting on the Gospel of Luke. However, for six Sundays of Easter, between the Resurrection of the Lord and the Day of Pentecost, we are going to explore from the Book of Revelation some key passages assigned by the Church as the Second Reading. Before delving into the assigned texts, however, it's helpful to look briefly at the historical, cultural and literary settings of the Book.
The Book of Revelation - also known as the Revelation to John, or the Apocalypse of John, or the Revelation of Jesus Christ - is the last book of the New Testament and, therefore, also the last book of the Bible. The Book is full of metaphors, symbols, numbers, figures, and images: all these are typically associated with the Apocalypse, meaning the end times or the end of the world. To many of us, this book is probably the most mysterious book in the Bible and the hardest to understand. Nevertheless, apokalupsis which is the Greek word for "revelation" means the unfolding or uncovering of that which was previously hidden or unknown: it shows that the Book was not meant to be a mystery, but to be understood. So, if we read the Book with complete faith and openness, it can reveal many timeless truths about God's work, particularly about His dealings with mankind throughout the ages and His triumph over evil in the last days.
Today's text from the first chapter of the book, provides some background information:
First, the writer introduces himself as "John". Although he does not claim to be the Apostle John, whose name is attached to the fourth gospel and three Epistles or Letters of John, he is traditionally believed to be John, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus.
Secondly, he refers to himself simply as a "brother", who shares with other Christians three inseparable elements of Christian life, such as, the distress of trials, the kingdom which sustains him plus the endurance and comforting presence of being in Jesus.
Thirdly, he makes known that he was in exile on the Greek island of Patmos, for preaching the Word of God and giving testimony to the saving of power of Jesus Christ. Early Church tradition says that John was banished to the prison island around 95-96 A.D. by the Roman Emperor Domitian, a fierce persecutor of the Christians. Moreover, and while there, John wrote the Book of Revelation to the seven churches of Asia Minor, known today as Turkey, to encourage the believers, who were in a kind of spiritual depression, and to strengthen their belief in the power of God over the evils of the day.
Two things are worth mentioning here:
First, the names of the seven churches which are enumerated in verse 11 but omitted in today's text, are - Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea, Revelation (1:11b). While these were not the only churches or communities existing at the time, they were probably closest to John.
Secondly, John, along with the apostles, Peter and James, the Lord's brother, was considered a "pillar" of the church in Jerusalem for many years, appears to have moved to Ephesus after the martyrdom of Paul and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple, between 67 A.D and 70 A.D. and led the churches from there, Galatians (2:9).
Now, let us go back to today's text. After identifying himself by name, his relationship with his readers, and his location, John recounts his personal experience of an encounter with Christ. He writes, "I was caught up in spirit on the Lord's day." It is the only place where the expression "the Lord's Day" is found in the Bible. The Lord's Day clearly refers to the day Jesus rose from the dead, which all four Gospels testify as "the first day of the week", and which we today regard as Sunday, Matthew (28:1); Mark (16:2); Luke (24:1); John (20:1). It is the day the early Christians set aside for worship, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers, Acts (2:42; 20:7).
Imagine, John was completely isolated from the community of believers and the rest of the world and yet, he was "caught up in spirit". It shows that the authorities could limit his religious activities but could not bind his Christian spirit; he remembered the day of worship. In the midst of uncertainty, despair, and isolation, there was one voice that John probably wanted to hear the most - the voice of his Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, who had promised His helpful presence, John (14:16).
When John put himself in a state of meditation, prayer and supplication, the outer world was shut out, and his inner spirit was taken in full possession by God's Spirit. Just then, he heard a loud voice, which John says was like a trumpet, in allusion to the prophet Daniel (10). The voice, then, instructed him to write the things he heard and saw in a book. The voice John heard was that of Christ. Upon turning around, John describes what he saw. He "saw seven gold lampstands and, in the midst of the lampstands, one like a son of man was wearing an ankle-length robe, with a gold sash around his waist".
We must take note of four things here:
John, having seen this awesome vision was shaken to the ground. He fell down before Jesus. It reminds us of the experiences of other people before him, such as prophet Daniel. The prophet was overcome by the majesty of the heavenly messenger, Gabriel, and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. Then the angel laid his hand upon Daniel to give him assurance, John (8:15-18). The Bible also tells us about 70 times that the human beings have been told by heavenly beings "not to fear". For instance, we are told by Luke that the angel Gabriel told Mary "not to be afraid, for she had found favour with God", Luke (1:30). And in the gospel of Matthew, we read that an angel told Joseph "not to fear to take Mary as his wife", Matthew (1:20).
Being called into the service of God is frightening. So, Jesus, knowing John's fear, reached and laid His right hand upon him while saying, "Do not be afraid." The right hand symbolises God's liberating actions of which the Psalmist sings, "You have a powerful arm; mighty and exalted is your right hand", Psalm (89:14). It was the hand of the creative and caring power just as the prophet Isaiah says, "My hand laid the foundation of the earth, my right hand spread out the heavens", Isaiah (48:13).
John's description of Jesus touching him is reminiscent of Jesus touching His frightened disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, Matthew (17:1-9). Matthew records that at the Transfiguration of Jesus, the disciples, hearing a voice from heaven which said, "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him", fell to the ground in fear, but Jesus touched them while telling them not to be afraid. The touch was not simply proof that He was real, but that they were His friends, and that they need not fear the glory of the divine presence, for He was still with them in the most perfect manifestation. So too, when John, beholding the magnificence of the glorified Christ, fell in fear at His feet "as though dead", Christ placed His right hand on John and said that he had nothing to dread. This was a touch of comfort and reassurance.
After bidding John not to be afraid, Christ identified himself, saying that He is the "first and the last", just as God the Father is the "Alpha and Omega", and that He "died, but was resurrected", and will "continue living forever", and He "holds the keys to the land of the dead". It was a reminder that Jesus defeated death and was alive and completely triumphant, and He has absolute power and authority over life and death. Therefore, John and other believers did not have to fear the evil powers in the world. Jesus then instructed John to write down all the things and not to leave anything out.
What is the message for us?
John's experience on the island of Patmos is a reminder of the possibility of great spiritual experience under adverse conditions. At times, we may also find ourselves in those circumstances of John - feeling exiled, isolated and abandoned in some way. But we do not need to fear death nor the evil powers because Christ is the Lord over all of life's circumstances.
Just as He came to John, and even if we do not seek Him, He will come to us in our isolation, our pain and our suffering as well; He will dispel our fears and bring a great calm to us. We may not feel His visible touch, but His hand will be upon us in love and tenderness. But one thing is important - we must be ready for this great encounter so that "when He appears, we will have confidence and will not turn away from Him", 1 John (2:28).
God Bless You!