18 May. Saturday in the Seventh Week of Easter
Acts 28:16ff. During Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, for two years, awaiting trial, he continues to promote and defend the Gospel message.
John 21:20ff. John concludes, saying that the whole world could not contain all that could said about Jesus
First Reading: Acts 28:16-20, 30-31
When we came into Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him. Three days later he called together the local leaders of the Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, “Brothers, though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, yet I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. When they had examined me, the Romans wanted to release me, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. But when the Jews objected, I was compelled to appeal to the emperor – even though I had no charge to bring against my nation. For this reason therefore I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is for the sake of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.” They replied, “We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken anything evil about you. But we would like to hear from you what you think, for with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”
After they had set a day to meet with him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe. So they disagreed with each other; and as they were leaving, Paul made one further statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your ancestors through the prophet Isaiah,
‘Go to this people and say, You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn – and I would heal them.’ Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”
He lived there two whole years at his own expense and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Gospel: John 21:20-25
Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!” So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?”
This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
Ending On A High Note
The readings today are from the final verses of Acts and of John’s gospel. While the Acts began in Jerusalem, its major portion consists of Paul’s “Journey Narrative” (Chs. 13-28) through the Greek speaking world, founding local churches and extending the Christian community. All of Paul’s activity leads him towards Rome, from where he hopes the faith will spread to the end of the world. Here too is the sign of the cross in the suffering and martyrdom of the saints, just as the journey of Jesus ended in Jerusalem, with the cross and the resurrection.
The Journey of Jesus and of Paul must find place in our own lives too. Every moment and experience, easy or difficult, is pointed toward our Jerusalem, our Rome. The words of Jesus about the beloved disciple come to mind: “If I want him to stay until I come.” As Jesus explained to Peter, this does not mean that we will not die but rather that Jesus will come to bring us to himself. Meanwhile, Paul speaks his message with confidence, to the very end.
The final verses in John’s gospel give a slightly different nuance to the sense of arrival at the end, this coming of the Lord Jesus for us. “The world,” John writes at the very end, “does not have space to hold the books to record” all the details of Jesus’ life and ministry. We get the sense of much more to learn and to experience. In this sense the end is only the beginning. What we have seen and heard about Jesus, as we follow along the road with him to our Jerusalem or Rome, stores up memories that will need an eternity to unravel.
As Pentecost brings an end to the Easter season we read the final sentences in the Acts and the fourth Gospel, both endings that open up a life-giving future for those who trust in Jesus.