Asking Who is Jesus? is to ask Who is the Body of Christ? The readings for today circle around those questions, offering multi-dimensional answers.
John's Gospel gives us Jesus' identity as shepherd to his sheep. The first reading lifts up the individual: Dorcas who stalwartly cared for others as a beloved member of the flock. And the Revelation describes the white-robed multitude who endured through centuries of suffering. This is a day to rejoice over the church itself!
On a day when he was moving freely about the temple, a crowd gathers around Jesus and implores him to tell them plainly if he is the Messiah. . . .
Jesus tells them that this is exactly what he has done; he has spoken, and he has acted, in ways consistent with his purpose of revealing God to them. . . .
Jesus assures them that those who are his will hear his voice. A relationship of trust will develop, like that of a shepherd and his sheep. Perhaps the best thing that we can do is to stop searching so furiously for the proof that we feel we need in order to believe, and simply to start listening for the voice of the One that can be trusted. – John P. Fairless
Two items to notice in the book of Acts: the profound role Dorcas had played in the life of the community as a seamstress who clothed the poor, and where Peter stays while in Joppa. Who are the Dorcases in your congregation? How might you appreciate them and cultivate them more? – Taylor Burton-Edwards
My daughter Meredith, in her first semester of college took a class on the Western intellectual tradition. The class studied the Revelation of John as one of the most important books in Western cultural history. The professor rightly stressed the way the Revelation has influenced art, music, religious faith, politics. The professor had read some contemporary biblical scholarship on the Revelation. She told that class that this influence of Revelation is surprising given the obvious fact that the early church had been disappointed about the imminent return of Jesus and the end of the world. The Revelation, she said, was not a prediction about some distant future events as Christian fundamentalists still assume. It was about the hoped-for destruction of the Roman Empire and vindication of Christian martyrs at the end of the first century. And, of course, that didn't happen.
Then the teacher asked the class (in the way that many of us who teach tend to indoctrinate our students with our ideas)—she asked the class how many of them thought that John in the Revelation had been wrong about the future. Meredith said, “Daddy, I was the only one who didn't raise my hand.” “What did the teacher say about that?” I wondered. “She asked me if I thought John was right, and I said, ‘Yes.’ The teacher seemed surprised with my answer, so I went on to explain. ‘Well, you see, the Roman Empire did fall, and nineteen hundred years later we still have the church!’”
Yes! John seems to have had that understanding: Rome will fall; Christ's church will prevail. The world may worship Rome; but the worship that will endure as truth will be the worship of the God who raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Indeed, in a fundamental way, the book of Revelation is about getting our worship right. – L. Edward Phillips
Taylor Burton-Edwards is the Director of Worship resources for the United Methodist Church.
John P. Fairless is senior minister of the First Baptist Church of Gainesville, Florida.
L. Edward Phillips is an associate professor of worship and liturgical theology at Candler School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia.
Homily Service 40, no. 5 (2007): 76-85.