Studying God’s Word

Acts 5:12-16
Revelation 1:9-11a, 12-13, 17-19
John 20:19-31 [45C]
Over the next five Sundays of the Easter season, the first readings are all taken from the Acts of the Apostles, the second readings from the Revelation of John, and the Gospel readings from the Gospel of John. Focusing on these three texts throughout the Easter season allows us to see how the theological vision of these biblical authors helps unpack the meaning of Easter. 
The Acts of the Apostles is actually the sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Scholars agree that the same author (Luke) wrote both these biblical texts commonly referred to as “Luke–Acts.” One of the characteristics of Luke–Acts is its parallel literary structure: episodes from the Gospel often find a parallel in Acts. The first reading for today offers a good example. We hear how the apostles performed “many signs and wonders” ranging from curing the sick to exorcizing demons (“unclean spirits”) in the early days and weeks following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Miraculous healings and exorcisms was one of the hallmarks of Jesus’ public ministry (see, for example, Lk 4:31-39). Even summary statements of these powerful deeds as heard in today’s reading from Acts has its parallels in the Gospel (see, for instance, Lk 4:40-41). But even beyond literary considerations, there is a consistent theological message at work as well. Just as Jesus’ ministry was Spirit-driven (Lk 4:18), so, too, the powerful deeds performed by the apostles was through the work of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). For Luke, the birth of the church in Jerusalem and the success of the apostles in evangelizing many to believe in the crucified and resurrected Christ (“great numbers of men and women, were added to them”), was a direct result from the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit—the same Holy Spirit that animates and empowers our church today.
The second reading records some of the details of the opening vision from the Revelation of John. This last book of the New Testament is considered an “apocalypse.” The term apocalypse comes from the Greek word apokalypsis, meaning “unveiling” and refers to the literary genre of the Revelation of John. As indicated by the term, the Revelation of John claims to unveil or reveal something hidden, often involving heavenly or otherworldly mysteries. The second readings throughout the Easter season will reveal many of the heavenly mysteries.
In todays’ reading, we hear the author identify himself as “John.” There is little reason to doubt that someone named John, a Christian prophet who was exiled on the island of Patmos (a Roman penal colony) for his “testimony to Jesus,” wrote this apocalypse to a group of seven churches in Asia Minor (see Rev 2–3). Today most scholars take the statement in Revelation 1:9 at face value and believe that someone named John authored this work (see also 1:4; 22:8). In this opening vision, John sees the resurrected Jesus portrayed in graphic imagery as the “son of man” ready for battle (1:12-16) and receives a divine directive to “write down” what he sees and experiences. Most of the book of Revelation is John’s account of what was unveiled to him in the unseen order.
The Gospel reading is the first Resurrection appearance of Jesus to the disciples and contains the well-known “doubting Thomas” story. Thomas’ initial doubt is transformed into a deep faith, resulting in him articulating one of the highest Christological statements about Jesus in the Gospel of John: “My Lord and my God!” Jesus’ response to Thomas’ confession of faith resonates throughout history: “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Dr. Daniel J. Scholz