Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year A)
Scripture Readings: Acts 1:6-14, 1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11, John 17:1-11, Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
Acts 1:8 is a key verse. To begin with, it explains that the power of the church comes from the Holy Spirit and not from man (see Zech. 4:6). God’s people experienced repeated fillings of the Spirit as they faced new opportunities and obstacles (Acts 2:4; 4:8, 31; 9:17; 13:9). Ordinary people were able to do extraordinary things because the Spirit of God was at work in their lives. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not a luxury; it is an absolute necessity.
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
Persecution is not something that is alien to the Christian life. We should not be surprised when we encounter challenging times. Peter reminds us that it is an honor and privilege to suffer with Christ and be treated by the world the way it treated Him. “The fellowship of His sufferings” is a gift from God (Phil. 1:29; 3:10).
Not every believer grows to the point where God can trust him with this kind of experience, so we ought to rejoice when the privilege comes to us.
Here we have the beginning of the longest recorded prayer of Jesus (17:1–26). Many interpreters have called it Jesus’ “high-priestly” prayer. In the first section of the prayer, Jesus noted that the cross would bring glory to himself, for it was the will of God and the means of salvation for all who would believe.
Most of this portion of Jesus’ prayer is devoted to the welfare of the disciples. Jesus prayed specifically for their protection in the area of unity (17:11), emphasizing again the importance of the unity of the body of Christ, the church. This is not organizational unity but interpersonal, relational unity.
Why So Surprised?
If only our response to life could be as steadfast as today’s readings, we’d be fine. Instead, life’s circumstances – and our emotional response to them – often resemble a roller coaster. We’re up one minute, then free falling the next, all the while trying to hang on for dear life! Yet notice the response to the unexpected in today’s readings.
Notice what is happening in the Acts passage of scripture. Jesus is standing with his disciples having a Q&A session. All of a sudden, his disciples watch as he is lifted up into heaven, disappearing from their sight. The angelic response to this rather miraculous moment is somewhat anticlimactic. “Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?” the angels ask. They might as well have said, “Nothing to see here, go on about your business.”
Peter echoes this same tone when he says not to be surprised by the “fiery ordeal” taking place. He gives this admonition to people who were facing ridicule, retribution, torture, and even death for their belief in Jesus. And yet Peter says not to be surprised.
The quiet confidence heard in the words of the angels and Peter comes from the assurance they had in the words of Jesus, spoken in today’s gospel reading. They knew Jesus had been glorified, knew those given to Him now rest safely in the Father’s protection. In life and in death, those who are in Christ are firmly held in the Father’s hands.
Prayer for Seventh Sunday of Easter – Almighty God, strengthen me with Your Holy Spirit, bringing me safely to the place where my Savior has gone before; through Jesus Christ, Amen.
Readings are from the Revised Common Lectionary, Year A