New Creation, Exodus, and Kingdom

Scripture Focus: John 1.4, 29
4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Joel 2.12, 30-32a
12 “Even now,” declares the Lord, 
“return to me with all your heart, 
with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 

30 I will show wonders in the heavens 
and on the earth, 
blood and fire and billows of smoke. 
31 The sun will be turned to darkness 
and the moon to blood 
before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. 
32 And everyone who calls 
on the name of the Lord will be saved; 
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem 
there will be deliverance

Reflection: New Creation, Exodus, and Kingdom
By John Tillman

The gospels are uniquely marked by the character and style of their authors. 

Mark is like an on-the-scene reporter, chasing down the action and describing what just happened. Matthew is like a measured legal commentator, stating Jesus’ legal case as the Messiah in the Sunday New York Times. Luke, together with Acts, is like a Ken Burns documentary with investigative rigor and long, revealing conversations with experts. John is like an art-house film with heavy symbolism, strange camera angles, and asynchronous storytelling.

John carefully connects the beginning of his gospel with the beginning of Genesis and the story of the Exodus. He poetically quotes or imitates words, thoughts, and ideas from these texts. If these texts were songs, John would be singing his lyrics to the same melody. 

John’s gospel tells us that a new creation is beginning with light being spoken into the darkness. He tells us that a new exodus is beginning with a crushing defeat for the empire of death and a stunning escape through the depths of the sea—a common symbol of the grave.

The New Testament, and particularly the gospels, do not erase the Old Testament. If anything they turn up the volume and remix the message in a new way. Jesus said he came to “complete” not abolish the scriptures.

Today, called Good Friday in the church calendar, is a day when Jesus partly completed many Old Testament prophecies, including portions of Joel’s account of the Day of the Lord. 

Darkness, blood, earthquakes, resurrections, and the tearing of the curtain of the Temple all occurred during the crucifixion. These wonders upon the earth caught the attention of even the jaded executioners of Jesus. One centurion stood in front of Jesus when he died and seeing all that happened, proclaimed Jesus the righteous Son of God. (Matthew 27.54; Mark 15.39; Luke 23.47)

The darkness of Good Friday catches our attention, pulling our eyes off of anything that might distract us from the coming explosion of light that the resurrection will be. Joel says, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved…on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance…”

Let us stand, awestruck, before the cross today and say, “This is the righteous Son of God.” This is the beginning of the new creation, the new exodus, and the establishment of the kingdom of Heaven.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me and are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress? — Psalm 22.1

Today’s Readings
Joel 2 (Listen – 1:39)
John 1 (Listen -6:18)

This Weekend’s Readings
Joel 3 (Listen – 3:20)John 2 (Listen -3:02)
Amos 1 (Listen – 2:38)John 3 (Listen -4:41)

Read more about Unprecedented Spirit
The very Spirit promised in Joel and poured out in Acts is a deposit, a guarantee, of the inheritance God has for each of us in Christ.

Read more about Love in His Name
Jesus enters a world rightly his, a world he lovingly created, and a world he now prepares, lovingly, to save.

Unprecedented Spirit

Scripture Focus: Joel 2.32
And everyone who calls 
on the name of the LORD will be saved; 
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem 
there will be deliverance, 
as the LORD has said, 
even among the survivors 
whom the LORD calls. 

Psalm 142.5
5 I cry to you, LORD; 
I say, “You are my refuge, 
my portion in the land of the living.” 

Acts 2.39
39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

Reflection: Unprecedented Spirit
By John Tillman

When joyous prophets pour into the streets, people want to know why. This is especially true if this joy comes at a time of suffering, a time of oppression, and a time of sadness.
This was the situation in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit directed Peter to Joel to describe the experience of being filled with the Spirit of God and explain why men and women, sons and daughters, were prophesying in the streets. (Acts 2.2-21

Peter’s audience would have also been familiar with the locust images in Joel’s description of the Babylonian invasion. The Roman legions Peter’s contemporaries were familiar with would, perhaps be an even better visual match than the Babylonians had been for Joel’s images of locusts marching in perfect rows of chitinous, armored doom.

Joel’s prophecy was multilayered in meaning. It referred to the near future of the Babylonian invasion. It also foresaw the far future in which the Lord’s armies will destroy evil, dispelling and disposing of the armies of the opposing empires of this world. Afterward, God will cause growth and abundance to replace barrenness and want.  

God himself will repay the suffering caused by evil upon the earth. The explanation for the significance of this prophecy’s fulfillment is also a part of Peter’s Pentecost sermon. God’s victory over evil, his repayment for loss, and the coming of the Holy Spirit to all who call upon him are all direct outcomes of the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

The very Spirit promised in Joel and poured out in Acts is a deposit, a guarantee, of the inheritance God has for each of us in Christ. (2 Corinthians 1.22; 5.5; Ephesians 1.13-14)

No matter the disaster that seems to surround us or is on its way, there is time to turn to the Lord. There is a time when he will relent. There is always a time when the Lord will relent.

But relenting only comes after repenting. No matter what we have done in the past, up to and including murdering his only son, we can repent and return to God. And the time for repentance is now. It is always now. 

The pouring out of God’s Spirit comes after repentance. It always comes after repentance.

May that day be soon.

And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved… — Joel 2.32

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Remain in me, as I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit all by itself, unless it remains part of the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches.” — John 15.4-5

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Joel 2 (Listen – 5:26)
Psalm 142 (Listen – 1:01)

Read more Rend Your Hearts
God will replace what is lost—including replacing our hearts of stone with the pierced-heart of Jesus.

Read more about The Radical Procedure of the Gospel
It’s lovely to think of God giving us a new heart and putting a new Spirit within us. But it is terrifying to admit to the diagnoses that would lead to such a radical procedure.