Lion Devouring a Rabbit, by Eugene Delacroix. (See the second reading below…)
The RCL Bible readings for Sunday, June 1, are:
Acts 1:6-14, Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36, 1st Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11, and John 17:1-11.
The first reading – Acts 1:6-14 – is about Jesus telling His disciples – some six weeks after His resurrection – that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit, and that they were then to “be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Then came The Ascension, as described in the post On Ascension Day.
While the disciples were standing there on Mount Olivet, two men in white robes appeared and asked why the disciples were looking up into the sky. They explained that Jesus, having been “taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
The reading concluded with the disciples returning the “Sabbath day’s” journey back to Jerusalem, where they were “constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.”
That is, the disciples had a far different reaction to this parting, compared to the initial one when they thought Jesus had been killed, as the International Bible Commentary (IBC) noted:
…robbed again of their beloved Master within a few short weeks of His reappearance in resurrection life, this time they are neither depressed nor dispirited, but superlatively happy…
(See the IBC commentary on Luke 24:50-52.) This of course fits in with the theme of this Blog, that Jesus came to earth mainly to insure that His followers would be able to experience life in all its abundance. (See John 10:0.)
That doesn’t mean that such followers can go around blithely ignoring the very real dangers inherent in this life here on earth, a point that Peter made in the second reading below.
But in between the first and second readings come portions of Psalm 68, which the IBC described as “God’s Triumphal Procession.” (The IBC also added that it was one of the most difficult psalms “both to translate and to interpret.”) The psalm’s prelude – verses 1 to 6 – “calls the people to the worship of the God who protects them from all their enemies and cares for them in all their troubles.” And the full psalm “has been associated with the ascension of Jesus,” with a look at the past, present and especially the future, and so anticipating “God’s final victory and universal sovereignty.” Of particular interest is verse 3: “let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God; let them also be merry and joyful.”
But between “now and then” – God’s final victory – there is that time “on the road to Jesus” (John 6:37), with its very real dangers. Thus the main theme of the second reading – 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11 – is that the followers of Jesus are to be steadfast in their faith. (See also First Epistle of Peter – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.) But the Apostle added:
Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.
(That is, you don’t want to end up like the rabbit in the Delacroix painting.)
And finally, the Gospel reading – John 17:1-11 – is part of the “great prayer of Jesus,” as the IBC described John 17:1-26. Note that in this prayer – before His crucifixion – Jesus “consecrated Himself for the work which He is about to undertake,” after which He prayed for His disciples and the ordeal that they were about to begin:
“Father, the hour has come… I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do…. I have made your name known… And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. “
So the lesson – especially from the second reading from 1 Peter- could be this:
The upper image – Lion Devouring a Rabbit, by Eugene Delacroix – is courtesy of http://www.1st-art-gallery.com/thumbnail/214297/1/Lion-Devouring-A-Rabbit.jpg.
For the full Sunday readings see The Lectionary Page.
As to “a Sabbath day’s journey.” See How Far was a “Sabbath Days Journey” – Bible History Online, which indicated that from the time of Joshua to the time of Jesus, the distance a devout Hebrew could travel on the Sabbath was gradually and continually expanded. In other words, they weren’t strict or “conservative,” but rather used a liberal interpretation of Scripture: “Over the centuries the authorities within the rabbinical circles of Judaism found ways, from examining the miniscule details of the law, to increase the distance that an Israelite may travel on the Sabbath day.”
See also BibleGateway.com Dictionaries: SABBATH DAY’S JOURNEY, which indicated the distance was “supposed to be a distance of 2,000 cubits, or less than half-a-mile, the distance to which, according to Jewish tradition, it was allowable to travel on the Sabbath day without violating the law (Acts 1:12; comp. Ex. 16:29; Num. 35:5; Josh. 3:4).”
The “let’s be careful” image is courtesy of http://api.ning.com/files/HbWmngpSBZZrUu-5tO6yQxzT-yapP2aih7MX-o7vLPFDTzhgIq8etUXz2WZFegjNxGUhQMmnHbMVV*-0LXhxiA__/staysafeoutthere.jpg?width=320&height=238.
I.e., that lower image is a “cut” from the old Hill Street Blues TV series; the “American serial police drama that was first aired on NBC in 1981 and ran for 146 episodes on primetime into 1987.” See Hill Street Blues – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.