Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 • Acts 10:34-43 • Colossians 3:1-4 • Matthew 28:1-10
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
“To read the Bible well, you have to keep flipping backwards. Christians tend to get stuck in the New Testament—evangelicals typically in John or Paul, mainline liberals in the Synoptic Gospels. But the New Testament is merely a reader’s guide to the Old. Hardly a word can be understood without flipping back. This psalm shows us how to read the Bible. It is a song of victory. Jesus embodies [Psalm 118:19-20, 26] of victory with his triumphal entry…….The Bible is a book of praise from back to front. Once you wander in there, you keep going deeper.”
Jason Byassee, Vancouver School of Theology
The writer of this Psalm, and the situation that served as the catalyst for this writing, was desperate. This was most likely a time when all hope seemed to be lost and the people, as well as the author, can see no hope. Reality offers not even a glimpse of light; all is darkness.
Often times, in the Old Testament especially, the prayers of desperation seem to be a bit manipulative. ‘God, you are great, you are mighty, you are, at this moment, my only hope. So, I am going to praise you because I know you like that….’ While this may be a harsh assumption, God, regardless of the motivation, still responds with light and hope.
Byassee says that we must always flip back to the OT to understand, this is true – the reverse is true as well – we must also, always, flip forward. As you read this Psalm also reread the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, the Triumphal Entry and let the New Testament help you also understand the OT.
It is impossible to fully grasp the message of the apostle Peter in this passage without remembering the transformation in his own life and faith. Peter, has been challenged, since the resurrection and ascension – his complete view of his faith, and faith practice, has been altered. Most significantly, he has realized that God’s message is for all, not just the Israelite. He had a vision from God that said nothing is clean or unclean, then he was sent to share about Jesus to a gentile, a gentile who was a Roman official……and then he baptized him! This was a huge change, a monumental enlargement of the audience God was sending him to preach to.
The second change we hear in this message from Peter is that he is not talking about God, or Jesus, in the past tense. What is going on is just an extension of God’s work of rising Jesus from the dead. You can hear it in his wording the first three verses of this message:
Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all. Acts 10:34-36
Observe the case of some of these words, ‘shows’ and ‘is’ are present tense. He is not talking about what God has done or what Jesus did do, he is talking about what is being done, what is going on now – Peter is saying ‘Jesus is not in a tomb, however, he is now in the room!’
Peter points the listeners to his, and probably their, first person experience with the human Jesus and the responsibility that experience carries. He is also talking about his ongoing experience and how that is transforming him constantly.
This idea of ongoing transformation in the life of those who are believers and followers of Jesus continues here as Paul writes to the church at Colossae. Flip back to chapter two and see what Paul is saying to the church in the last section of this chapter. See the question that explains what he is addressing at the beginning of chapter three.
While we often think of God’s transformation in our lives as being somehow magical and mystical, Paul presents this change of thought as being a responsibility of the believer. Look at the change he is specifically addressing in chapter two. After you see what prompted Paul’s words in our Colossians reading you may want to read all of chapter two to understand why the emphasis is on the regulations and practices. If, you are up for more ‘searching’ see the specifics that Paul points out in the remainder of chapter three. Much of the things he tells the church to put aside are the same thing the Roman philosophers are warning the people against. Paul is pointing out the things that are on the forefront of the minds of the Romans and explaining the correlation, while pointing out the power from the risen Christ in that effort of change.
Matthew 28:1-10 (additional reading of John 20:1-18 is suggested)
It is after the Sabbath and the women are doing what you do after a death and burial, they return to the tomb. It is a dark time for them, just as dealing with death always is, so they return to mourn. Their hope is gone and they are attempting to deal with all of this the way they would always deal with this type of situation. The male disciples are hiding out, not really sure of what to do next and not sure of how safe the world is for them now. They are also keenly aware that they deserted Jesus, just as he said they would.
This Matthew passage is focused completely on the experience of the women at the tomb, in the John passage, however, we see the reaction of the men. It is very interesting that as they, the men, hear the news from the women they automatically rise and run to the tomb. They knew Jesus and his love, if there had been shame at their desertion they now threw it down as they ran to Jesus.
Returning to the Matthew passage we see Jesus, as he speaks to the women, pick up where he left off. Jesus, who prior to the crucifixion, had told the disciples he would go before them to Galillee, now he simply reminds them to go to Galilee.
What does that tell you about Jesus?