Lectionary Commentaries for May 22, 2022
Sixth Sunday of Easter

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on John 14:23-29

Elisabeth Johnson

This passage is part of Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples on the night before his death, a discourse punctuated by the anxious questions of his disciples about his impending departure.1

First Peter (John 13:36), then Thomas (14:5), then Phillip (14:8), and then Judas (not Iscariot) (14:22) ask for clarification about what Jesus is telling them.

Jesus has promised not to leave his disciples orphaned (John 14:18). He has promised to send another Advocate, the Spirit of truth, to be with them forever (14:16) and continue the work that he has begun. The world does not recognize the Spirit of truth and thus cannot receive him (4:17), just as it has not received Jesus.

Jesus tells his disciples that though the world will no longer see him, they themselves will see him (John 4:19) because he will reveal himself to them (4:21). Then Judas (not Iscariot) asks: “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” (4:22) Our passage begins with Jesus’ response to this question. Perhaps Judas expects that Jesus will give them some kind of secret knowledge, but that is not what Jesus means.

Earlier Jesus had spoken to his disciples of the “many dwellings” (monai pollai) in his Father’s house, where he was going to prepare a place for them (John 14:2). Now Jesus says that he and the Father will come and make their dwelling (monên) with those who love him and keep his word (14:23). In John’s Gospel, “eternal life” begins here and now; it is life in relationship with God through Jesus Christ (17:3). Even while Jesus prepares eternal dwellings with the Father, he and the Father will continue to dwell with his disciples in the present.

It is through the Holy Spirit, the Advocate or Paraclete (the Greek word paraclêtos signifies “called along beside”), that Jesus will continue to be present with his disciples. Jesus says that the Father will send the Holy Spirit to be alongside his disciples, to teach them and remind them of all that Jesus has said to them (John 14:26).

Because Jesus will be present with them through the Holy Spirit, his disciples need not be anxious. Chapter 14 begins with Jesus’ exhortation, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1). Now again Jesus exhorts, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid,” after telling his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (14:27).

When Jesus meets his frightened disciples after his resurrection, it will be with a greeting of peace (John 20:19, 21). The Greek word for peace is eirênê, but this is surely a translation of the traditional Hebrew greeting shalom. Shalom signifies more than the absence of conflict; it is a profound and holistic sense of well-being. It is the kind of peace which the world cannot give, but can only come from God. This gift of peace accompanies the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus breathes into his disciples as he sends them out in mission (20:22).

As Jesus seeks to prepare his disciples for what is to come, he tells them that if they loved him, they would rejoice that he is going to the Father, because the Father is greater than him (John 14:28). It seems understandable that the disciples would not be in a rejoicing mood upon learning that Jesus would soon be leaving them. Jesus tries to reassure them that he is not simply leaving them, but that there is a purpose in his leaving; he is going to be with the Father. Later in this same discourse, Jesus will tell them that it is to their advantage that he is going away, so that he can send the Advocate, who will bring further understanding and be with them always (16:7).

I can imagine that the disciples were still not convinced that Jesus’ leaving could be a good thing. Jesus says that he is telling them these things now so that when they occur, they will believe. Indeed, it is only after the resurrection, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, that the disciples begin to understand and believe the words of Jesus (John 2:22; 12:16) and are finally able to rejoice (20:20). The whole of John’s Gospel manifests the fruits of the Spirit’s work among the disciples after Jesus’ death and resurrection in deepening their understanding of Jesus’ identity and mission.

One approach to preaching this text might be to talk about how the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives. So often we do not understand what God is up to. We do not understand how certain events could have any meaning or result in anything good. It is only with time and prayer and the aid of the Holy Spirit that we begin to see how God might be working for good even in the midst of terrible and confusing events.

This is not to say that everything that happens is God’s will, for that would be to deny the reality of evil. The crucifixion of Jesus was clearly an act of human evil. But God is able to bring good even out of the worst evil. John’s Gospel sees the death of Jesus in the light of the resurrection, in the light of God’s triumph over evil and death. The incarnation, the ministry, the death and resurrection of Jesus, the sending of the Spirit—all of these events together demonstrate the depth of God’s love for the world.

Above all else, it is this profound love of God that Jesus has made known to his disciples and that the Holy Spirit continues to make known to us. The Spirit assures us that we are never abandoned, even in the midst of the loss, pain, and sorrow that are part of life in this broken world. The Word who became flesh and lived among us (John 1:14) continues to make his home with us (14:23), even as he prepares our eternal dwelling with God (14:2).

  1. Commentary first published on this site on May 1, 2016.

First Reading

Commentary on Acts 16:9-15

Working Preacher

Commentary is forthcoming for this text.


Commentary on Psalm 67

James Howell

The oldest scraps of Bible archeologists have ever found are little scrolls of thinly hammered out silver, with Numbers 6:24-26 scratched onto the surface: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” The larger one is a mere three and a half inches by one inch and both of them, found on the outskirts of ancient Jerusalem, are dated to the eighth or seventh century BCE (making them nearly three thousand years old!). Were these amulets, worn like charms? Were they placed into the grave of a loved one?

Whoever first wrote or fashioned Psalm 67 knew this blessing well, as did every worshiper who ever came to Jerusalem at one of the high festivals. Notice the pronoun shift. “May the Lord be gracious to you” expands to “May the Lord be gracious to us.” You, yes, me too, and the others standing around also. How lovely—and a stretch for us, perhaps like the Grinch’s heart growing three sizes. Our culture asks “Be gracious to me.” To get out of the idolatry of me, to care enough for the other, we move to “Be gracious to you.” Even better then is to join hands and together ask “Be gracious to us.”

But it’s not us versus them in this Psalm! The Psalmist, and those who sang it, and sing it, may well hear echoes of God’s call to Abraham in Genesis 12. God promises to bless Abraham, and then to use him to bless others, all nations in fact. Our Psalm soars upward, then gazes down over all the earth and invokes God’s blessing on us, a big, comprehensive us. I don’t hoard God’s blessing, and we in our church can’t shrink God down to the entity who blesses us but not others.

Pronouns continue to matter: in verse 6 worshippers address “our” God. Isn’t this like the prayer Jesus taught us? “Our” Father? It’s not ours, in a possessive sense, like ours but not theirs. The “our” reaches out and embraces others, the strangers, the people who pray differently and in distant places, maybe even those who have forgotten to pray or never pray. God is that big, yet that personal. God’s grace is as lavish as the mind-boggling scope and diversity of creation, as steady as the broad sweep of God’s work through history, as tender as a single person knowing God. It’s not “that” God, but “our” God. Stanley Hauerwas has often mused he doesn’t need a “personal savior,” like a personal tailor or trainer, as he’s happy to have the same savior as everybody else. God is personal, and everybody else’s too.

Psalm 67 clearly seems to be something the Israelites sang when the harvest came in. God’s relationship to things that grow is intriguing. Edible plants grow not only for us but all over God’s good earth. If we say a blessing before a meal, we aren’t assuming God floated the dinner down onto our tables. God’s in the whole process, creating a fertile earth, farmers sowing seed, weeding, harvesting, processing, canning, transportation to the store, the clerk checking you out, hands cooking. The harvest begins with human labor but continues when the farmer is asleep, akin to God’s vigilant care for us on the Sabbath.

But then some people have plenty of food and more, wasting much. If we offer thanks to God, isn’t the implication that it’s all God’s? And it’s for all the people? The old Haitian proverb says “God gives but God doesn’t share.” This is how the harvest blessings of the Psalm find their way to all the people named in the Psalm, and it’s the only chance God has of actually being praised by all the people. It’s hard for those who have little to nothing to get swept up in praising the Lord or believing God’s face shines on them too.

Verse 4 won’t let us wriggle out of God’s loving grasp—thinking of God’s warm fuzzy love no matter what. God has other tools than simply love, or love is experienced differently depending on where you are with respect to God. Judgment is a thing with our God. It’s not God flipping inside out to a different mood. There are conditions to love. Love arouses a holy, responsible life. Getting out of sync with God is to knuckle under the judgment that really is inviting love.

The Psalm is thanks-giving. And simultaneously it is a blessing, just like Numbers 6:24. In biblical times, people knew the power of words, they knew how to bless, to call down the most precious, priceless realities on somebody else. Nearing death, Isaac blessed his sons. Jacob placed two of his grandsons on his knees, laid hands on them and uttered a long prayer over them. The Psalms are chock-full of blessings. The Israelites believed some very real divine energy was passed from person to person, simply by speaking. Words have power; they package love across space and time. Maybe the preacher blesses the people. Maybe we encourage them to go out and bless others.

Since this blessing is something we share, with others and God, it could be worth noticing that the Hebrew preposition in verse 2, “shine upon us,” literally means “shine with us.” We shine. Together. And the light spreads. Such joy.

Second Reading

Commentary on Revelation 21:10, 22—22:5

Israel Kamudzandu

The authority, inclusivity, and love of God are fully expressed in Revelation 21, where John is given a vision of a God whose compassion is for all people. God’s New Jerusalem is not demarcated by exclusive boundaries, but it is one in which God himself will be the dwelling place. In many ways, the vision of John in Revelation 21 is a reinterpretation of Ezekiel 37: 27. The prophet Ezekiel informs believers that God is not an exclusive parent, but he welcomes all nationalities, peoples, and ethnicities into the New Jerusalem. The Word of God in the Bible is simply about love. 

However, Revelation and its message as well as its theological message remain opaque to the 21st century global Church. Wars, individualism, hate, poverty, and pandemics have all robed people of faith and belief in the God of Revelation. Tragically, God’s communicative force and his voice have been lost in probably every sector of life. It is imperative that 21st-century clergy and lay leaders in all denominations should always preach and teach from the Book of Revelation. When hope is lost in the world, the Church and all believers should be the living stream of flesh, hope, and encouragement. Sermons that teach God’s everlasting love, mercy, and grace should form the cornerstone of ecclesial life and theological curriculum. 

Amid 21st-century wars and the ongoing pandemic from COVID–19 and its variants, as well as living with the pain of HIV/AIDS, messages of spiritual revitalization should be central to all that is done in the Church. God’s mission, evangelization of the world, and Gospel proclamation should always include hope. Human ears, hearts, and minds have lost the art of hearing, sensing, and discerning God’s presence in the world. The love of God and presence may seem lost in affluent and politically charged nations of North America and Europe, yet in the Global South, claims of God’s spirit, voice and power are at the center of people’s lives. While worship of God in affluent nations has slid into a political and ritualized practice, in developing parts of the world, genuine worship is given priority. Hence, Revelation 21:10–22 provides believers with a vision of a God whose purposes are to redeem the world. 

While death comes to all people, Revelation’s message is that real life is never destroyed by dying, instead, those who die with faith in their hearts will surely be with God (verses 4-10). They have a promised future in God’s Kingdom, which is referred to as the New Jerusalem in Revelation, in which God will be the light and the dwelling place (Revelation 21:22). This belief in God of Revelation is perhaps lost in people’s hearts mainly because of the troubles and wounds of life. Teaching people, especially the ones who are going through pain, to cling to the love of God, may draw them closer to the voice of God in Revelation 21–22. 

As the book of Genesis, Revelation 21 is not just about God’s love, but the message encompasses and expresses God’s prevenient grace. This grace summons persons to be open to God’s gift of self-esteem and incarnate love. The orderliness of night and day, the changing seasons, physical laws, and biological rhythms reveal the presence of God in human lives. The variety of flora and fauna, of minerals and elements, of races, genders, and personalities shows an inquisitive thoroughness, blessing diversity. Believers and all persons need only to look through open, simple eyes to discover the beauties of God in nature and it is through nature’s life that God allows us to experience the first incarnation whose end comes to full blossom in Revelation’s unfolding divine drama. 

The Holiness of God as revealed in John’s message to Churches of Asia Minor is also shared with all believers at every station in their faith journeys. God’s attributes of creation, orderliness, diversity, beauty, and humor are hallmarks of his holiness and love. It is holiness and love that summons readers of Revelation to a life of eternity with God, and the summoning is made visible in every human being. Hence, no human being is an accident, and all humanity is created in the image of God, bearing the marks of God’s personality and mind. As such, the beloved city, described by John as the “bridal city,” is the eternal home of all human souls. So, the creature, no less than the Creator, is burdened and blessed with the ability to choose, freely and without prejudice beyond the subjective individual givens, a spiritual destiny. 

In light of Revelation 21–22, Easter is incomplete with the message of Revelation because the purpose of Christ’s death and Resurrection is to assure believers of their eternal life with God. Secondly, Easter with all its messages is about reminding people of their being loved by God. Blessed are those who recognize God’s love displayed in prevenient grace, and also in the death, resurrection, and second, coming of Jesus Christ. 

While the church defines itself based on insiders and outsiders, the message of Revelation is about the radical openness of God’s Kingdom whose eternal home has no gates. In this new and eternal habitat, God’s beloved people will no longer be ordinary human beings, but they will be “the redeemed priest of God,” living with love and concern for each other. Because of God’s love and redemption through the blood and faith of Jesus Christ, Christians are called to stand boldly before the throne of grace, knowing that God looks upon them not as lost and wretched. Instead, God sees his redeemed through the cross of his only Son, Jesus Christ. The truth of it all is that God sees genuine Christians through the prism of the Cross. Because of that symbol of the cross, people of all ages should seek and know communion with God and be reunited with the Creator. 

When life seems to be dim, and the love of God distant, the realization of the events of the Cross will reorient believers to what matters in their spiritual and faith journeys. The exhortation of Revelation 22:1-5, that God is the source of life and that God never abandons us, is as true in the realm of revelation as it is in the area of life tribulations, trials and hardships. Hence, what one believes as a child to be true about God is still true in adulthood. Not only is it true, but as one matures, God increasingly becomes more revealing. As one tests abilities and reaches out into uncharted areas of life, God constantly influences one’s actions but dynamically reveals more and more truth and grace. While God remains unyieldingly objective about what is logos truth, God is tenderly subjective about what is rhema truth. Logos is a universal truth; rhema implies an individualized message oriented to a unique situation. As believers experience God in life situations, in the New Jerusalem, believers will eventually see God’s face (22:4).1

The more directly a person relies on God to guide decision–making, the more effectively that life will be lived, and in the end that life will live and reign with God forever and ever (22:5). This in turn will indeed create great satisfaction and bring one into a closer and eternal life with God, the saints, and all angels of Heaven. The more self-accepting one is, the more one accepts others. Yes, God’s love begets self-love which begets a lovingly lived Christian and humane life.


  1. For more information on practical and faith formation in Christian lives, see Tokunboh Adeyemo, ed., Africa Bible Commentary: A One Volume Commentary. Nairobi: Kenya, 2006.