Verse 16 of our reading reiterates the idea of embodied evangelism, the suffering to which God is calling Paul for the sake of the gospel. God calls Paul to a cruciform ministry, a ministry formed by the way of the cross, the way of the self-giving, suffering love of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the root, source, and summit of the ministry of suffering, divine love. (See Acts 3:18; 17:3.) This embodied evangelism is found throughout the New Testament. Peter exhorts believers to endure suffering by emulating the example of the cruciform love of Jesus. (See 1 Peter 2:19-23; 3:14-18; 4:1.) Paul teaches that believers are granted to believe and to suffer for the sake of Christ (see Philippians 1:29; 2 Corinthians 1:6; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Timothy 1:12), and that through our suffering we are joined together in solidarity and communion as the church. (See 1 Corinthians 12:26.)
Our suffering in service to the gospel is not for a sadistic God who might seem to have a divine propensity toward pain and punishment. Rather, it is a sanctifying suffering that conforms us to the image of the holy God who is, in Triune essence, suffering love. Let us consider the extent to which we are willing to live out the suffering love of Jesus Christ in our own lives. Do we rightly perceive our own suffering as an embodiment of the love of Christ that transforms ourselves and others? Or, do we seek to avoid the sanctification that comes through suffering?
Almighty God, we pray that you conform us to your image by teaching us to learn divine love through living out the suffering love of Christ for the sake of others. Amen.
Saul is one of the primary obstacles to the early spread of Christianity. The death and resurrection of Jesus does not fit his paradigm for the Messiah, so it cannot be true. It takes a miraculous intervention by Christ himself to change his mind. Psalm 30 reminds us that the light will always chase the darkness. We experience true suffering and true loss, but God can turn our mourning into dancing in God’s own timing. In Revelation, John takes us to the throne room of God, where angels and creatures proclaim the glory of the Lamb of God who has defeated death and reigns forever. Returning to the Gospel of John, we read more about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, which here include a seaside breakfast and a quiz for Peter.
Read Acts 9:1-20. Jesus’ resurrection calls us to an embodied faith. How do you bear the gospel?
Read Psalm 30. Recall a specific time when you depended on God.
Read Revelation 5:11-14. Have you ever worshiped the Lamb with your whole body? What keeps you from falling down to worship God?
Read John 21:1-19. The author reminds us that Jesus calls us to be shepherds and sheep. Which role do you most often fill? How can you take on a new leadership role or allow others to lead you?
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