9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
22 And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. 24 By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, 25 and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. 26 They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. 27 But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
My son has been living in Jerusalem for the past 8 months or so. He worshipped in Bethlehem at Christmas and was in the church of the Resurrection on Easter. The monastery where he is staying is next to one of the more likely sites for the tomb of David. It has been quite a year for him. Thanks to technology we get regular updates of that strange and conflicted place. Palestinian youth light tires on fire when the wind is blowing toward the Jewish part of town. The holy sites all involve a video with overt Zionist propaganda. Even the Christians do not agree among themselves. Calendar differences mean that Orthodox and Western Christians celebrated Easter one week apart. During the Easter homily by the beloved Roman Catholic bishop in town the Orthodox started sounding horns and began their boisterous Palm Sunday parade. The Christian virtues of patience and gentle regard for one another seem to be short supply.
When John wrote these words of Jerusalem, the Holy City of God descending from heaven with the radiance of a rare jewel and having the very glory of God, it must have seemed just as strange to his readers. The city had been destroyed by the Romans a couple of decades before. The temple had been burned and the city left in ruins. John’s vision must have been just as absurd as it looks today. Jerusalem a holy place? Have you been there?
John calls us to remember that what makes that Jerusalem holy and what makes us holy is not when we get it right. It is when God gets it right. The Jerusalem of this vision (is it a place or is it the church’s people?) is beautiful and dazzling because God dwells in it. Why Jerusalem? But we might as well ask the question, why does he dwell in you?