Tag Archives: Acts

If it is of God… Acts 5:29, John 20:19

[for the audio version click on the above icon]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who join Thomas saying to Jesus “My Lord and My God!” said … Amen!

We now have this pretty interesting conflation, two different perspectives have started to see Jesus as something much more than what was imagined. The leaders of Israel seem to be rethinking what they did to Jesus. Thomas straight out asserts Who Jesus is “My Lord and My God!” Gamaliel was a very important man at the time. Luke, the writer of Acts, singles Gamaliel out by calling him “a teacher of the Law held in honor by all the people. The Jewish Encyclopedia says: Gamaliel was the son of Hillel who is still one of the leading authorities on Jewish law and is quoted by many people today. He was the head of the school Hillel in his time succeeding his father. “Gamaliel, as it appears, did most toward establishing the honor in which the house of Hillel was held, and which secured to it a preeminent position within Palestinian Judaism soon after the destruction of the- Temple. The title “Rabban,” which, in the learned hierarchy until post-Hadrianic times, was borne only by presidents of the highest religious council, was first prefixed to the name of Gamaliel.”[1] Much later on in Acts, Paul seems to take special pride in being a student of Gamaliel’s. (Acts 22:3) He gets a lot of notice in Acts, during the early church. If he is proceeding with caution against the embryonic Christian church, then he must have some idea that Jesus is who He says He is.

The amazing things that have happened, certainly culminated in the Resurrection of Jesus, leaves little doubt as to Jesus’ claim to be God. Gamaliel had to have been part of the court that condemned Jesus. I would guess that Gamaliel fell right in line with the majority consensus. Caiaphas proclaims to the leadership that this man, Jesus, must die to save the nation. No thought is given that there might be something a lot more compelling with Jesus, that He might be who He said He was. The concern was with the preservation of the status quo; Israel, it’s leadership and maintaining their way of life. As highly regarded as Gamaliel was, he certainly followed the party line. While we know that there were members of the Sanhedrin who objected to the illegality of the proceedings to try Jesus, Gamaliel wouldn’t have been one of those objectors. If he had objected the Sanhedrin might have at least backed off from condemning Jesus to die and might have even decided to do something else regarding Jesus.

The paradigm has clearly changed for the leadership in Israel. They thought that they were dealing with a nuisance that would burn itself out. They tried, and for the first time in history, killing a man didn’t make Him go away. It seems Gamaliel is hedging his bets a little, but it’s pretty clear that he sees Jesus as a lot more than being an ordinary man. Gamaliel compares Jesus to Theudas and Judas the Galilean. It seems though that Gamaliel is taking Jesus a lot more seriously than Theudas or Judas, neither one of them rose from the dead. It seems that the leadership is trying to prevent a panic. They’re trying not to acknowledge it, but clearly there is a new archetype and they know that they can’t just make the problem, Jesus, go away. They hope that they can, but now they have something much bigger than they expected while trying to avoid setting the rest of Israel off, that Jesus is who He says that He is.

The difference is that while Gamaliel is trying to hedge, not set off a rush to Jesus and still not taking Him seriously. He seems to know the truth, but as so many people do for so many bad reasons, Gamaliel is trying to save his position in Israel. The disciples, as Luke writes, know the truth, they know that there is no other option, they are beaten and we know how brutally Jesus was beaten. Maybe the disciples weren’t beaten as badly, but you know that they suffered more than enough that they shouldn’t be back out on the street rejoicing and teaching and preaching about Jesus. They knew the truth and saw there was no alternative to Jesus, the Sanhedrin was still trying to play its political game with its own people, the Romans and irrational as it sounds God, even though Gamaliel certainly had some perception that Jesus and his disciples were more than the garden variety revolutionaries of previous years.

Clearly John is continuing to emphasize that Jesus is much more than what most people seem to want to believe. Thomas declares it: “My Lord and my God!” Jamieson writes: “He is overpowered, and the glory of Christ now breaks upon him in a flood. His exclamation surpasses all that had been yet uttered, nor can it be surpassed by anything that ever will be uttered in earth or heaven.”[2] This is not some gratuitous acknowledgement, Thomas was completely overwhelmed and was utterly sure who Jesus was. Meyer writes : “ It is a confessionary invocation of Christ in the highest joyful surprise, in which Thomas gives the fullest expression of profound emotion to his faith, which had been mightily elevated by the conviction of the reality of the resurrection, in the divine nature of his Lord. The ὁ κύριός μκὁ θεός μου was the complete and highest confession of Messianic faith,” This is the first time when someone really addresses Jesus as God. For those who like to question who Jesus was and whether He claimed to be God, here is where someone is declaring who Jesus is. It may not be bragging if it’s true, but it’s more credible when someone else is declaring the fact. And again, there are plenty of places where Jesus is readily understood by those He is talking to as to who He is. If it wasn’t true, wouldn’t Jesus lift Thomas off his knees and set him straight? If it wasn’t true Jesus wouldn’t have just let Thomas’ comment ride.

We are His disciples. We see Jesus is making it very clear that Jesus has the authority to and intends for us to take what the disciples then and we who are His disciples now, that we aren’t to just go back home as if it’s all ending. He makes it clear to His disciples then it’s only beginning. He tells them, and us, that the Father sent Him. He has been sent to us to take His word, His life, what He has done for us dying for our sins and then resurrected to give us eternal life, that it isn’t for us to keep to ourselves. Matthew 28:18, John 20:21, Acts 1:8, Mark 16:15, Matthew, John, Luke and Mark all report that Jesus came to send us to tell the entire world about the salvation that Jesus gives us. In John He reinforces this message by giving them a preview of Pentecost. “He breathed on them.” The Greek word the hagios pneuma, the Holy Spirit, pneuma meaning the movement of air, the breath of His Body. He is giving them the Holy Spirit to strengthen them and for them to understand that they constitute His church. As He does by giving them the keys of the kingdom of heaven in Matthew 16:9, He is empowering His church to not just bring the Good News to the world, but that Jesus is empowering His church to save people to the Kingdom, but to also make it clear to those who aren’t saved and that His work is done through His disciples in His church.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/6494-gamaliel-i

[2] Jamieson-Fausett-Brown Bible Commentary on website  http://biblehub.com/commentaries/jfb/john/20.htm

Harumph, Harumph what are you doing? First St Johns Acts 4 April 26, 2015

 

[For the audio version please click on the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who know and love the Good Shepherd said  … AMEN!

In a scene from a Mel Brooks movie, Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks plays a rather adle-brained governor. He is asked to sign a bill and he says “We must protect our phoney-baloney jobs gentlemen and he starts to harrumph and the rest of his entourage harrumphs with him. “Hey that guy over there didn’t harrumph” he says.

Reminds me of the scene we have here. It might be a little harsh to label them as phoney-baloneys, but the scene that comes to my mind is the Sadducees and temple guards coming up on Peter and harrumphing. “Harrumph, Harrumph, what are you guys doing here? Wait a minute that guard over there didn’t harrumph. Didn’t we tell you guys to get out of Dodge? At least put a lid on this Jesus stuff and now here you are preaching this stuff right on the temple.” I can hear at least one guard saying: “I was all nice and comfortable, having a cup of coffee and a bear claw, checking my smart phone and now I have to jump up and deal with these guys?” No one was going to cut the disciples any slack.

Remember these guys, the disciples? These are the guys who couldn’t run away fast enough when the guards showed up to arrest Jesus. Big, tough Peter and he denies even knowing Jesus to a little Jewish maid. Up until now they’ve been hiding behind locked doors and closed windows scared to death that the temple guards or Roman soldiers are going to drag them away to be crucified. I’m not minimizing their fear, they had legitimate fears, there really wasn’t anything like due process in Israel at the time. Sure Pilate did try to defend Jesus. But it wasn’t like Jesus, or now the disciples, had some smart lawyers to keep them from being punished. Jesus became a serious liability to Pilate and Pilate had no compunction of washing his hands of the situation and sending Jesus to be crucified. The same could have been easily done to the disciples. There wouldn’t have been any newspaper articles condemning this, the television stations wouldn’t have had film of marches to protest this. The disciples would be flogged and it easily could have been worse.

So what was the difference here? How did these men go from quivering with fear in dark to tigers, standing out in the most public spot they could have been at in Jerusalem? Of course we’re talking about, what was probably the Day after Pentecost they are now indwelt by the Holy Spirit. No doubt Peter and the disciples wreaked some havoc the day before, and now they’ve added 2,000 more people to the crowd they had yesterday. Ya this stuff had to stop, harrumph, harrumph!

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. This has again taken on sort of a frilly connation, but it is intended to be a very serious, very life or death meaning. You can trust Jesus and the fact that He is the faithful Shepherd that lays down His life for His flock, and continues to stand on guard in a very spiritually dangerous world. We had a great talk about this at the Men’s Retreat. We who live in this part of the country, 21st century Americans have pretty much been lulled into very comfortable, affluent lives. Okay, so what do we have to be protected from? From our complacency, from our attitude that we’ve got it all in a brown paper bag and there’s nothing that threatens us! As you’ve probably heard me say, Satan doesn’t care how he gets your attention, so long as it’s not Jesus. If he can just lull the world into this frilly la, la world, a world where we have everything, so we don’t need Jesus then he’s happy to see us lost. Apparently the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy was very traumatic to fans. One of the threads was this great romance and the wife was put in the position where she had to watch as they had to stop treating her husband. She’s sitting next to her unconscious, dying husband telling him it’s ok, everything will be alright. How the world comes to that conclusion baffles me, how will it be alright? Death is terrible trauma, a horrible rending of life, something we were never meant to endure until sin came into the world. There is nothing alright with death and for those who are not saved in Christ, who have rejected God’s plan and lived how they want to, it means eternal condemnation!

What do we have to be protected from, what does the Good Shepherd save us from? Being lulled into death with a false assurance that it’s ok, it’s not! From the spiritual warfare that goes on around us that continues to look for ways to turn us from Jesus to anything and everything, including eternal damnation.

Jesus gives us His assurance, His promise, His genuine love “I am the Good Shepherd and I lay down my life for the flock.” His love is not only to comfort and assure, but to protect, to stand against the evil all around us that can overcome and swallow us up, while we think we are safe and sound in things that we are blessed with, but rust and are destroyed, in the end don’t do anything for us, while Jesus is eternal and all-powerful. We are always so ready to trade the eternal for the trivial.

That’s what we see in our Acts reading today. There are those in the Jewish leadership who understand who Jesus is, they know, they’ve seen all the signs of the Messiah. But like Mel Brooks, harrumph, harrumph, I’m big and important and this is what is real today and I will deal with it when it’s convenient for me. Remember Jesus’s parable of the Rich Man? Where am I going to store all my crops and God comes to him and says: “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ All of our wealth and easy living won’t mean a thing. We can either be Pentecost tigers and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit who guides us, and, like Peter, get up before those who just want to harrumph, or we can be nice and complacent. CS Lewis writes in the Screwtape Letters: “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,….” We can harrumph all we want and feel it isn’t fair, or it should be up to us but that option wasn’t available to the disciples at Pentecost and it’s not to those who claim to be Jesus’s disciples today. Blow the dust off those journals, ask yourself and write about whether you are of the flock that Jesus shepherds or do you just harrumph your way through life?

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

Wow, do we make the wrong choices! First St Johns April 19, 2015 Acts 3:11-21

[For the audio version of this sermon click on the above link]

We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who have denied Jesus for the ways of the world said … AMEN!

Peter, Peter, not known for his subtlety … I know, you always recognize in someone else the thing that is your own biggest issue. Peter was as subtle as a sledge hammer, like me. But I would submit that there is a time for tact and diplomacy and there is a time for up in your grill. Don’t hand me this odd idea that Jesus was always nice and comfy and tactful. He wasn’t! There were plenty of times when Jesus wanted someone to feel uncomfortable, He wanted the other person to know Who He is. Calling Pharisees white washed sepulchers, telling the Rich Young Ruler, “you go and work out your issues with all that wealth that you have, really show me who is God in your life, sell all that stuff, give it away to those who don’t begin to have enough and then we’ll talk. The Biblical talk might seem couched, but when Jesus was calling the religious leaders, snakes, vipers, He wasn’t pulling any punches. Neither is Peter.

“But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murder to be granted to you …” There is no one more debased, more sinful, vile, more of an affront against God than a murderer. God gives us life, there is no one permitted to take it unless it is specifically granted to someone as a public authority in the left hand kingdom. Let’s not get into these arguments about the capital penalty. The state is authorized by God to protect the citizenry and that includes putting to death those who would deprive another of life. As Christians we know we are made in the imago dei the image of God: “ESV Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Every life is of value to God and yes that includes the whole discussion on abortion. Is this the “unforgivable sin”? No! Jesus died for all the sins of the world, including murder, yes. As Christians when we repent and lift up our sin for forgiveness to God He forgives, even murder, but remember, taking life, God’s creation, is grievous sin against the Creator of Life.

The issue is the terrible irony that Peter is pointing out, that when given the choice by Pilate, the people in the crowd chose to ignore all the proofs that Jesus had given, the incontrovertible evidence who Jesus was, is, who He said He is during the incarnation, the people still chose a murderer over Him: “ESV Matthew 27:17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ”?… ESV Matthew 27:21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” How do you justify that? How can you with any kind of honesty, given the choice of life “I am the way, the truth and the life.” chose someone who, with his own agenda, choses to kill? Jesus healed, gave people new life, healed them of diseases such as leprosy, an issue of blood, young people who died. He restored hope and promise in so many ways, how can you chose someone who arbitrarily decided to be judge and jury and deprived people of God’s gift?

Peter goes on to point out: “ESV Acts 3:15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” Remember who Peter is talking to, this is all very fresh in everyone’s mind, they were either right there on Good Friday and watched while they turned against this man who had given so much or they had heard about it. Jesus raised at least three people from the dead. Two ; the ruler of the synagogue and the “widow’s son of Nain”, it happened way out of the way, up in the north, you know what kind of crazy stuff comes out of there. But the straw that broke the camel’s back, the raising of Lazarus, happened just one and a half miles outside of Jerusalem. Jesus was getting right in the face of the rulers of Israel, for that matter everyone in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is where it mattered, if it happened in Jerusalem, a statement ended with an exclamation point. “ESV John 12:10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well,” Meaning as well as Jesus. John goes on to write: “ESV John 12:11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus.” Don’t try to confuse us with the facts, just because Jesus did this, doesn’t mean that we’re going to fall on our knees to Him, you can hear them saying, as too many of us often say; “There’s important things to do and we haven’t got the time to get into this Jesus stuff right now, we’ll do that when we have to. I seem to run into people who are obsessed over end times prophecy, eschatology, the study of end times prophecy. Those who are more concerned about maintaining their current life so that they can time it just right to come to Jesus at the end of time and be saved. Wow, that’s a gamble, for anyone who is like that, they are assuming they’re going to live that long and then be able to just jump right over and be saved. God is not mocked, and that makes playing with fire seem like a kiddie birthday party game.

We all play that game to an extent. Yes, we are human, Dr Luther says, the old man is constantly going to assert himself, steer us away from Jesus and to sin. Too often we make the wrong choices. It is not our choice that the Holy Spirit guides us to the church of Christ and gives us pastors and brothers and sisters in Jesus to minister to us. That is grace, that is God saving you. You do not make a choice for Jesus, He chooses you. We really have no choice, we either are led to Christ as our Lord, or anything else we do leads to destruction. The path to destruction is wide, wide enough to accommodate all the things that take us from Jesus. As Peter said, it’s not so much that the people on Good Friday made the wrong “choice”, as much as they denied Jesus. They denied the Lord, the Author of life, the one whom God raised from the dead. They were witnesses to that and we are as much today. Too often, we simply deny the Lord and turn to other things to worship. Sure we don’t turn to murders as such, but we do turn to things that clearly deny Jesus. Are we forgiven when we turn to the idols in our lives that deny Jesus? Yes, we are. Jesus died for all of our sins. As my good friend and brother pastor in Christ, Christopher Irelan writes: “”Have no fear, little flock. For the Father has chosen, to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) You future is secured. “Lead me in good paths, for your Spirit is good.” (Psalm 143:10) Your present is secured. “Rejoice in the Lord, always.” (Philippians 4:4) You can rejoice.[1]” It’s not so much about how we deny Jesus, it’s about the fact that the Father has chosen us. We can start on the wide path to destruction, take the wrong course, deny our Lord, but He chooses us, He puts us on good paths, as Christopher says “Your present is secured in Him”, even when we deny Him.

Lift Him up and praise Him, ask the Holy Spirit to guide us around those things that turn us away from Him and as Peter promises the crowd: “ESV Acts 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom

[1] Christopher Irelan FB devotional April 18, 2015