June 25, 2014
Acts 4:1-4 (in context)
The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
There is a big difference between the “offense” of the Gospel and the “offensiveness” of the people proclaiming it.
People, especially people of power, take offense at the message of the Cross, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Why? Because they fear like the plague, they will lose their power. They simply cannot stand the thought of being just like everybody else. They have carved out an identity for themselves that in a broken kind of way works for them. We all do it. We put our stock in our wealth, position, prestige, authority, community standing, possessions, connections, influence, intelligence, credentials, associations, bodily appearance, popularity, reputation, and yes, religious authority.
Everything just listed can be summed up in two words: Image Management. Because we lack a true sense of personal worth and a deep sense of God given identity, we must construct an image for ourselves and focus our energies on managing it. And here’s the irony: Our base of power is actually the source of our insecurity. The more “power” we gain, the more we have to lose and the thought of losing it effectively becomes the unthinkable reality of losing who and what we have made ourselves to be. The irony thickens. The more we amass of the currency of our particular power base, the more insecurity we create for others. (i.e. 85 people in the world today possess more wealth than half the world’s population, or 3.5 billion people. Note also the relationship between Victoria’s Secret lingerie Supermodels, the eating habits of the average teenaged girl and the porn habits of the average middle aged man.) The image manager actually becomes the idol, and the ensuing worship is, you guessed it, the idolatry. According to my best understanding, this is how the world works (in 178 words).
So how does the Gospel work? The Gospel levels the playing field, but not like we fear it does. The Gospel does not will to divest people of wealth in some kind of socialist redistribution strategy. No, the Gospel destroys the power wealth holds over the people who possess it, as well as the powerlessness of people who don’t.
This is why the Gospel has such appeal to people who have no power at all. This is why it is hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The truth? When our wealth, or the lack thereof, loses its power over us (whatever the source of that wealth may be) we become free to give, which is to love, which is Life.
How does the Gospel do this? When we can stand open-handed at the foot of the Cross with everybody else, opening ourselves to receive the Gifted Love of God and aiming our lives to follow Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes in and restores all the capacities originally created for an image bearer of the Creator God. The discipleship of Jesus is simply learning how to fully engage and deploy those capacities in the world.
It’s a poor analogy but I think you will get the point. The Gospel works like a factory reset button on a jail-broken phone. No matter how messed up our life is, the slate is wiped clean. In the push of a button, we are reset, restored, renewed, and the process of rebuilding the device is the glorious journey of recovering life as it was intended for us; life as an image bearer of God. Yes, we lose what we thought was everything, but what comes in its place is infinitely better: new again.
So what does that have to do with the Pharisees arresting Peter and John? Everything actually. The most dangerous and deadly source of rogue power is man-made religious authority. More than any other counterfeit power, false religious authority sets itself up in direct opposition to the Gospel, and it does so in the very name of God. (see Jesus anger at the Pharisees.) This is the essence of persecution (jailing them) and as we will see, it will become the source of the spread of the Gospel.
How many people had joined the Church so far?
COME HOLY SPIRIT!
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