Posts Tagged ‘Acts’

It was inevitable, as the early Jesus movement spread from one city to the next, that people would covet its power without loyalty to its source.

One imagines that the movement’s leaders were as surprised as anyone to see the power of Christ flowing through their words and hands to liberate the mad and heal the sick. Happily, the Book of Acts provides more than one glimpse of the earliest stewards of such remarkable power fending off the misguided adulation of the crowds. But sometimes the threat of corruption reared its head via the jealousy of impressed onlookers who stood outside the immediate circle of the Jesus community. (more…)

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Great historical moments, when one knows the outcome, seem almost destined to have turned out the way they did. The participants in such critical junctures in the flow of human events, however, seldom or never have the luxury of such confidence. For them, there are many ways that things might turn out. Some might be dire. Some might cost them their lives.

Often wisdom takes a granular, tactical form that in the moment looks merely opportunistic. Seldom does one glimpse a guiding hand in history as one makes snap decisions while time’s a-wastin’ and the mob is getting itself up into full howl. Adrenaline plays at least as large a role as strategy. Tactics become the order of the day, even when there has been no time for these to descend in orderly fashion from a neat and overarching strategy.

Take Paul’s return to Jerusalem, pockets stuffed with news of Gentiles worshiping Israel’s messiah. It was, by and large, an unforeseen event. That is why it is worthy of such comment. Such massive movement of the morally unwashed in the direction of Torah and the God of Jacob who stood behind it was not in the playbook. (more…)

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Jerusalem must have throbbed with the potentialities of conflict as the city fathers struggled to cope with the relatively unlettered but highly motivated followers of yet another dead messianic pretender.

Put simply and in words easily understandable to those tasked with administering the status quo, these men could not be stopped.

It was not so much that they were assertively dismissive of the authorities. One senses that they were not.

Rather they were so convinced that YHWH had restored the crucified Jesus to life and was even now pulling off similarly unconventional stunts like making a man who hadn’t walked for decades stroll around the city’s streets like you or I would do. The crowds are stirred in the direction of sympathy and enthusiasm. The text has even the religious and civic authorities recognizing that no one can plausibly deny the miracle. (more…)

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    It often seems as though events move too quickly.

    We feel we live in a reality that is far too fluid. We wish for some stasis, a chance to catch our breaths. We are overcome, sometimes, by nostalgia for a time when things remained the same. Perhaps this static time exists only in our minds, perhaps it once existed in the wider reality. Regardless, it seems not to exist now.

    Even this meeting of the Overseas Council Europe (OCE) board occurs in a moment of pronounced change. We have a new director, the possibility of some newer board members, a new and close friendship between Andreas Kammer and the leader of OCTeam in the United Kingdom, to say nothing of his personal and professional network among the OC affiliates of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. (more…)

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Irrepressible mercy is both many-splendored and complicating.

The famous colloquy of Acts 15 is made necessary by the unanticipated vigor with which non-Jews respond to the proclamation that Israel’s messiah has died and come alive again. To James of Jerusalem is given the moment for summation. He responds by framing events in the context of prophetic anticipation:

This agrees with the words of the prophets, as it is written, ‘After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; from its ruins I will rebuild it, and I will set it up, so that all other peoples may seek the Lord—even all the Gentiles over whom my name has been called. Thus says the Lord, who has been making these things known from long ago.’

It turns out that David’s fallen tent will house more than just Jewish tenants. All peoples are now understood to come into its shade. Hints given by the prophets of an incalculable mercy begin to take shape. (more…)

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Many Christians refer to one of Jesus’ final recorded statements as his great commission. As commonly translated, one might also consider it Jesus’ great imperative:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

However, the italicized words render a Greek participle that might just as well be understood to embrace a wider spectrum of circumstances: As you go, make disciples of all nations … (more…)

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It is difficult to impede the forward motion of men and women who find their honor in being dishonored for their cause. This is as true of people whose lives have been enobled by an admirable vocation as it is of those perhaps more obvious cases where the most pernicious of campaigns are carried forward by pathetic addicts to the sensation of other people’s hatred. (more…)

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