Fourth Sunday Easter -Year C

Let’s Spend Some Time with the Acts of the Apostles

The Acts of the Apostles is perhaps a little unique in the realm of New Testament witness. It is primarily an historical account after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The words in the Acts of the Apostles convey what happened in the early church communities, those persons who believed Jesus was raised from the dead, fulfilling all the prophecies they knew from their previous religious life.

Similar, but a bit different, the Gospels and other books of the New Testament offer theological insights and truths within the context of the historical, earthly life of Jesus as well. “The Father and I are one.” John offers more a lesson in Christology than history. The person we call Jesus is God himself. The Father and I are one. The Book of Revelation also uses images and visions to picture for us the salvific relationship between God and his people, between God’s Son and his followers. “I, John, had a vision of a great multitude from every nation, race, people, and tongue.” The family of God consists of the totality of the human race. Every person, no matter the color or class is a member of the family of God. These are words of theology in the Gospel and in the book of Revelation. Not devoid of history, but arguably not primarily history.

Theological truths do transcend space and time. The book we call the Acts of the Apostles however is slightly different. Not devoid of theology, but not primarily theology. Rather, it is a description of early Christian faith. St. Paul and St. Barnabas began to speak of the triune God to the Jews. Without a doubt, the Jewish folk were religious folk. We’re not talking about irreverent, faithless people. We’re talking about a holy people of God. These, remember, were the chosen people. In fact, in the early community, there was no separation between Jews and those who believed in Jesus as the Christ.

Early on, the two groups were of one faith in the one God. But notice, being of one faith does not always mean being of one mind. Some of the Jews balked at what Paul and Barnabas had to say. And what Paul and Barnabas had to say about God was always in the name of Jesus. They preached only through his name are people truly seen as holy and chosen by God. In other words, salvation came not through ways that some Jews insisted upon (the law).  Nor was salvation offered to those who the Jews thought it would be (the circumcised). Rather, the way of salvation was new (through the person of Jesus) and the invitations to salvation were numerous (to every nation, race, people and tongue).

The new faith and preaching of a triune God, did not sit well with the crowds. They stirred up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas. Indeed, a relentless and consorted effort against those who speak the Word. Not a big surprise, because God’s way has always been met with opposition. We have seen it in the early pages of the Scriptures with Cain and Abel and in Egypt with the Pharaoh. We’ve seen it throughout the life of the earthly Jesus, Herod, the Pharisees, Judas and the Sanhedrin. We see it again in the Acts of the Apostles, and see it in today’s culture with those opposed to God’s law.   

But God’s way always moves on and carries forth the message of salvation through the Holy Spirit in every generation. The early disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit and preached the good news of salvation in the face of persecution.  A part of history definitely worth repeating even now by  not shying away from proclaiming Christ has died, risen and will come again in glory.  

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