Thursday, November 13, 2014

Acts, Jealousy & Honor (part 2)

Returning to the second chapter, one sees that this type of activity occurred in association with the fact that “Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the Temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts” (Acts 2:46).  The conclusion of this report speaks to the effects of this regular gathering, which allowed the body of Christ to learn about and meet needs as they were “praising God and having the good will of all the people” (2:47a).  This fueled the growth of the church, as “the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved” (2:47b).  Hearing these words, it would only be with some difficulty that one could separate the saving of people with the distribution that sought to meet the needs of all, without discrimination. 

Echoing the ministry of Jesus, chapter three sees the healing of a lame man at the gates of the Temple, with the accompanying “astonishment and amazement” (3:10) of those who witnessed the result of the healing.  This provides yet another opportunity for the public proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah, crucified and resurrected as the harbinger of the general resurrection, the assertion that Jesus was and is the long-awaited prophet like Moses, and a reminder of the all-important Abrahamic covenant by which the people largely defined themselves, along with its fulfillment in Jesus and in the movement that bore His name. 

This leads to the record of the opening of chapter four, by which Luke informs the reader that “While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests and the commander of the Temple guard and the Sadducees came up to them, angry because they were teaching the people and announcing in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.  So they seized them and put them in jail until the next day” (4:1-3).  This leads into the first examination of the disciples before the leaders of the people, and the order to discontinue their revolutionary proclamation of Jesus as Lord and His kingdom as present.  Clearly, the issue at hand was power, and those in power were threatened by the upstart from Galilee, though He had been crucified at their instigation, viewed as being accursed because He had been hung on a tree, and had been subject to the scorning and the horror of the greatest shame. 

Lest one believe that power was not the issue, the disciples, via the author providing a sober reminder by relaying the response of the disciples and their understanding of the threat that their growing movement had become, say “Why do the nations rage, and the peoples plot foolish things?  The kings of the earth stood together, and the rulers assembled together, against the Lord and against His Christ” (4:25b-26).

With considerations of power come considerations of the all-important issue of honor in the ancient world---a world in which one’s status was delineated by conceptions of honor and shame.  Though honor would not necessarily have power as a compatriot (as the honorable would not necessarily be the powerful), power practically demanded honor.  Power, be it religious or political (remembering that the world of the disciples’ era did not neatly divide into the religious and the political, but operated in a holistic fashion in which all areas of life overlapped and intertwined), was nothing without honor.  Power was not power without honor.  Without public honor to accompany it, power would be empty and pointless. 

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