Sunday, November 16, 2014

Acts, Jealousy & Honor (part 3)

With that in mind, the rehearsal of the Acts narrative to this point encounters the fifth chapter, which begins with the story of Ananias and Sapphira.  That story (which is probably less about their lies and more about their actions that diminished the church and Jesus’ public honor, and the potential shame that could have been brought upon the community by supposed followers not living out its principles) is immediately followed by “Now many miraculous signs and wonders came about among the people through the hands of the apostles” (Acts 5:12a). 

From there, the reader goes on to hear an echo of an earlier statement, when reading “By common consent they were all meeting together in Solomon’s Portico” (5:12b).  That echo is from chapter two, where one would have previously found that “Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the Temple courts” (2:46a).  As was seen, this was appended by “the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved” (2:47b), which is mirrored in the fifth chapter by “More and more believers in the Lord were adding to their number, crowds of both men and women” (5:14).  Quite obviously, the repetition is important, and one must be cognizant of the fact that Luke’s story consistently builds, moving the reader or hearer along with a climax in mind.

Between the reports about the miraculous signs, of meeting with common consent, and of believers being added to the ever-growing group of Christians in Jerusalem, Luke writes that “None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high honor” (5:13).  This, as should be well known, is more than simple respect or admiration.  Honor was a functional component of society.  Honor was important.  Honor was everything.  Luke makes the point that the disciples were being held in “high honor.”  This must not be overlooked. 

This high honor put the disciples in the position of becoming potential patrons to a sizable number of people---able to provide benefits to a large client base.  Now, bear in mind that the disciples and the church did not seek to become patrons, as this was not the motivation behind the signs and wonders.  The signs and wonders were designed to point beyond the disciples to the King and the kingdom that they dutifully proclaimed in word and deed, as they sought to raise the public honor of Jesus by touting His Resurrection in the face of His shameful crucifixion. 

One sees evidence of the movement by the people to elevate the disciples as patrons when reading “Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets, and put them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow would fall on some of them” (5:15).  This is classic client behavior, as they sought to honor a patron or potential patron so as to gain benefaction.  Furthermore, “A crowd of people from the towns around Jerusalem also came together, bringing the sick and those troubled by unclean spirits.  They were all being healed” (5:16).  With this record, one sees a replay of the stories about Jesus as recorded in the Gospels---the church thus carrying on the work of its Lord.  Against all odds, public honor was coming the way of the church.    

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