Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Acts, Jealousy & Honor (part 5 of 5)

Peter has no qualms about making reference to the presumed shameful cursing undergone by Jesus because of the honor that came to be bestowed upon Him, which is indicated by what comes next, which is that “God exalted Him to His right hand as Leader and Savior” (Acts 5:31a).  These terms, “Leader” and “Savior,” were terms applied to Caesar, with this serving as yet another reminder that these leaders of the people that were currently addressing the disciples of the Christ had colluded with the Roman authorities, even going so far as (at least according to portions of the Jesus tradition) to have claimed that to not execute Jesus as a traitor was itself an act of treason against Caesar, while simultaneously stirring up the crowds to claim that they had no king but Caesar.  Cunningly and boldly, Peter co-opts these titles and applies them to Jesus.

Having been reminded of their guilt, “they became furious and wanted to execute them” (5:33b), but a man named Gamaliel interjected, reminding the council of previous instances of revolutionary activities (which serves as a reminder that the Jesus movement was more than just a religious movement, and that it encompassed all of life---social, political, economic, etc…) that had sparked, flamed, and burnt out in time.  With a wider scope of vision suggested, Gamaliel insists that “in this case… stay away from these men and leave them alone, because if this plan or this undertaking originates with people, it will come to nothing, but if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them, or you may even be found fighting against God” (5:38-39a).  It is said that by these words, “He convinced them” (5:39b). 

The disciples, having been temporarily removed from the presence of the council during the course of deliberations, were then re-summoned.  Though the members of the council been convinced to not fight against the disciples, they were still concerned about their public honor and its associated power.  Always mindful of that, and seeking to rob the disciples of any honor that may have accrued to them, while simultaneously attempting to shame them further, they “had them beaten” (5:40b). 

Beyond that, and desirous of protecting their own public reputations, “they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them” (5:40c).  The disciples, who were no longer concerned with their own honor or shame, being concerned only with increasing the public honor of Jesus through embracing what was supposed to have been the source of greatest shame---His crucifixion (especially at the expense of those who had attempted to shame Him and who were still attempting to shame Him), “left the council rejoicing because,” like Jesus and His cross, “they had been considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name” (5:41). 

In complete disregard of the council, attending only to gaining Jesus the honor that was due to him, and completely unconcerned with the jealousy of those that sought to preserve their own honor and power, “every day both in the Temple courts,” which had been the place of their arrest and of Jesus’ most significant public activity, “and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus was the Christ” (5:42).    

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