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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Day 26: October 8, 2009, Acts 5.1 - 6.15

Day 26: October 8,  Acts 5.1 - 6.15

My commentary is below the text. 

Acts 5.1 - 6.15


5But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; 2with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3“Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? 4While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!” 5Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. 6The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him. 7After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” 9Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.

12Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, 15so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. 16A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured.

17Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, 18arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, 20“Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.” 21When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching. When the high priest and those with him arrived, they called together the council and the whole body of the elders of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22But when the temple police went there, they did not find them in the prison; so they returned and reported, 23“We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were perplexed about them, wondering what might be going on. 25Then someone arrived and announced, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!”

26Then the captain went with the temple police and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people. 27When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, 28saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” 29But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. 30The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. 31God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” 33When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. 34But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, respected by all the people, stood up and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. 35Then he said to them, “Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you propose to do to these men. 36For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him; but he was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and disappeared. 37After him Judas the Galilean rose up at the time of the census and got people to follow him; he also perished, and all who followed him were scattered. 38So in the present case, I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; because if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; 39but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them—in that case you may even be found fighting against God!” They were convinced by him, 40and when they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. 42And every day in the temple and at home they did not cease to teach and proclaim Jesus as the Messiah.

6Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. 2And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, 4while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.” 5What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

8Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 9Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. 10But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. 11Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. 13They set up false witnesses who said, “This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; 14for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.” 15And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Commentary:   Every Stewardship season I secretly want to use the story of Ananias and Sapphira!  It is odd and seemingly out of place in comparison to all the good news; but alas Luke give it to us as an important warning about Christian life.  Following on the generosity of Barnabas the two soon to be dead early followers make a crucial mistake.  The issue is not what they gave or didn't give, the issue is their deciet and lying to the church--and thus lying to God.  The old ways of lying, deciet, holding back, giving to look good...all of that has no place in the new community and to practice such things can lead only to death.  In their case a very sudden death indeed!  It reminds me of a conversation I had with someone who told me they would like to give more, but just couldn't--they had nothing to spare.  I said I understand completely, "we'll see you on Sunday."  "No," they replied, "we'll be in Cancun for a couple of weeks, we'll see you when we get back."  God speed Ananias!  
 
Did you catch the reason behind the arrest of the Apostle's?  It was jealousy.  Who do these people think they are?  And so they are thrown in prison, but there is no prison that can stop the word of God.  Here we have a miraculous escape, but the audacity of those who have been transformed by the Spirit of Christ is clear--they don't run off, glad to have escaped, they go right back to where they were proclaiming Jesus!  Although the disciples will be flogged/beaten for their troubles it is the leader Gamaliel who speaks an important message for Luke:  If this is of human origen, it will fade away; but if it is of God there is no stopping it!  
 
With community comes trouble.  I have a friend who once said:  "I love being a pastor if it weren't for the people!"   Indeed, even in the church we have our problems and complaints.  There is nothing new under the sun as the Greek widows felt they were getting the 'bums rush' when it came to relief.  It was obvious that the social work of the church would need its own administration, so the office of deacon was born.  Notice one thing, the seven men who are appointed Deacons all have Greek names!  Are the Greek widows feeling slighted, then let's put Greeks in charge of distribution so as to remove any suspicion of favoritism.   
 
So far the task of the church has been dangerous, but God has miraculously spared any loss of life for proclaiming the name of Jesus.  That is about to change.   As the powers that be (Roman and Religious) killed Jesus, so those in power will kill his followers as well.  

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