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Week 1 July 2024, Devotion Part 1

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognized that they had been with Jesus.  Acts 4:13


“They” were nothing to sneeze at, whether known as the great council of the Sanhedrin, the high priests clique, or Jerusalem’s bluebloods and ivy leaguers. Picture a joint session of House and Senate – not to confer accolades on a returned space hero, but to rake two nondescript missionaries over the coals.


The disciples’ sect did not even have an official name. That came after Paul’s first public ministry in Antioch, where he taught the doctrine of Christ with such singular clarity that for the first time His followers were called Christians. But already their “sect” had attracted enough notoriety to harmonize with the tenor of descriptions recorded in the Book of Acts elsewhere: “For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, an agitator among all the Jews…and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (24:5). “For with regard to this sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against” (28:22).  (Part 1 of 2)


Comment:  As members of God’s Church that was birthed on Pentecost, we can afford to laugh off those early rants directed at her.  For the Sanhedrin nothing about this historic “fiftieth day” was a laughing matter.  It left its 71 members confused, cranky, and more at odds with each other than before.  The majority on the council were Sadducees who neither believed in an afterlife nor a supernatural realm.  They accepted only the Torah, the first five books of the Bible.  Attempting to trick Jesus with their question about the much widowed and remarried woman and which of the brothers would rank as the valid husband, they had to mention a heaven they didn’t believe in.  Jesus referred them to Exodus 3:6, implying that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were alive and present with Yahweh in eternity.  The Sadducees were wealthy, elitist, and unpopular with the Jews because they milked the Roman rule to their advantage. Josephus, the Jewish-Roman historian in the first century, indicated that the more “middle class” Pharisees received the backing of the common people.  They read all of the Old Testament and were therefore acquainted with the minor prophet Joel’s writings. The Bible is silent on his origin or personal history, but there was nothing “minor” about the Pentecost sermon he supplied for Peter.  So here he stood calmly with John before the cranky council members who had gone crazy for weeks, wondering what happened to the notorious Nazarene.  Were these two part of the Jesus gang that had stolen His body, as the embarrassed religious and secular authorities asserted?  If so, where was the grave so the authorities could have it exhumed?  FedEx didn’t exist yet, so the mortal remains couldn’t have been shipped to Egypt for embalming and stealth storage until nobody would care anymore about what was at one time a big mystery.  As Easter Christians, by faith we continue to have a front row seat at the drama of the Incarnation and its impact of grace and truth in our lives. Thanks to the gripping gospel accounts and epistles, our hindsight is 20/20, so that only one big question remains: How can our curious contemporaries tell that we have been – and continue to be – with Jesus?

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