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Acts 5:27-42

 

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, "We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us." But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him."

 

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, "Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. 
(ESV)

The Person

Thursday after the Feast of the Holy Trinity

19 June 2014

Myths do not make strong disciples. Who is willing to die for a myth? Is not a myth susceptible to a thousand different reinterpretations that enable it to survive together with teachings and ways that completely contradict it? Myths can be squished this way and that as needs and times change. There is a place for myth. Cultural myth has a strengthening effect on culture and community. It permits and strengthens allegiances to nations and peoples and their ideals. It encourages and drives achievement. People of East Indian descent believe the myth of technical education. Many of them are technologically advanced engineers who labored much to gain the necessary education to succeed. East Indians are not genetically predisposed to having technically oriented minds. However, they have been fully indoctrinated into the myth of the importance of technically advanced education and the habits of mind such educational success demands. This is a useful myth. But would one die for such a myth? Not hardly. People will not die for mere utility.

 

Christians did (and still do) die for Christ. They died in the thousands over a span of more than 200 years, while Christianity did not fade away and die, but while it exploded in numbers. A thing worth dying for was a thing worth believing. It cannot merely be useful. It cannot be a matter of morality. It must be something better and greater that leads men, women, and children to choose to die rather than repudiate it. Christ. This simple fact makes a mockery of the modern theory that the Bible is no more historically factual than Greek mythology or the Bhagavad-Gita. No one dies for a myth. In this the philosopher of the age is doubly wrong. First, he mocks Christianity's contention that it is based in the historical fact of the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Christ. He rejects the historical facts because they imply a challenge to his supreme wisdom. Could it be that God is wiser than he? Second, he is willing to believe (and faith it is!) that Christianity is not a historical religion, but a set of interpretive myths about the divine spark in every human or the desire of humans to be more than earthbound creatures bound to die. Christ then becomes the generic answer to the musical question of Peggy Lee, "Is That All There Is?" Christ, while the answer to all cosmic questions, is not a generic answer. He is a person.

 

We all know the difference between an answer and a person. After a particularly messy automobile collision the answer to all the problems plaguing health care is hardly as useful as a skilled physician who stops at the scene and administers care to you, stopping profuse bleeding. While the physician may have decided ideas about what makes good health care in general, you are grateful that you have his person administering care to you, rather than hearing a disquisition about health care from him. Answers are one thing. Persons are another. Christ is a person. Not merely an answer to the cosmic questions. Not a myth giving you clues about the "god within." He is the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, who is administering lifesaving triage on dying persons like us.

 

This is the God-Man the unlearned apostles preached to a hostile world. With Him they conquered where they had no expectation of victory. This is the One whom we have received in our baptism, who feeds us on His body and blood. Him we proclaim. He will triumph. He is not an idea. He is a Person for us. The Person.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"It was not possible according to human cause and effect that fishermen should get the better of philosophers. But nevertheless it became possible. Clearly by grace it became so. It was not possible for them even to conceive such great exploits. They not only conceived, but brought them to a conclusion with great ease. How did it enter their minds to expect to overcome the world, unless they had seen Christ after He was risen? What? Were they beside themselves, to reckon upon any such thing without consideration and at random? For it goes even beyond all madness, without divine grace, to look for success in so great an undertaking. How did they succeed in it, if they were insane and frenzied? But if they were in their sober senses, as indeed the events showed, how, but on receiving credible pledges from the heavens and enjoying the influence which is from above, did they undertake to go forth to such great wars, and to make their venture against earth and sea, and to strip for battle and stand their ground so nobly, for a change in the customs of the whole world which had been so long fixed, since they were but twelve men?

 

"What made them expect to convince their hearers, by inviting them to heaven and the mansions above? Even if they had been raised in honor, wealth, power, and erudition, not even so would it have been at all likely that they should be roused to so burdensome an undertaking. However, there would have been somewhat more of reason in their expectation. But as the case now stands, some of them had been occupied around lakes, some about hides, some about the taxes. None of these pursuits is more unprofitable towards philosophy, and the persuading men to have high imaginations, and especially when one has no example to show. No, they had not only no examples to make their success likely, but they had examples against all likelihood of success, and those within their own experience. For many attempting innovations had been utterly extinguished. Among the Jews themselves at that very time, who not with twelve men, but with great numbers applied themselves to the work, both Theudas and Judas, having great bodies of men, perished together with their disciples (Acts 5:36-38). The fear arising from their examples was enough to control anyone who had not been strongly persuaded that victory only with divine power was possible.

 

"Even if they did expect to prevail, with what sort of hopes did they undertake such great dangers, except that they had an eye on the world to come? But let us suppose that they hoped for no less than victory. What did they expect to gain from the bringing all men unto Him, 'who is not risen again,' as you unbelievers say? For if now, men who believe concerning the kingdom of heaven and blessings unnumbered with reluctance encounter dangers, how could they have undergone so many dangers for nothing, yes rather, for evil? For if the things which were done did not take place, if Christ did not ascend into heaven; surely in their obstinate zeal to invent these things, and convince the world of them, they were offending God, and must expect ten thousand thunderbolts from on high." 

 

 John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians, 5.5
 
Prayer

Lord Christ, You have come, born of the Virgin Mary to rescue me from every idea and answer that the fallen world has proffered. Keep me from turning you into a myth or an idea that can be captured and controlled by my fallen mind. Keep coming among Your people by the Word. Amen.

 

For the families of Geoff Krumwiede and Anastasia Murray as they travel to Houston to celebrate holy marriage with them, that the holy angels would attend them

 

For Luke George, that the Lord would grant him strength and healing

 

For those suffering from inclement weather, that they would be kept safe
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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