ACTS 4:32-45

THE BACKGROUND

Today, we get a glimpse of what it was like to be a Christian in the early years of the church.  This description seems almost fairy tale-like. But if you read chapter 5, it was not a perfect situation.  But let’s focus on the positive for now.

THE DETAIL

  • Verse 32a sets the tone for this whole passage.  “…the whole group… were of one heart and soul…”  My father-in-law tells a joke.  Actually, he tells many of them.  But this joke goes “Do you know how we know that Jesus and the apostles had cars?  The bible tells us that they were in one Accord.”
  • Verse 32b is where it gets very interesting.  We learn that they all pooled their resources.  Verse 34 & 35 explain further that land, houses and possessions were sold, and the proceeds given to the apostles to distribute.  “There was not a needy person among them.”  This sounds more like a hippie commune to me than a Christian church!  But it demonstrates the love and conviction of the church in those early years.  This concept of sharing not only is the enaction of Greek ideals, but also the Hebrew concept of Jubilee.  Details for that are laid down in Deuteronomy 15, the purpose being to achieve a poverty-free society.  Even though our passage states that they were of one heart, there were pockets of resistance to the sharing.  Chapter 5 offers one example of this resistance, and its consequences.
  • There was great energy and power in the early church, with apostles witnessing and sharing Jesus’ teachings.  (v. 33)

THE TAKEAWAY

It takes great conviction for people of faith to share their wealth with others.  It is not natural.  It is interesting to read that this was successful, at least for a time.  What I realize most after reading this passage was their sense of community.  They were one big loving, caring community of faith.  If you needed something, whether it was food, money, or a shoulder, it was there for you.  Jesus’ last commandment was for us to love one another.  These Christians were simply following orders, but doing it enthusiastically. 

These days, our faith walk is often a very individualistic one.  The emphasis today is on Jesus being our own personal savior.  It is more about “me and Jesus” than being a community of believers.  Many modern hymns contain more personal words (me, my, mine) than communal words (us, we, our).  St. Paul speaks of the Body of Christ being a group of individuals who pool their spiritual gifts to form one dynamic, very effective body.

 

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Can one Christian be the Body of Christ all by themselves?  Don’t we need our brothers and sisters by our side, forming a strong Body of Christ? Isn’t that what the world needs? Isn’t that what we also need?

 

1 JOHN 1:11-2:2

THE BACKGROUND

This book reads more like a sermon, than a letter.  It does not follow the traditional form of a letter, with an opening greeting and such, as we see in Paul’s letters.  So let’s read this passage like it was one of John’s sermons, which was saved for our edification.  John makes many good points in this passage.

THE DETAIL

  • The very opening verses of this book go straight to the matter.  John is explaining what he and the apostles were doing; they were simply sharing with everyone all that they had witnessed.  They were spreading the Good News.  (vv. 1-3)
  • The second paragraph contrasts walking in light versus darkness.  Living in darkness is living our lives without Jesus as our guide.  We should be living in the true light of his teaching.  Early Christians called this The Way.  When we walk in The Way, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.  (vv. 5-7)
  • In my church, verses 8-9 are quoted often.  They are used as a preface in the rite of confession and absolution, which we do every week.  These words remind us that we should not try to kid ourselves into thinking that we are perfect, good, and sinless.  We all need Jesus!  (v. 10)
  • John concludes by telling us why he is writing this—so that we will not sin.  But he knows that we will, so he reminds us that Jesus is our advocate; he is our atoning sacrifice, as well as the whole world’s.

THE TAKEAWAY

  • Why did they witness? So that their joy would be complete. (v.4)  It gave them pleasure to share the Good News.  It should also be ours.
  • We like to tell ourselves that everything we do is right and correct.  We never like admitting that we are wrong.  We find excuses for our behavior.  We blame others.  John says that if we do this, then we are liars. (v. 8) We all fall short of God’s expectations. We need to be honest with ourselves.  We need Jesus!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

When was the last time you admitted to someone that you were wrong?

 

JOHN 20:19-31

THE BACKGROUND

These are the closing lines of the Gospel of John, his conclusion to the gospel story.

THE DETAIL

  • This is Jesus’ first appearance to all the apostles, after his resurrection.  Well, except for Thomas, that is.  Somehow, Jesus infiltrates the room, in spite of the locked doors.  Yet, he is not a ghost, because the apostles are able to touch his wounds.  What an interesting event!  (vv. 19-20)
  • Next, he tells them that they must continue the work that had started.  He then breathes the Holy Spirit on them, to give them the power they need for the task.  (vv. 21-22)
  • He further explains that they have the authority to forgive or withhold forgiveness of sins. (v. 23)
  • Now we hear that Thomas was not present.  When Thomas returns, he doesn’t believe that Jesus was there.  He has to see for himself.  (v. 25)
  • Jesus appears the following week, and Thomas is there.  Jesus does not scold Thomas for being skeptical.  Instead, he is patient and understanding.  “Put your finger here… Do not doubt, but believe.”  Thomas doesn’t even need to touch Jesus, he believes on the spot.  (vv. 26-28)
  • What Jesus says next is more for us for Thomas.  “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
  • In verses 30 & 31, John explains why he wrote this all down.  It wasn’t so that we would have a complete biography of Jesus’ life. He wrote down just enough for us to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God…” 

THE TAKEAWAY

Let’s look at Jesus’ reaction to Thomas’ behavior.  Long before this, Jesus told them all that was going to happen.  That he was going to die and be risen from the dead.  Yet, Thomas doesn’t believe.  Jesus had every right to be angry with Thomas.  Instead, he has patience and understanding.  In my times of doubt, I am always comforted by this. I know that my Lord understands, and loves me in spite of my moments of  doubt.