This is a continuation of last week’s story. Peter and John have healed a man who had been lame since birth. They attracted a crowd in doing this, so Peter explained to them that it was the power of Jesus’ name that cured the man.
Please note that verses 1-4 are not part of the lectionary. I’ve included them here, to aid in clarity.
- As a result of the healing of the man, and of their preaching in the temple portico, five thousand people accepted Jesus that day. Then, a large group of representatives of the religious authorities had Peter and John arrested. They spent the night in jail. (vv. 1-4)
- They are brought before the council to be questioned. It should be noted that this body is the “Who’s Who” of Jewish religious hierarchy. This is the same body that Jesus went before when he was tried; the time when Peter denied Jesus three times out of fear. Now, they are questioning Peter and John. (vv. 5-7)
- But Peter is a different person. He now is filled with the Holy Spirit. He speaks out boldly. He asks why they’ve been called before the council for performing a good deed. (vv. 8-9)
- Peter claims the name of Jesus for being the power to heal the man. (v. 10a)
- Then, the accused becomes the accuser. Peter points the finger squarely at them, blaming them for Jesus’ death. He includes the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead, which would have agitated the Sadducees in the room. The phrase in quotes is from Psalm 118:22. This was a verse that was in common use at the time. Now, Peter applies it to Jesus, and rightly so. (vv. 10b-11)
- The key verse, for me, is verse 12. “There is salvation in no one else…”
- Peter’s speech continues past today’s selected scripture. In the end, they tell Peter and John to stop preaching in Jesus’ name. Peter and John refuse, and they are dismissed from the council. (Verses 13-22 are not part of the lectionary, but they provide us with the end of the story.)
Peter has changed. He now speaks boldly before those he once feared. This is the Holy Spirit in action. This same Holy Spirit is in us. We can count on the Spirit’s presence to guide our thoughts and words, when we are called to witness for Jesus.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Believing in Jesus not only saves us from something (eternal death), it saves us for something. What is God saving you for?
1 JOHN 3:16-24
We are halfway through our study of the little book of 1 John. It is a favorite of many famous Christian fathers. St. Augustine once said “This book is very sweet to every healthy Christian heart… it should constantly be in the mind of God’s holy church.” John Wesley said “How plain, how full, and how deep a compendium of genuine Christianity!”
John calls us to action. The beginning of this passage should begin with verse 11b, which states “… we should love one another.” In fact, this entire book is about love.
- John states that for Christians, love is defined by what Jesus did for us on the cross. And, since we are Jesus’ disciples here today, we must be like Jesus, willing to lay down our lives for each other in Christian love. (vv. 16-17)
- Verse 18 simply states “Let’s do this!”
- Verse 19a says that when we demonstrate this level of love, we will know that we are “from the truth”. That we are truly Jesus’ disciples, and children of God.
- Not only that, but when we demonstrate this level of love-commitment, it reassures and strengthens our faith. John uses the phrase “our hearts condemn us” to describe the doubt that occasionally arises in our minds. John is saying that the best thing we can do to overcome these doubts is to love others in our daily actions. (vv. 19b-22)
- John wraps it up by reminding us that loving one another is Jesus’ commandment. And by loving one another, we abide in him and he in us. (vv. 23-24)
I was taught that actions speak louder than words. It appears that John agrees with that teaching. We can claim Jesus as our savior, but if we don’t show it in our actions, they are just words. But, by showing God’s love to others, we strengthen our faith. We knit the bond of love to our savior a little tighter. We abide with him.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Think of ways that you can show the love of Jesus to those around you. Then, get busy!
This selection is part of a teaching of Jesus. It follows the healing of a blind man. This is a familiar pattern for Jesus: Perform a miracle to alert those around you that you are not the average man on the street, and then teach them a bit of message you were sent to proclaim.
It is best to read this passage as an allegory. An allegory is one in which the characters in the story represent real life people. It is a tricky business to use this extensively when understanding the bible. Many have gone down weird paths using this technique. But in this case, Jesus himself instructs us that it is an allegory. In the verses just ahead of today’s passage, Jesus says “I am the gate”. (v. 7)
It is also helpful to read Jeremiah 23:1-6. The bad shepherds in this passage are the bad rulers of Israel and Judah, both the religious and political rulers. God says that he will appoint new “shepherds” for his people.
- Jesus states that he is the Good Shepherd, the shepherd promised by Jeremiah. He also tells us that he is ready to lay down his life for the sheep. (v. 11)
- The hired hands could be the religious leaders who opposed Jesus’ teaching, and handed him over to the Romans. The wolf could be either Satan, or the Romans in charge of his crucifixion. (v. 12)
- But all that doesn’t matter! What matters is that Jesus loves us, and knows us. He is willing to do whatever it takes to show his love for us, including laying down his life for us. (vv. 13-15)
- Jesus says that he has “other sheep”, too. I believe that he was speaking to a Jewish crowd, and that the other sheep are us Gentiles. This is the good news for you and me! (v. 16)
- Jesus tells us that the Father loves him because of this love and willingness to die for us. That he received this command from the Father. (vv. 17-18)
Since we are Jesus’ disciples, we must follow his lead. We love and care for one another, even to the point of dying for one another. This is how we demonstrate our conviction to Jesus’ love for us.
Lately, the emphasis on our spiritual relationship seems to be personal. Many focus only on what I call a “Me and Jesus” faith relationship. Being a true disciple of Christ means getting involved—loving others, even those who are out of our comfort zone. This is not always easy, but it is what we are called to do. Fortunately, we have the Holy Spirit to help us on our way. Having a strong “Me and Jesus” relationship is a good thing, but it is not the only thing. Obeying Jesus’ commandment of loving one another is equally important.