Key Verse: Acts 4:20 “For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (NIV)
The trouble started the afternoon Peter and John went up to the temple to pray. Until now they had enjoyed “the favour of all the people” (2:47). But then a crippled beggar called out to them for money. They were broke — but they did give him something. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth”, they commanded him to get those crippled legs in motion and walk. And he did…to the amazement of the whole city! Now the polarization began.
The people, of course, were astonished to see this well-known beggar walking. There he was! Walking and holding on to Peter and John. As they gathered around, Peter and John began to preach. Their sermon was very up-front and candid. Peter accused the people of disowning “the Holy and Righteous one” and handing Him over to Pilate to be killed. He graciously gave them an out by saying they had “acted in ignorance”, but then went on to say that God had used the crucifixion events to fulfil prophecy. He then called them to repentance. Even as he spoke of the power of the resurrection, the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees” seized Peter and John, and threw them into jail. Once again the city was divided by the message and work of Jesus, but five thousand more believers were added to the church.
The next day, Peter and John were questioned by the High Priest, his family, and other high officials. The question was, “By what power or what name did you do this?” (4:7). Peter replied, “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you completely healed” (4:10). The officials, angry as they were, could say nothing — for the healed beggar was standing right there for everyone to see. so they threatened Peter and John and let them go. Who can argue with eyewitnesses? Especially when you’re one yourself!
Key Verse: Acts 2:42 “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
One of the key factors in the success of the early church was the uncontested fact of the resurrection. I say “uncontested” in terms of the believers themselves and the incontrovertible evidence of Jesus’ appearances over a period of forty days after the resurrection. Don’t forget that the disciples had deserted Jesus when He needed them most, and had gone into hiding to avoid being crucified themselves as “collaborators”. It was to these men that Jesus “showed Himself…and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive” (1:3a). The ultimate post-resurrection appearance was His ascension. It was in this context that Jesus promised the advent of the Holy Spirit and power for witness throughout the world. Then the disciples heard the promise of the angels, even as Jesus disappeared, that He would “come back”.
These events, plus the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (ch. 2), provided fuel for a revolution. A revolution that was supported by a powerful four-point infrastructure: Teaching, Fellowship, Communion, Prayer. These were the building blocks of early church life.
The apostles’ teaching provided the substance vital to a living faith. Fellowship met the social needs of the community of faith. Communion meant remembrance — a broken body and shed blood providing a sin offering for our transgressions. And prayer was the corporate and individual line of communication with the everlasting Father.
It’s little wonder the church grew. In this fertile ground of committed teaching, fellowship, communion, and prayer, the Lord was able to add “to their number daily those who were being saved” (2:47)
Key Verse: John 20:28 “And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!'”
Arthur John Gossip writes, “That night that Christ came, Thomas had not been present. We do not know why. But is there not here a warning for us not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together? How much many miss, who make only an occasional, spasmodic, irregular appearance at the worship of God in his house! ‘For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them’, so Christ promises (Mt. 18:20). And sometimes surely had they been there, to them, too, He would have appeared!” (Interpreters Bible, Vol. 8, p. 798).
John has already presented Thomas to us as fatalistically daring (11:16) and bluntly skeptical (14:5). He was pragmatic and honest. He wasn’t about to be caught up in the hysteria and the unreal imaginings of a distraught and devastated group of cloistered disciples. Yes, he was disappointed, bitterly so, just like the rest of them. But he was not going to be party to a delusive reconstruction of Jesus. He was dead, period. so let’s accept that and get real. The sooner we can get on with life, the better.
Frankly, I identify with Thomas. He cherished the truth.
And the Truth cherished him. A week later; Jesus made a gracious concession to Thomas’ skepticism. “Put your finger here, and see My hands; and put out your hand, and place in it My side; do not be faithless, but believing” (20:27). Thomas’ response is the response of the Church, “My Lord and my God!”
Church history tells us Thomas was the one disciple who travelled the farthest to a martyr’s grave. In so doing, he brought the message of the risen Saviour to the sub-continent of India. Thank God for Thomas!
Jesus’ Birth 1:18-25 Part 1
Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth is blunt and to the point, lacking Luke’s beguiling detail. Matthew seems to rush into the messianic narrative, impatient to recount Jesus’ powerful, earth-shaking ministry. So he summarizes the story of the incarnation. But the words he does use are charged with meaning.
The word Matthew employs to depict Joseph and Mary’s marital status is “betrothed” or “engaged” in the Greek. The NIV translates it as “pledged”. We modern readers need a little help with this, because Joseph is referred to as Mary’s “husband”, not “fiancé”.
In those days marriages were arranged by the parents and/or a matchmaker. From there earliest memory Mary would have known that Joseph was her intended husband. Their “betrothal” was totally bindings and could be broken only by death or “divorce”. When the day came where within a year she would be married she would call Joseph her “husband” and he would call Mary his “wife”. But, there would be sexual union until he “took her into his house” after that twelve month period. If, on the other hand, a man were marrying a widow that trial period was reduced to one month.
So even thought Joseph and Mary were not yet married, Matthew tells us in v. 19, “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”
Joseph was “law-abiding”, a righteous man. He was also kind. He didn’t ask questions or confront Mary with her extra-marital pregnancy. He simply decided to protect her dignity and privately divorce her. Impressive.