Peace be with you!
Sometimes a moment happens that forever changes things for those that come thereafter.
Before 1976, individuals with disabilities were shunned by society. The few individuals with disabilities fought for the American Disability Act to ensure rights for all individuals with all abilities. These individuals changed the way our society viewed disabilities. No longer did the inability to walk or to be fully independent mean the person was not able to think for themselves. Individuals with disabilities were finally viewed as persons.
A few weeks ago I took part in the Clean Air Ride along the biking trail near my home with my step dad, Kim, and my friend, Peggy. When I went up to check-in, the lady asked me how far I was driving my electric wheelchair. Peggy quickly corrected her by saying, “She is biking fourteen miles on her tricycle.” After that, the lady got us the waver to sign and off we went. Without the American Disability Act, I would not be able to be a part of the amazing cycling community.
In our reading today, the Jewish authorities challenge the teachings of the apostles and even imprison them for not stopping healing the sick, preaching Jesus’ words, and casting out unclean spirits. While imprisoned, the apostles are brought before the Jewish council for a trial (Acts 5:27). The high priest scolds, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” (Acts 5:28 NRSV). Does the Jewish council feel guilty for having Jesus crucified? What is wrong with teaching in his name.
The conflict between the apostles and the Jewish council is rooted in the apostles’ actions after Jesus’ resurrection. The apostles continue to heal the sick, cast out unclean spirits, and preach the good news. The Jewish council feels threatened by the actions of the apostles, because their message is spreading throughout Judea and Galilee. The good news is something the people are hungry to hear and live out. The Jewish authorities no longer hold the people in fear by requiring them to make sacrifices. God’s message to the world is changing, because it is no longer just for one special group of people but for all people.
The apostles continue to draw attention to Jesus – the man the Jewish authorities had killed. The Jewish authorities are now feeling the negative consequences of having Jesus killed. Drawing attention to Jesus’ love, grace, and forgiveness indirectly places blame on the Jewish authorities. The apostles are challenging the authority of the Jewish council as well as the Roman Empire for killing an innocent man. No one likes to be blamed for something or to be reminded of their past sins. By continuing to heal the sick, cast out unclean spirits, and preach the good news, the apostles are blaming the Jewish authorities for killing Jesus, even if this is not their primary intention.
Peter beautifully rebukes the Jewish authorities in his arguments against their judgments. The apostles answer to a higher power; their first allegiance is to God the Father (Acts 5:29b). No other authority comes before God’s authority. When a human authority contradicts God, the apostles follow God’s authority. Jesus tells the apostles to continue to heal the sick, cast out unclean spirits, and preach the good news just as he did when he was in the world. The apostles do as Jesus instructs them.
Second, Peter points out that, despite the Jewish authorities’ best efforts to put a halt to Jesus and his message, God raised him up (Acts 5:30). Jesus physically overturns death by rising on the third day. Death no longer gets the final say. Jesus’ resurrection confirms his Lordship for the entire world. He who was killed as a criminal is raised up as Lord of all on God’s right hand (Acts 5:31a). The Jewish authorities condemn Jesus as a criminal, but God makes him Lord.
God raises Jesus up in order to give Israel the ability to repent and to receive forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31b). God does not have Jesus crucified just for the fun of it but to give Israel two gifts: repentance and forgiveness. These gifts challenge the Jewish authorities (…and us), because it is a new way of thinking and being. We no longer have to kill our best calf to show our loyalty to God the Father; all we need to do is repent and ask for forgiveness. We have to let go of everything that keeps us from having a relationship with God the Father – anger, fear, and resentment – and go into the light.
The apostles are witnesses to Jesus’ glory and are empowered to spread the good news with the guidance of the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32). As witnesses, Jesus calls the apostles to share the good news with all people.
Just as the American Disability Act changed the relationship between individuals with disabilities and individuals without disabilities, so did Jesus’ message to the world. There are no more outsiders, because all are welcomed to be in a relationship with the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for Peter’s wisdom to stand up for your authority and not be pressured to keep quiet. Help us to be like Peter as we go out to spread the good news. Keep us from being trapped by other authorities. Thank you for providing a change in the world by welcoming all of us into your Kingdom. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. How has the world changed in your lifetime?
2. How does the Easter promise change you?