Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Those Dangerous Green Eyes

There's this awesome moment in Acts when, although people are cautious about joining the Way because it is evident the Spirit knew each person's motives, "more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number." And crowds kept gathering to be healed, and Peter was so filled with the Spirit and His power that even his shadow was healing people. His shadow.

Now the religious leaders had a couple choices, among them the choice to believe this new life that Paul and the other believers testified about through words and power. But in order to believe this new life that Paul preached they would have to believe that Jesus rose from the dead-- and the Sadducees don't believe in the resurrection of the dead. 

And they aren't about to change that.

So instead of admitting the error in their tradition, the Sadducees have the apostles arrested. They are jealous-- they don't like the thought that these unschooled, ordinary men have such a following. In the end, they decide not to risk the possibilities of fighting against God, but they do try to curb the message preached by the believers. 

It was similar jealousy that lead to Joseph's brothers selling him back in Exodus, and even to the Jewish leaders so desperately wanting Jesus to be killed. Even Pilot saw the root of it was jealousy.

There is another story, later in Acts, with similar gravity. It begs the question that, if God were to begin to work in ways that were contrary to everything you believed, would you let jealousy fester and fight this new move, or change your mind, embrace it and praise God?

See, even though this group of Jews believed that Jesus was the Messiah and had been killed and raised back to life, they still kept Jewish law.

"So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them." Starting from  the beginning, Peter told them the whole story" about the vision that taught him that he should not 'call anything impure that God has made clean', and about going to Cornelius' house-- a devout and God-fearing Gentile-- and the Holy Spirit coming on Cornelius and his relatives and close friends. This would have sounded crazy to the Jews because God had chosen them, set them apart, and these Gentiles weren't even circumcised. If there ever was reason to be puffed up with green-eyed jealousy, this was it.

But instead of turning their back on Peter and ignoring  how God was moving, the story concludes like this : "When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying,  "So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life."

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