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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Today’s Scripture Reading | Acts 4:13–20, 5:27–29                   

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition.

So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. They said, “What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.” When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “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.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. (NRSV)

It should have been a joyous homecoming. Jesus, the hometown hero of Nazareth, returned after flourishing as a teacher and healer outside of Galilee. The question, Can anything good come out of Nazareth? (John 1:46), had been answered. Surely the people would be thrilled to have their native son return home! However, when they heard him speak, they took offense at him. How are we to understand this reaction? And what can it possibly tell us about our lives?

The Nazarenes appear stuck in time or, perhaps more accurately, stuck with their previous experience with Jesus. The questions they ask firmly root them in the past: Wasn’t this the carpenter’s son, the child of Mary? Don’t we know his brothers and sisters, all of whom aren’t that remarkable? Why is Jesus any different? They responded to the Jesus who was, rather than the Jesus who is.

It is a challenge to all of us, particularly those of us who have grown up in church our whole lives. Are we responding to the Jesus who was rather than the Jesus who is? Do we allow our previous experiences and understandings of Jesus to dictate our beliefs in the present, or are we continually devoted to hearing Jesus anew?

Challenge me, God, to not try to capture your Word but to experience the fullness of your living Word. Allow my experiences with the risen Christ to startle me and push me into fresh understandings of your love and grace. Amen.

Written by Matt Helms, Associate Pastor for Children and Family Ministry

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