Saturday, July 03, 2010

Guest blogger, Stan Nussbaum, takes us on a journey through the messianic year calendar.

Welcome to the journey of our Messiah through the year with Dr. Nussbaum.

July 4 – Power When Prosecuted

“And now, O Lord, hear their threats, and give your servants great boldness in their preaching.”
Acts 4:29 (NLT)

You would think that the whole world would roll out the red carpet for us as heralds of the power we have been describing in the last few weeks. Who would not want their city or region blessed by the power of heaven that heals, purifies, transforms, and enables people to live in a new way? Who would not want the character and poise of the Messiah or the significance of being part of his movement to change the world?

Nevertheless we do not find much red carpet in the book of Acts. Instead we see the Messiah’s messengers repeatedly hauled into court. In fact, roughly the last third of the book of Acts centers on Paul’s witness in self-defense before Jewish and Roman authorities. (The first third focused on witness to the Jews, the second third on witness to the Gentiles, and both those sections also have arrests and trials sprinkled through them.)

We have to wonder what it was about the Messiah’s heralds that made the authorities step in so often, so strongly, and in so many different places. And what was it about their attacks that led Luke to give them such a prominent place in the book of Acts?

Luke was certainly not presenting them as great success stories about influential people accepting the gospel because they heard it explained during a trial. There are no such conversions. The closest thing was King Agrippa’s famous “almost persuaded” comment (Acts 26:28), and even this may have had some sarcasm to it. The gospel did spread through the trials but not to the most powerful people; only to the bystanders and through the believers who were emboldened to speak when they heard of the trials. (Phil. 1:12-14)

The reaction of the authorities and Luke’s emphasis on it must be pointing us to something more fundamental. It is giving us insight into the strange nature of the Messiah’s power. It confuses those who hold earthly power because it does not work by force as their power works. Even more confusingly, it somehow succeeds where governments consistently fail—it demonstrably takes people of one kind and turns them into people of a different kind. Try as they might, governments cannot duplicate this nor even understand it.

Anything that confuses the authorities makes them nervous. They calm their nerves by forcing their control onto anything or anyone they do not understand. First intimidation, then arrest, then prison or death. Like Festus and Agrippa (Acts 25:24-27) they may have trouble justifying their action against the Messiah’s messengers but deep down it feels right to them.

We have to admit that at one level their gut feeling is correct. They are, after all, in the business of control. We are in the business of testimony to the Messiah’s power, and this puts us on a collision course with them, no matter how loving, healing, and non-violent we may be.

If our testimony is true, if Jesus is the Messiah sitting on the throne of the universe, if he has poured out his power on us to speak for him and act in his name, if his mysterious power is more powerful than the force of kings, if we only obey the earthly authorities as far as he allows us to obey them, then earthly authorities are never as important as they want people to think they are and we can never give them the kind of ultimate control they think they must have in order to function. We make them nervous, and what makes them most nervous is the realization that they do not have the tools to silence our witness.

"Welcome: Lord Jesus, we welcome you more intensely than the world rejected you. We lift you up with praises not nails."

Affirmation: In the power of the Holy Spirit, I will do whatever it takes to represent Jesus before any earthly power. I will never back down. I can die for the Messiah.



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