Thursday, April 13, 2017

Reflection 3 on the Acts of the Apostles

Acts of the Apostles

            Immediately after giving the example of Joseph Barnabas Luke gives the example of Ananias and Sapphira and things get dramatic. There were a couple run-ins with the authorities prior but in neither case was there as much drama as this, a man and wife dropping dead. 
            Solomon’s portico shows up in both chapter 4 and chapter 5 as the place where the people “hung out” with the Apostles, where their signs and wonders were discussed and probably even some signs and wonders were performed. Portico (from Italian) was popular in Greek architecture, a porch actually. This one was on the eastern side of the outer court of the temple (women’s court). As it happens, a prominent Protestant leader in the emergent church movement, Doug Pagitt, is pastor of a well-known church in Minneapolis called Solomon’s Porch.
While on the subject of names of things based on subjects showing up in the Acts of the Apostles, I find it interesting we haven’t found many healing, health or medical related things named “Peter’s Shadow.” Maybe because most people wouldn’t associate “Peter’s shadow” with St. Peter the Apostle but with Peter Pan, who couldn’t hang onto his shadow.
            Twice now so far in the Acts of the Apostles we see the various antagonists of the Apostles and the growing church (captain of the temple guards, priests) teamed up with the Sadducees.  Where were the Pharisees? It was easy to miss. I had to read through again to catch it. “Then the high priest rose up and all his companions, that is, the party of the Sadducees…” (It’s because they’re so “sad, you see?”) The Sadducees were calling the shots because the high priest had the Sadducees as his “companions”.
So the high priest and his Sadducee companions threw the Apostles in jail. Luke specified “public jail”. I thought there might be something significant, like there was a temple jail or some other kind of jail. I did some searching and discovered it’s a function of the translation. The Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition consistently uses “prison” and uses “jail” only as the root of the word “jailer”.  The New American Bible Revised Edition uses “jail” and “prison” interchangeably, so the “public jail” is probably not significant.    
The next morning, while the Apostles were already preaching in the temple the high priest and his ever loyal companions (ELC) arrived, convened the Sanhedrin and sent court officers to fetch the Apostles from jail.  I guess we are supposed to assume the high priest and the ELC arrived at the temple and didn’t notice the Apostles preaching. The court officers didn’t find anybody in the jail.  A paraphrase of part of verse 24 of chapter 5 might be “the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were clueless…”
After the clueless captain and court officers fetched the Apostles from the temple area there was finally a mention of a Pharisee, Gamaliel. So we find the Pharisees were not completely out of the picture.  
            When the neglect of the Greek widows was brought to the attention of the Apostles Stephen and six others were appointed to deal with the distribution of food.  The 12 Apostles were free to spend their time in the business of prayer and ministry of the word.  I find it interesting Luke wrote after the Apostles laid their hands on the seven chosen “even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.” I cynically imagine the priests saw seven were delegated to do the “dirty work”, so they turned to one another and said “Wow, no manual labor! No serving at tables! We got to get a part of this gig!”
            Stephen demonstrated evangelization isn’t just for Apostles and it cost him his life.

            Another thing I noticed is Stephen pointed out Abraham was told by God to “Go forth from your land and from your kinsfolk to the land that I will show you.” So what didn’t Abraham do? He didn’t leave his kinsfolk. He took his father and his nephew, Lot, and went where? To Harran, not to the land God would show him. Abraham then stalled until his father died. Luke wrote into the words of Stephen that God “made him migrate.” Talk about a reluctant emigrant! 

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