Acts of the Apostles 2017 Lesson 05

9:1 Now Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains. 3 On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, for they heard the voice but could see no one. 8

 

Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him to Damascus. 9 For three days he was unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank. 10 There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight and ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is there praying, 12 and (in a vision) he has seen a man named Ananias come in and lay (his) hands on him, that he may regain his sight.” 13

 

But Ananias replied, “Lord, I have heard from many sources about this man, what evil things he has done to your holy ones in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to imprison all who call upon your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, 16 and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house; laying his hands on him, he said, “Saul, my brother, the Lord has sent me, Jesus who appeared to you on the way by which you came, that you may regain your sight and be filled with the holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately things like scales fell from his eyes and he regained his sight. He got up and was baptized, 19 and when he had eaten, he recovered his strength.

 

He stayed some days with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and he began at once to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. 21 All who heard him were astounded and said, “Is not this the man who in Jerusalem ravaged those who call upon this name, and came here expressly to take them back in chains to the chief priests?” 22 But Saul grew all the stronger and confounded (the) Jews who lived in Damascus, proving that this is the Messiah. 23

 

After a long time had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him, 24 but their plot became known to Saul. Now they were keeping watch on the gates day and night so as to kill him, 25 but his disciples took him one night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket. 26 When he arrived in Jerusalem he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. 27 Then Barnabas took charge of him and brought him to the apostles, and he reported to them how on the way he had seen the Lord and that he had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. 28 He moved about freely with them in Jerusalem, and spoke out boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He also spoke and debated with the Hellenists, but they tried to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him on his way to Tarsus. 31

 

The church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria was at peace. It was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the holy Spirit it grew in numbers. 32 As Peter was passing through every region, he went down to the holy ones living in Lydda. 33 There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been confined to bed for eight years, for he was paralyzed. 34 Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed.” He got up at once. 35 And all the inhabitants of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. 36

 

Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated means Dorcas). She was completely occupied with good deeds and almsgiving. 37 Now during those days she fell sick and died, so after washing her, they laid (her) out in a room upstairs. 38 Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, hearing that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” 39 So Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs where all the widows came to him weeping and showing him the tunics and cloaks that Dorcas had made while she was with them. 40 Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed. Then he turned to her body and said, “Tabitha, rise up.” She opened her eyes, saw Peter, and sat up. 41 He gave her his hand and raised her up, and when he had called the holy ones and the widows, he presented her alive. 42 This became known all over Joppa, and many came to believe in the Lord. 43 And he stayed a long time in Joppa with Simon, a tanner.

 

10:1 Now in Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of the Cohort called the Italica, 2 devout and God-fearing along with his whole household, who used to give alms generously to the Jewish people and pray to God constantly. 3 One afternoon about three o’clock, he saw plainly in a vision an angel of God come in to him and say to him, “Cornelius.” 4 He looked intently at him and, seized with fear, said, “What is it, sir?” He said to him, “Your prayers and almsgiving have ascended as a memorial offering before God. 5 Now send some men to Joppa and summon one Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with another Simon, a tanner, who has a house by the sea.” 7 When the angel who spoke to him had left, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from his staff, 8 explained everything to them, and sent them to Joppa. 9

 

The next day, while they were on their way and nearing the city, Peter went up to the roof terrace to pray at about noontime. 10 He was hungry and wished to eat, and while they were making preparations he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered to the ground by its four corners. 12 In it were all the earth’s four-legged animals and reptiles and the birds of the sky. 13 A voice said to him, “Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “Certainly not, sir. For never have I eaten anything profane and unclean.” 15 The voice spoke to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.” 16 This happened three times, and then the object was taken up into the sky. 17

 

While Peter was in doubt about the meaning of the vision he had seen, the men sent by Cornelius asked for Simon’s house and arrived at the entrance. 18 They called out inquiring whether Simon, who is called Peter, was staying there. 19 As Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said (to him), “There are three men here looking for you. 20 So get up, go downstairs, and accompany them without hesitation, because I have sent them.” 21 Then Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your being here?” 22 They answered, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, respected by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to summon you to his house and to hear what you have to say.” 23 So he invited them in and showed them hospitality.

 

The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went with him. 24 On the following day he entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and, falling at his feet, paid him homage. 26 Peter, however, raised him up, saying, “Get up. I myself am also a human being.” 27 While he conversed with him, he went in and found many people gathered together 28 and said to them, “You know that it is unlawful for a Jewish man to associate with, or visit, a Gentile, but God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean. 29 And that is why I came without objection when sent for. May I ask, then, why you summoned me?” 30

 

Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this hour, three o’clock in the afternoon, I was at prayer in my house when suddenly a man in dazzling robes stood before me and said, 31 ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your almsgiving remembered before God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter. He is a guest in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and you were kind enough to come. Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to listen to all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” 34

 

Then Peter proceeded to speak and said, “In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. 35 Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. 36 You know the word (that) he sent to the Israelites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, 37 what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and (in) Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. 40 This man God raised (on) the third day and granted that he be visible, 41 not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.” 44

 

While Peter was still speaking these things, the holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter were astounded that the gift of the holy Spirit should have been poured out on the Gentiles also, 46 for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God. Then Peter responded, 47 “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the holy Spirit even as we have?” 48 He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. 49 Then they invited him to stay for a few days.

 

11:1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem the circumcised believers confronted him, 3 saying, “You entered the house of uncircumcised people and ate with them.” 4 Peter began and explained it to them step by step, saying, 5 “I was at prayer in the city of Joppa when in a trance I had a vision, something resembling a large sheet coming down, lowered from the sky by its four corners, and it came to me. 6 Looking intently into it, I observed and saw the four-legged animals of the earth, the wild beasts, the reptiles, and the birds of the sky. 7 I also heard a voice say to me, ‘Get up, Peter. Slaughter and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘Certainly not, sir, because nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 But a second time a voice from heaven answered, ‘What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.’ 10 This happened three times, and then everything was drawn up again into the sky. 11

 

Just then three men appeared at the house where we were, who had been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 The Spirit told me to accompany them without discriminating. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He related to us how he had seen (the) angel standing in his house, saying, ‘Send someone to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, 14 who will speak words to you by which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15 As I began to speak, the holy Spirit fell upon them as it had upon us at the beginning, 16 and I remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said, ‘John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?” 18 When they heard this, they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying, “God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.”

 

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that arose because of Stephen went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but Jews. 20 There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them, however, who came to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus. 21 The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number who believed turned to the Lord. 22 The news about them reached the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas (to go) to Antioch. 23

 

When he arrived and saw the grace of God, he rejoiced and encouraged them all to remain faithful to the Lord in firmness of heart, 24 for he was a good man, filled with the holy Spirit and faith. And a large number of people was added to the Lord. 25 Then he went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he had found him he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a large number of people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. 27 At that time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch, 28 and one of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine all over the world, and it happened under Claudius. 29 So the disciples determined that, according to ability, each should send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea. 30 This they did, sending it to the presbyters in care of Barnabas and Saul.

 

12:1 About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, 3 and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also. (It was (the) feast of Unleavened Bread.) 4 He had him taken into custody and put in prison under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. He intended to bring him before the people after Passover. 5 Peter thus was being kept in prison, but prayer by the church was fervently being made to God on his behalf. 6

 

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. 7 Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists. 8 The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” 9 So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first guard, then the second, and came to the iron gate leading out to the city, which opened for them by itself. They emerged and made their way down an alley, and suddenly the angel left him. 11 Then Peter recovered his senses and said, “Now I know for certain that (the) Lord sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people had been expecting.” 12

 

When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who is called Mark, where there were many people gathered in prayer. 13 When he knocked on the gateway door, a maid named Rhoda came to answer it. 14 She was so overjoyed when she recognized Peter’s voice that, instead of opening the gate, she ran in and announced that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They told her, “You are out of your mind,” but she insisted that it was so. But they kept saying, “It is his angel.” 16 But Peter continued to knock, and when they opened it, they saw him and were astounded. 17 He motioned to them with his hand to be quiet and explained (to them) how the Lord had led him out of the prison, and said, “Report this to James and the brothers.” Then he left and went to another place. 18

 

At daybreak there was no small commotion among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19 Herod, after instituting a search but not finding him, ordered the guards tried and executed. Then he left Judea to spend some time in Caesarea. 20 He had long been very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, who now came to him in a body. After winning over Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they sued for peace because their country was supplied with food from the king’s territory. 21 On an appointed day, Herod, attired in royal robes, (and) seated on the rostrum, addressed them publicly. 22 The assembled crowd cried out, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” 23 At once the angel of the Lord struck him down because he did not ascribe the honor to God, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. 24 But the word of God continued to spread and grow. 25 After Barnabas and Saul completed their relief mission, they returned to Jerusalem, taking with them John, who is called Mark.

 

 

 

VIDEO NOTES

 

This talk is by Fr. Dan Borlik C.M.

Had been a missionary

Acts is the story of the gospel breaking forth into the world.  How we read Acts may affect how effective our reading is – for good or bad.

An action packed story, the God of surprise.

Read the story as if we were participants.  Early church overwhelmed by the gospel, we should be as well.  He has had special moments of surrender to God and HS in preaching and sacraments.  The gospel comes alive when we share the stories.

Acts 9 – 12

  • Main characters and events.  What does Peter and Paul have to say to us?  How am I like them?  How would it feel to experience what they felt?
  • Consider some ideas about conversion and evangelization.

Chapter 9

begins with Saul threatening Christians.  A zealous Jew.  Becomes one of the people he had been persecuting.  A great reversal as in the gospels.  He receives a commission.   Ends in Joppa with Peter curing people.  2 miracles – the lame Aeneas and the deceased Tabitha.  Christ is indeed risen.  Not only transformed themselves but the spirit compels them to spread the word.  As they do so they are surprised by who is receptive and who is being called.

Chapter 10

begins with Cornelius who has a vision – go to see Peter.  Peter has a vision of the same thing.  God shows no partiality.  Whoever heeds him – everyone is acceptable

“Why was there so much opposition, even division and violence over accepting non-Jews as followers of Jesus?”   Jesus’ own interactions with non-Jews caused  controversy.  Seemed to water-down the covenant.  Challenged Jewish identity as unique.

The gospel did divide families.  Now with Cornelius a whole new way of life, new world view.

Chapter 11

“Why is the struggle to change worldviews still important to us today?”  Rapid changes in our own society – and the cultures they bring (food, language, values etc.) are different from what we are used to.  Cultural world-view.  This is part of God’s plan.  To grow out of the narrow Jewish culture of Palestine.

“I was at prayer in the city of Joppa when in a trance I had a vision …  As I began to speak, the holy Spirit fell upon them as it had upon us at the beginning.  God gave them the same gift …  who was I to be able to hinder God?”  Acts 11:5, 15, 17

Chapter 12

Herod had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter …

Herod is hailed: “The assembled crows cried out, “this is the voice of a god, not of a man.”

In this chapter Peter’s story comes to a close.  An Exodus narrative – Peter escapes from prison and begins to preach again.  At this stage they were still fully observant Jews.  Judaism itself was divided by their existence.

In our great stories – very human.  3 steps forward, 2 steps back.  Success is God’s victory.

“God’s work in us takes a lifetime and it is only in taking risks, failing and learning anew that we can be faithful disciples.”   God’s plan – after years of struggle Peter, Paul, the church.  We are just like them.

Conversion: a changing relationship.  Free grace that heals relationships.  The good news is made manifest.

In telling the good news of forgiveness and love – the disciples themselves set free.

We have to be open, searching, willing.  Anyone can receive the good news (eunuch, Cornelius).

What the LORD gives us is often not what we asked for.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

 

Resources

Bruce, F F.  The Acts of the Apostles: Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary.  Third Revised and Enlarged Edition.  (William B Eerdmans, Grand Rapids MI, 1990).

Fitzmeyer, Joseph A.  The Acts of the Apostles: A new translation with introduction and commentary.  Part of the Anchor Yale Bible Series edited by David Noel Freedman.  (Yale University Press, New Haven, 1998).

 

Johnson, Luke Timothy.  The Acts of the Apostles.  Part of the Sacra Pagina commentary series edited by Daniel J. Harrington S.J..  (Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN, 1992).

 

 

CHAPTER NINE

Fitzmyer p. 434: “There is no substantial evidence that Luke had ever read any of Paul’s letters.  Rather, the information that Luke has about Saul and his ministry has come to him from other sources, esp. his Pauline source.”

 

Saul’s Conversion

The actual physical blindness of Paul in the aftermath of the encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus is parallel to the spiritual blindness of the Pharisees during the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus will cure this blindness as he took care of the blindness of Bartimaeus and others.

 

Others hear the voice but see no one.  Some miracles which involve the voice of God are described by onlookers as thunder (one of the baptism of Jesus accounts).  The voice of God speaking to all of the people at Mt. Sinai was so terrifying that the people begged God to stop and sent Moses off to deal with Him.

 

While from a Christian perspective persecuting Christians was greatly sinful – Fitzmyer argues on p. 420 that the “conversion” of Paul was not from great sin as elsewhere occurs in the Christian tradition but of sudden and remarkable change from persecutor to witness for Jesus.  It is also a powerful testimony to the power of the HS and Jesus in the life of the early church.

 

Saul’s baptism

Ananias (a different one obviously from the one in Chapter 5 who was struck dead) is reluctant to deal with Paul but does so after a vision from the Lord resolves his concerns.  “He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites …”     Notice the order!  Ananias is himself a means of the conversion process but Jesus is in charge.

 

Saul preaches in Damascus and then goes to Jerusalem

Without study or other preparation Saul begins to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God in the synagogues of Damascus.  But the message does not seem especially persuasive to them – they, after a “long time”, begin to plot to kill him.

Saul escapes Damascus by being lowered from the wall – something that will happen multiple times over the rest of his career.

 

In Jerusalem the apostles are reluctant to believe he had changed.  Saul / Paul will NEVER have an easy and comfortable relationship with them.  He will do what he can – testimony now, collection later – to try to get into their good graces.  He will also challenge them again and again.  Paul will probably appear to them always as a very “mixed blessing”.

 

He is eventually taken to Caesaria (a harbor town) and then off by boat to Tarsus.  (A town in south central Turkey.)

 

Peter Heals Aeneas and Tabitha

Peter heals in the name of Jesus – does not touch him.

 

Fitzmyer p. 443: “Two episodes in which Peter evangelizes and performs miracles become the connecting link between the story about Saul, the “chosen instrument” for the Gentile mission, and the actual start of that mission, which Peter inaugurates.”

 

CHAPTER TEN 

 

Johnson p. 186: “In a very real sense, the entire section from chapter ten through chapter fifteen is dominated by the crisis precipitated by Cornelius’ and Peter’s vision.”  That is: what do we do with converting Gentiles?

 

The Vision of Cornelius

Caesarea was a port city built up by Herod the Great on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.  It had a palace, temples to Roman gods, a hippodrome, amphitheater, and more.

 

 

Bruce p. 251: “The story of Cornelius, which ‘bears the stamp both of probability and truth’ ( F. J. Foakes-Jackson), is of great importance not only because it describes how ‘a door of faith was opened to the Gentiles,’ but also because it introduces the fundamental questions of the social intercourse of Jewish Christians with Gentiles and of admission of Gentiles to the Christian fellowship without the requirement of circumcision.  These were the questions later debated at the Jerusalem Council (15:6-29).  Luke’s sense of the importance of the Cornelius story appears in his devoting considerable space (11:4-17) to Peter’s rehearsal of it after his return to Jerusalem, and in the crucial part which Peter’s reference to it plays in the account of the Council.”

 

Joppa is modern-day Jaffa – also on the coast of the Mediterranean.  It is now a “suburb” of Tel Aviv.

 

Cornelius was a God-fearer – attending services at the synagogue, complying with Jewish Law to the extent that he could as a Roman soldier.   In the vision he is told to summon Simon / Peter who is in Joppa.

 

The Vision of Peter

“What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.”  The vision and Peter go through this 3 times.

 

After and separate from the vision the H.S. alerts Peter to the presence of the messengers (3 of them) from Cornelius and directs him to go with them to Cornelius.

 

Cornelius welcomed Peter and “paid him homage” – perhaps not sure whether or not he was an angel, perhaps because he had heard of his works in the power of the Holy Spirit, perhaps because he had been specifically identified in the vision.  Here Peter says “God has shown me that I should not call any person profane or unclean”  – an extension of the lesson of his vision?  Or the original vision content that was then later modified to refer to food?

 

“unlawful for a Jewish man to associate with, or visit, a Gentile…” ?    Johnson notes on p. 190: “The degrees of ‘avoidance’ compatible with loyalty to Torah were debated by the various parties within Judaism, and distinguished the more extreme separatists like the Essenes from the more moderate like the Pharisees, and from the least observant ‘people of the land’”.  Jesus and the Pharisees were clearly on different pages on this issue.

 

Peter’s Speech

He begins with the now-famous “I see that God shows no partiality.  Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him.”   And then goes on to give a condensed version of the core teachings developing in the church about Jesus.   The “elevator” speech of a Christian evangelist.  What would you say if someone asked: “so who is this Jesus you follow?’

 

The Baptism of Cornelius

Here the gift of the Holy Spirit is identified with / by speaking in tongues.  The people present with Cornelius are then baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (meaning baptized – Father, son and Holy Spirit).

 

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Baptism of Gentiles explained

 

The discussion between Peter and the other apostles back in Jerusalem begins with a near-accusation – “you entered the house of uncircumcised people and ate with them”.   Jesus often ate with sinners (who were Jews), much less documented that he interacted with Gentiles – but he did with Samaritan woman, Centurion, and a few more.  Not clear that he ever ate with them.

 

Johnson p. 200: “That the Gentiles have ‘received the word of God’ – which is explicitly acknowledged in 11:1 – does not yet decide the question of their status vis-à-vis Jewish believers.  Can Jewish Christians share meals with them?  Are these Gentiles members of God’s people of equal status with those who first believed?”   Problems occur from both sides of the issue.  What can Gentile Christians do or not do?  How should they live?   On the other side –  Can Jewish Christians mix with them, eat with them, intermarry with them, etc.?   Much more complicated than it first appears to the leaders in Jerusalem as well as to Peter and to Paul – hence the debate extends for more than 20 years and the church lurches one way and then back several times (letters of Paul along with Acts).

 

Peter then recounts the events of the previous chapter one by one, in detail: Peter’s vision, Cornelius’ vision (briefly), the descent of the Holy Spirit,

 

Life-giving repentance has been given to the Gentiles.  Not for the killing of Jesus but for …?

 

The Church in Antioch

 

Another reference to persecution of Christians and citing as destinations: Phoenicia, Cyprus, Antioch.  Some Cypriots and Cyrenians came to Antioch and began proclaiming not just to Jews but to Gentiles.

 

Barnabas sent to Antioch from Jerusalem to check things out – he finds it fine.  Paul is brought to Antioch and spends a year with others in study.

 

In Antioch they are first called Christians.

 

The prediction of Agabus

 

Agabus comes down from Jerusalem, prophecies in the Spirit, about a future famine.  This is not typical OT prophecy which might have linked current problems (persecution of Christians) to a future response by God – famine.  Or perhaps that element has been left out.  The community takes up a collection for the brothers in Judea (surrounding Jerusalem) – for the relief of the famine there (not the whole world?  Worst there?)

 

Johnson p. 208 – there were famines in the Roman empire during the reign of Claudius – including a severe one in Palestine area.   Is this the collection?  “In the longer perspective, the sources can be said to agree on a fundamental point: at some point in his career, Paul brought a gift of money to the Church in Jerusalem.”   However – the letters of Paul, a more authoritative source, indicate it was much later in his career than is presented here in Acts

 

 

CHAPTER TWELVE

Herod persecutes Christians

 

James the brother of John executed by the sword.  Peter captured.  Note that it was Passover.

 

Extraordinary security – double chains, sleeping between 2 soldiers, guards outside.   In the escape through divine intervention Peter thinks he is having a dream or a vision.

 

Johnson p. 219: “The escape of the prophet Peter from prison becomes a demonstration that the resurrection of Jesus continues to empower his apostles.  The story of Jesus is continued in the story of his followers, and the power at work in Jesus is now even more powerfully at work in his church.”

 

“report this to James and the brothers”    Johnson p. 213: “This James, ‘the brother of the Lord’, (see Mark 6:3, Matt. 13:55, Acts 1:14), is called by Paul one of the three ‘pillars’ of the Jerusalem Church with Cephas and John, as well as a witness to Jesus’ resurrection (1 Cor. 15:7).  It was ‘people from James’ who according to Paul created the difficulties at Antioch over table-fellowship (Gal. 2:12).  The picture in Acts basically confirms Paul’s version: James emerges as the leader of the Jerusalem Church in the present passage, and is clearly its chief spokesperson at the apostolic council (15:13) as well as at Paul’s final visit to the city (21:18).”

 

Mark 6: 2-3: “ When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!   Is he not the carpenter,  the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.”

 

Acts 1:13-14: “When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.  All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”

 

1 Cor. 15:4-8: “that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  After that he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one born abnormally, he appeared to me.”

 

Gal 2:11-14:  “And when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he clearly was wrong.  For, until some people came from James,  he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to draw back and separated himself, because he was afraid of the circumcised.  And the rest of the Jews  [also] acted hypocritically along with him, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy.  But when I saw that they were not on the right road in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of all,  “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

 

Herod’s death

He was “struck down” and died – but not clear in the text how he died.  Eaten by worms is the fate of all who die – occurs in Pirke Avot and the Talmud a number of times.

 

Pirke Avot 2:8

Hillel said:

The more flesh, the more worms;

the more possessions, the more worry;

the more servants, the more thievery.

The more Torah, the more life;

the more study, the more wisdom;

the more charity, the more peace.

 

 

Pirke Avot 4:4

 

Rabbi Levitas of Yavneh says:

Be exceedingly humble in spirit, for the anticipated end of mortal man is worms.

 

What exactly was Herod’s offense?  To be dressed in full royal attire?  The way he spoke?  What he said?

 

Barnabas and Saul

This verse belongs to the next chapter –  the mission of Barnabas and Saul.

 

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