In Acts chapter four, we find a man completely lame for more than 40 years, begging daily for alms to survive. That’s a bummer.
We also find Peter and John, who come to the temple door, see the lame man, and proclaim healing over him in the name of Jesus, and he is instantly healed. That’s super cool.
And what do the authorities do? Arrest these men and threaten them. That’s super weird.
If as Christians we think our goodness or good works will make our faith acceptable to the world, we are either deluded or in for a serious awakening.
“What should we do with these men?” they asked each other. “We can’t deny that they have performed a miraculous sign, and everybody in Jerusalem knows about it. But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 4:16-18)
Propaganda? Incredible. All the people were praising God, and even the authorities could not deny a that a great miracle had happened. And yet, what they want is to stop them from spreading their “propaganda” about Jesus.
“The council then threatened them further, but they finally let them go because they didn’t know how to punish them without starting a riot. For everyone was praising God for this miraculous sign—the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years.” (Acts 4:21-22)
This is just the way it is. And we should stop thinking it will ever be different in this world. The world is fine with good things happening… as long as you don’t talk about needing to acknowledge Jesus as Messiah, or to repent from sin. As long as you don’t suggest there is “a way,” as in an “only way,” we’re all good. In fact, we’re even better if you just say we’re all good and can worship God and get to heaven any way we each believe or like to.
Later, as Peter and the brethren gathered to discuss the incident and threats, we hear them quoting the prophetic prayer of the Psalmist David;
“You spoke long ago by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant, saying, ‘Why were the nations so angry? Why did they waste their time with futile plans? The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the LORD and against his Messiah.’ “In fact, this has happened here in this very city! For Herod Antipas, Pontius Pilate the governor, the Gentiles, and the people of Israel were all united against Jesus, your holy servant, whom you anointed.” (Acts 4:25-27)
Look at that. Herod, Pilate, Gentiles and Jews; all of them united against Jesus. And why? Let us recall the question of Jesus to the authorities who were hoping to stone him to death, and their reply:
“I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” (John 10:31-33)
You see. The good he does is all fine and dandy, but don’t go lifting yourself up above us boy. In effect, they were of the opinion, “You are a mere man, and we don’t like this talk about you being the Messiah, or the Son of God.”
We all know that ultimately, this Jesus who “was a man mighty in deed and word” was brutally rejected, condemned, and crucified. And for what? Not because he did good. But because he claimed to be the way, the truth and the life. Because he claimed there was no way to the Father except through Him. Because he claimed divine origin. Because he claimed not only divine and unique purpose, but divine and unique origin, role, and position. His uniqueness implied exclusiveness that negated all other opinions as to what is or is not acceptable to the one true God… that is what makes people angry.
Nothing has changed. Christians today are deemed judgmental because they believe in the unique claims of Jesus Christ. Because we believe He is in fact the Messiah, Son of God, Lord of lords, and the only way to the Father. Not because we are actually judgmental, but because we believe Christ is the only way; and this by its very nature means other ways are excluded as an acceptable means of salvation.
“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved,” Peter said. (Acts 4:12).
And that really irritates people.
Even the disciples of Jesus, at one time, were freaked out when Jesus began to reveal his unique identity, origin, and role.
“Many of his disciples said, “This is very hard to understand. How can anyone accept it?”
Jesus was aware that his disciples were complaining, so he said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what will you think if you see the Son of Man ascend to heaven again?” (John 6:60-61)
In the same passage it goes on to say:
“At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him.” (John 6:66)
You see, it’s OK as long as Jesus is just one of us, but at the point that he begins to express his exclusive role as Messiah, people get freaked out.
We see little difference today, even in the likes of Bernie Sanders recently berating a Christian political candidate because the candidate actually believes that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. It’s his faith, and it’s a theological position; and yet it angers Bernie that anyone could hold a belief that not all people are deemed acceptable to God however they wish to be. He cannot stomach that anyone would believe their way is the appropriate God given directive to humanity. (Interestingly enough, it seems no issue to him that most Muslims hold the same kind of exclusive theological beliefs).
The candidate may be eminently qualified, intelligent, well mannered, loving, kind, and the best citizen a nation could ever hope for. But because of this mans faith, Bernie says, “I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.” (Source article at https://tinyurl.com/y7qbqu7k)
Incredible. Because the candidate does not believe all others faiths are suitable means of pleasing God, he is despised and considered unsuitable for a political position.
Christians, and the church need to be reminded, and accept once again, that the world we live in will never genuinely love us for our faith. No matter the amount of good we do, miracles we perform, schools and hospitals we build, or prosperous and blessed countries and economies we influence or engineer over time. Ultimately, it’s all good that we just do good, as long as we don’t peddle our “propaganda” about the exclusivity and Lordship of Jesus Christ.
The world does and will continue to love it’s own. As Jesus said, “If they hated me… they will hate you too.”
Again, if we think our good or goodness will make our faith acceptable to the world, we are in for disappointment.