• Steven Marsh

Connecting–The Importance of a Shared Faith: a Reflection on Luke 24:36b-48 and Acts 3:12-19

Like the healing of the crippled beggar, being raised from the dead doesn’t happen every day either. Jesus was raised from the dead following his crucifixion. Yes, the resurrection, that story which is two weeks old now, forms the crux of our Christian faith. Jesus’ resurrection is a statement that the powers of death do not have the last word. Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias tweeted on November 20, 2013, “Jesus Christ did not come to make bad people good, but to make dead people alive.” Last Sunday, as the taxi took me from Edinburgh to St. Andrews, Yunan and I spoke about the truth of Easter. Yunan, a Somalian citizen of Scotland, was grateful for Jesus’ resurrection and the new life he found in him. He and his family were refugees, from the 1993 Somalia genocide, accepted into Scotland twenty-five years ago.

In 1958, the Jewish temple, the oldest synagogue in Atlanta, exploded because of detonation by dynamite, allegedly cited as a hate-crime. On the Friday following this devastating explosion, the Sabbath service was held. The temple’s windows were shattered and boarded up. Many doors were hanging from their hinges. But, the building was filled to overflowing, just like a high holy day. Rabbi Jacob Rothschild stood up and said, ‘So this is what it takes to get you to temple.”[1]What does it take to get people to church?

Churches in the 1stand 2ndcenturies were started by Jewish followers of Jesus. These congregations were multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. The Christian church in the 2ndand 3rdcenturies was spreading into Egypt, Ethiopia, and Turkey. Those Christians who were not of Jewish heritage were considered “guests in the house of Israel.” Peter was a Jewish, Semitic Christian. At the time of Peter’s sermon, Jesus was considered the child of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Acts 3 recounts the story of the healing of a crippled beggar outside the temple. That healing brought the crowd to John and Peter. This post-Easter encounter in Acts teaches us the nature and purpose of the church. There is a difference between going to church and being the church. It takes the fully proclaimed Word of God to connect the dots for Peter’s audience and for us. The people misunderstood the source of the healing for they thought it came from John and Peter. The people misunderstood the nature of life with God in that they saw brokenness as the rule and healing the exception. The people thought healing beckoned astonishment, but it begs for repentance. You see, healing draws the crowd, much like a dynamite explosion.[2]

Who is Jesus? He was crucified. And yes, resurrected. Oh, lest we forget, Jesus commissioned his disciples to change the world. Peter shared his own experience with Christ, warts and all, and called his Jewish audience to repentance. Repentance, the English word for the Greek word metanoia, means to turn around, to change direction. In this case, Peter asked the Jewish listeners to change their minds about Jesus. 3,000 believed. We need to turn around in our thinking about Jesus. According to Karen Baker-Fletcher, “Jesus incarnates the God of life among us.”[3]When Jesus appeared to the disciples huddled in that upper room in fear, he did not explain the intricacies of resurrection theory. He showed himself, not as “…a ghost or disembodied spirit but a living, walking, talking, and eating Jesus, alive as you and me.”[4]

People are drawn to places of worship in the high and low times of life. Think about it. Churches were filled when the great drought subsided in the 1930’s, President Kennedy was assassinated, World War II ended, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and terrorists attacked our country September 11, 2001. There is a hunger for resurrection. The faith claim of Christ’s bodily resurrection is a central aspect of Christianity. At the resurrection, something new occurred in Christ. And by placing our faith in the resurrected Jesus, something new occurs in us too.

“And Can It Be?” that you gain something by believing in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord? Yes. You gain life, now and forever. “And Can It Be?” I invite you to agree with this prayer as it is said or quietly repeat after me: “O God, I’m a sinner. I’m sorry for my sin. I’m willing to turn from my sin. I receive Jesus as my Savior. I receive Him as Lord. From this moment on, I want to follow Him in the fellowship of His Church. In Christ’s name. Amen.”[5]Connecting with God and others, in our shared faith, brings resurrection.Brennan Manning in The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus writes this about resurrection:

…we persist in…crazily choosing death over life… But God refuses to let us have the last word in anything…We think we can utter the last word, so God contradicts whatever “absolute word” we speak, whatever “ultimate thing” we do. The biblical narrative shows this clearly: God contradicts our death thrust, holds back our arm, opens a new door, shows us a new path.[6]

Like the descendants of Israel, we are chosen by God for salvation and life. This is our shared faith. This day, how are you rethinking your need for resurrection? Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! May our lives reflect resurrection.

[1]This story is told by Thomas G. Long in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 2 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 406.

[2]Some ideas in this paragraph are gleaned from Thomas G. Long in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 2, 406, 408, 410.

[3]Karen Baker-Fletcher in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 2, 410.

[4]Stephen A. Cooper in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year B, Volume 2, 424, 426.

[5]“Sinner’s Prayer,” by Billy Graham.

[6]Brennan Manning, The Importance of Being Foolish:How to Think Like Jesus(New York City, New York: HarperCollins, 2005), 77.

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