Friday

29 April 2011

"There is salvation in no one else. for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved." (v. 12)Background If you lay all the chapters of the Protestant Bible out in a row and pick the very middle one of the 1189 chapters, then you get Psalm 118. It speaks of thanksgiving, of God's enduring and steadfast love, of triumph from adversity, of salvation and blessing and contains such well-known verses as "This is the day that the Lord has made..." (verse 24) and "Blessed is the one he who comes in the name of the Lord" (verse 26). The psalm that seems to foresee the joy and celebration of resurrection that the early Church was beginning to come to terms with in Acts 4. Maybe the Apostles had been meditating over Psalm 118 at that time, as Peter chooses another verse from it to throw at those who are trying to halt the Jesus-movement: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone" (verse 11, quoting Psalm 118:22). This stone is Jesus of Nazareth – rejected by the ones who were supposed to be maintaining God's building; rejected by the gatekeepers of the House of God (the temple). And Jesus himself predicted that the temple would be destroyed (Luke 21:5-6). But out of the rubble would emerge a new building – made not of stone but of people – living stones. And now the one who faced rejection from the leaders of the faith, has returned. The one they thought destroyed has risen from the dust. His name is being spoken of again, and again causing an uproar. How can the name of a dead man produce such a stir? For those whose wield power through religion – keeping entrapped God's people who are meant to be free – this is bad news. As the dust settled on the healing of the lame man, the religious leaders would reflect on its implications. Resurrection is unpredictable and points to a world where God is in control, rather than them. The Sadducees were the ruling classes, who controlled the temple-system, and kept themselves and the priests in the lap of luxury while the masses struggled. They discouraged a belief in resurrection, so the resurrection of Jesus was bad news for them because it pointed to transfer of power – from them to God. And the raising of Jesus would be seen as only the start – an event that would ultimately lead to the "universal restoration" (Acts 3:21) and the supreme rule of God. So they had the Apostles detained while they worked out their strategy. But the next day Peter and John stood before them and spoke boldly, empowered by the Spirit. Again they stressed that it was not them but rather the name of Jesus who had performed this miracle – Jesus the crucified and risen one, that is! And it's only through him that salvation will come into the world: "no other name" has been given. A controversial claim! When Christians use verses like this to wield power, gain prosperity, promote themselves, limit God's grace, or cause division, then surely they are no better than the Sadducees. But when we take it in the light of God's promises and put our hope in the resurrection, then we shouldn’t be ashamed of such a claim. By all means, we must not hinder or reject other expressions of faith, but ours is good news for all creation. Who else has risen from the dead? Who else came to offer salvation to all? Who else is the champion of the kingdom of God? Who else offers us spiritual refreshment and blessing in the meantime? Who else is bringing about the restoration of all things? Peter himself once said to Jesus, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). To Ponder Read Psalm 118 for yourself. What links can you see with the resurrection? In a world of many faiths, how can we communicate what is distinctive about Jesus Christ and this message of good news without seeming arrogant or bigoted as Christians? Bible notes author: The Revd Andrew Murphy

Background

If you lay all the chapters of the Protestant Bible out in a row and pick the very middle one of the 1189 chapters, then you get Psalm 118. It speaks of thanksgiving, of God's enduring and steadfast love, of triumph from adversity, of salvation and blessing and contains such well-known verses as "This is the day that the Lord has made..." (verse 24) and "Blessed is the one he who comes in the name of the Lord" (verse 26). The psalm that seems to foresee the joy and celebration of resurrection that the early Church was beginning to come to terms with in Acts 4. Maybe the Apostles had been meditating over Psalm 118 at that time, as Peter chooses another verse from it to throw at those who are trying to halt the Jesus-movement: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone" (verse 11, quoting Psalm 118:22).

This stone is Jesus of Nazareth - rejected by the ones who were supposed to be maintaining God's building; rejected by the gatekeepers of the House of God (the temple). And Jesus himself predicted that the temple would be destroyed (Luke 21:5-6). But out of the rubble would emerge a new building - made not of stone but of people - living stones. And now the one who faced rejection from the leaders of the faith, has returned. The one they thought destroyed has risen from the dust. His name is being spoken of again, and again causing an uproar. How can the name of a dead man produce such a stir? For those whose wield power through religion - keeping entrapped God's people who are meant to be free - this is bad news.

As the dust settled on the healing of the lame man, the religious leaders would reflect on its implications. Resurrection is unpredictable and points to a world where God is in control, rather than them. The Sadducees were the ruling classes, who controlled the temple-system, and kept themselves and the priests in the lap of luxury while the masses struggled. They discouraged a belief in resurrection, so the resurrection of Jesus was bad news for them because it pointed to transfer of power - from them to God. And the raising of Jesus would be seen as only the start - an event that would ultimately lead to the "universal restoration" (Acts 3:21) and the supreme rule of God. So they had the Apostles detained while they worked out their strategy.

But the next day Peter and John stood before them and spoke boldly, empowered by the Spirit. Again they stressed that it was not them but rather the name of Jesus who had performed this miracle - Jesus the crucified and risen one, that is! And it's only through him that salvation will come into the world: "no other name" has been given. A controversial claim!

When Christians use verses like this to wield power, gain prosperity, promote themselves, limit God's grace, or cause division, then surely they are no better than the Sadducees. But when we take it in the light of God's promises and put our hope in the resurrection, then we shouldn't be ashamed of such a claim. By all means, we must not hinder or reject other expressions of faith, but ours is good news for all creation. Who else has risen from the dead? Who else came to offer salvation to all? Who else is the champion of the kingdom of God? Who else offers us spiritual refreshment and blessing in the meantime? Who else is bringing about the restoration of all things? Peter himself once said to Jesus, "Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).

To Ponder

Read Psalm 118 for yourself. What links can you see with the resurrection?

In a world of many faiths, how can we communicate what is distinctive about Jesus Christ and this message of good news without seeming arrogant or bigoted as Christians?

Bible notes author: The Revd Andrew Murphy

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