Thursday

“Then Peter and John laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” (v.17)

Acts 8:14-17 Thursday 15 January 2015

Psalm: Psalm 78:1-7


Background

In this short passage we are given a further insight in to thedeveloping nature of the early Church's mission. Jesus' discipleswere Jews and had grown up in a Jewish world. It was what they werefamiliar with and, as with others in their society, it would nothave been unusual for them to have had a degree of prejudicetowards those who were different from themselves. This wasparticularly the case towards people living in Samaria.

The Jewish people and the Samaritans had a long history offierce antagonism and even hatred for one another. There was nofriendly banter and good-natured rivalry between these twoneighbouring peoples, instead they dwelt on their shared historyand their enmity grew as a result. Centuries before, when theexiles returned from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem, the Samaritanswho were then living in the former northern kingdom of Israelvigorously opposed them. In return the Jews objected to theirneighbours' religious practices.

Jesus started to break down these barriers. He spent timetalking to the Samaritan women at the well (John4:1-42) and turned a Samaritan man in to the hero of a parable(Luke 10:30-37). However it would have been amajor step for the disciples not only to take the gospel message toSamaria but also to baptize people there.

When Peter spoke to the people on the day of Pentecost he linkedBaptism "in the name of Jesus Christ" with receiving the HolySpirit (Acts 2:38). For some reason the Baptism byPhilip does not seem to have the same impact as that seen inJerusalem. It's possible however that this two-stage process isintentional, as Peter and John are not like modern day visitingbishops, visiting to confirm people who have already been baptized,but instead they are sending a very clear signal that their missionin to Samaria is blessed by God and that this is seen through thepower of the Holy Spirit. It marked a total change to therelationship between the early Jewish-based Church and theSamaritans. This step in the journey could be regarded as aSamaritan Pentecost, just as Acts10:44 describes the Gentile Pentecost.


To Ponder

  • Examine your own prejudices and consider what you can do toovercome them.
  • Pray for children, adults and their families who have beenbaptized in your church.
  • Pray for those who cross boundaries and break down barriers tobring peace and justice.
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