Bible Experiment Acts
Going to launch this one as more of an op-ed on the times and what is going on in the world today. Definitely a different tact, but not unprecedented seeing as though the anonymous atheist that had this idea before me did exactly that all the time. But let me set the current state of affairs up for those of you that are reading this in the future. Trump has been in office 1 week. And there are widespread protests in the streets decrying his ban on Muslims coming into the country from a number of Middle East countries. It is an insular and ignorant view of the world in my opinion. And it sickens me to see where “my party” is going.
But I will say this, the world has seen much much worse leadership in just the past several thousand years.
Caligula ruled from 37-41 and Nero ruled from 54 to 68. Nero and Caligula, arguably both insane. Or pretending to be – historians can’t decide – but I can’t decide which is worse. These are the guys that the people Acts were dealing with when this book was written. And if you know anything about Nero or Caligula, were maniacal, evil men. The wars between Rome and the Jews were so intense that enormous temple in Jerusalem was destroyed not too long the events of the gospels played out.
The Fox’s Book of Martyrs tells of all manner of evil set out against the people of Rome and the surrounding territories. But particularly set out against the Christians. Nero needed light for his dinner parties? He’d impale a long run of Christians on spikes, then tar them, and then set them alight. Here, here is a quote directly from Fox’s to back up what I am saying:
“Nero even refined upon cruelty, and contrived all manner of punishments for the Christians that the most infernal imagination could design. In particular, he had some sewed up in skins of wild beasts, and then worried by dogs until they expired; and others dressed in shirts made stiff with wax, fixed to axletrees, and set on fire in his gardens, in order to illuminate them. This persecution was general throughout the whole Roman Empire; but it rather increased than diminished the spirit of Christianity. In the course of it, St. Paul and St. Peter were martyred.”
This is the era within which Acts was written. And just from that standpoint I would assume that it would be interesting, or even intriguing. This group of people was being blamed for the burning of Rome by a mad dictator who had set it alight because he wanted all of the world to burn before he died. And what did this people do throughout? Well, why don’t we review the book and see?
Let’s Kick Acts Off…
So, to understand the book of Acts you first need to understand that Luke and Acts are actually one book. Luke starts with the birth of Christ and ends with His death and resurrection. Acts continues exactly where Luke left off and joins the disciples as they cower in their houses wondering if Rome was going to run through their midst and kill them all for dissidence. They had just watched the Christ ascend on a cloud into heaven. Now what?! They were afraid. And shocked at Christ’s leaving. And then Acts carries this story forward and tells the story of how the disciples started this little thing called the Church. So yeah, Acts is a bigly (sorry, I am already making fun of Trump, and I’m not even talking about him, or anything even remotely related) important book.
So Acts starts off with the disciples with Jesus in Jerusalem after he raised from the dead. They had begun to assume that Jesus was back for good even though he kept saying that he was going to leave. No no no no. And sure enough, within the first few verses of Acts he ascends into heaven, riding on a cloud. So now what? The disciples are wigging out. Afraid. Unclear what to do next. And completely spooked. I mean, after all, the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herod, all of Rome, and pretty much everyone else in between, wanted the disciples dead. So they hid in an upper room.
But then Pentecost came. The disciples are spending time talking and praying, and crowds are assembling. And out of the blue, a wind sweeps through the city. And the Christians begin shouting out about how awesome God is, in other languages. And if you didn’t know it, Jerusalem was at a major crossroads, so there were tons of different people from various kingdoms and people. So people started saying, uhm…. guys, you are saying amazing things in my native tongue. What is that about? Here’s literally what they said:
“And when this sound occurred,” [the great rushing wind] “the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11Cretans and Arabs-we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”
And the Christians said. No idea. And the response? YOU GUYS ARE DRUNK!!! Seriously, they said that. Which, we’d say today I think! hahah.
Then Peter steps up onto a balcony and yells out to the thousands of people now that have assembled trying to figure out what is going on. And he says, look, it’s 9 am… we aren’t drunk. What you are seeing is the fulfillment of prophesy… the Prophet Joel to be specific. And then Peter walked this cat back, and explained exactly what was going on. Now some of these guys were Jews, but most were not I reckon. Sounds like a pretty diverse group. And he spoke to them all and revealed the magic and the meaning of life the universe and everything.
Stop. Do you want to know the meaning of life, the universe and everything? ‘Cause I could stop right here and tell you about this truth. Unveil the hidden wonders of the galaxies, the sun, the stars. I could paint for you a picture of purpose and meaning in your life that maybe you didn’t even know was there. Well that is what Peter does, he drops some serious truth on this assemblage right here.
Basically he says, the entirety of the Bible has pointed to this one moment in history. It pointed to the coming of a savior. And this savior? You handed this savior over to die a death on a cross as an embarrassed common criminal. But take a deep breath. It’s ok. Because that was the purpose from the foundation of the universe… that was determined to happen. He came to live, and then die for you, and then rise again. And we have been with him for the last few weeks. We ate with him. We laughed we cried with him. We all here are witnesses to this event. Ask any one of us. We will all tell you the same story. This Jesus that we killed… he’s alive. And he just ascended into heaven on a cloud. Coolest thing I’ve ever seen, and I saw a ton of cool things following Jesus around for 3 years.
Let me be clear though. The Christ, the one we have been waiting eagerly for all these millennia? We killed him. And when Peter said these words, this was the response: “they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.””
Look at that response from Peter – this promise, salvation, hope, all of it, is for you! Wait, who are you? Persian, Roman, Medes, Italians, Americans, Canadians? Who cares! It’s for you. This hope? It’s for you. It is for you and for all WHO ARE FAR OFF. There is no such thing as too far off. This is for you.
Did you hear that?
We are all so lost in our sin. In our desperate plea for help. We are so so so lost. And yet, this hope? It’s for you and me! It’s for all of us that are far off. He is drawing you to him right now. Calling your name. Are you lost? This message that Peter declared 2 thousand years ago is no less relevant today than it was then. And that is what the entire book of Acts is about. It’s about these disciples, who saw first hand amazing things while Christ walked the planet, and they went around the world telling everyone they could about it. There were shipwrecks, beatings, stonings, blind men gaining sight, healings, imprisonments, and on they pressed… telling everyone they could about this miracle of life and new life they had seen.
Have you seen this miracle of new life in your own life? It’s for you. It’s for me. It’s for all those who are far off.