Text: Acts 21:15-26
For our elder siblings, the Children of Israel
For an end to anti-Semitism
AS WE HAVE SEEN over these last weeks, the message about Jesus causes tension and ruptures in the religious, economic and social worlds of people. To say “Jesus is Lord” is a political statement, a philosophical statement and a very personal statement. The conflict in the Roman world unleashed by the movement of the Holy Spirit would take several centuries to resolve. But the pain of that break is felt nowhere more strongly than between Jews and Christians, God’s People separated over the significance of Jesus.
We see in this story how the tension and conflict over Jesus erupted in Jerusalem. From the beginning, the Church and its leaders wrestled with the implications of God’s inclusion of Gentiles among the faithful. What does this inclusion mean for Jews? What of the Mosaic Law? What role does the Temple play? The leaders of the Jerusalem Christians—sort of the “central church” of the Jesus Movement—tried to bridge the gap with their letter (Acts 15) to Gentile converts regarding the right approach to foods, to idols, and to sexual activity. When Paul arrives, the leaders are concerned that his presence will inflame the anger of Jewish pilgrims who have come to the city. Their request that he purify himself according to Jewish law is meant to be an olive branch is meant to be a sign that Paul has not abandoned the religious life of Judaism, and, true to his desire to appeal to all, (1 Cor 9:21-22), Paul agrees.
In our own day, let us be glad that God has graciously grafted us onto the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and seek good for our Jewish friends and neighbors, the first to receive God’s promise of mercy, and let our prayers be for the healing of the break among us.
May your day be grace-filled ~ Pr. Dave Brooks
---Detail, mosaic of Paul of Tarsus