Pentecost & Persecution
In "Pentecost & Persecution" we'll hang onto our hats as the disciples face a whirlwind of blessing and tragedy. The story is told in "Acts of the Apostles" which is Luke’s sequel to his gospel. But do we really know who Luke was? For that matter, do we know who wrote any of the gospels?
The short answer is no. We take a moment in this first class to look at how the books of the New Testament were chosen--who chose them and why they chose the ones they did.
Then, as we begin the story, we catch up with the disciples. Peter is emerging as a leader. They are a person short, so we listen in as they choose a replacement for Judas.
We cover Acts 1.
The Jerusalem community of 120 believers is filled with joy in the weeks following Jesus’ resurrection. For nearly six weeks, Jesus has walked and talked and eaten with them. Then, suddenly, just a week ago he left! He ascended into heaven, and angels had told them he’d come again the same way he left.
It’s been a crazy week, and now the big festival of Pentecost is here. The believers are gathered in a house when suddenly they hear a mighty wind and what seems like flames of fire descend on their heads. They are filled with words they do not know but cannot keep inside.
As they spill out into the streets, praising God in foreign languages, people from all over the Roman Empire understand them! And this is just the beginning.
We cover Acts 2 and 3.
Ananias & Sapphira
The religious leaders are very upset when Peter and John heal a lame man in the Temple and tell the people that Jesus is the Messiah and that he’s risen from the dead. They arrest Peter and John, but they can’t really do much more than that because everyone saw the healing with their own eyes.
Meanwhile, the believers, who have gone from a small group of 120 to more than 5000, are pooling their resources. The rich give enough that everyone has all they need. But then, one married couple decides to keep a little extra for themselves. It does not go well.
We cover Acts 4:1-5:11.
The Story of Stephen
The apostles and other leaders such as Stephen continue to be harrassed by the religious leaders in Jerusalem. But things turn ugly now. Apostles are flogged, and Stephen becomes the first believer to be martyred.
Stephen’s words at his trial take us on a flyover of the story of Israel. His words are worth hearing--both for their content and to honor his courage.
We cover Acts 5:12-7:60.
The Ethiopian Eunuch
We run into the “Angel of the Lord” this week. The angel of the Lord is not just a regular messenger-type angel. This phrase is used in the Bible to identify the Lord showing up in human form at some particularly important juncture in the history of Israel. Often the angel of the Lord appears as an important man, but sometimes it is just an audible voice. Either way, it is always a significant event.
So why did the angel of the Lord orchestrate a meeting between the disciple Philip and the treasurer of Ethiopia who had traveled 2300+ miles to Jerusalem?
We cover Acts 8.
Paul Sees The Light
Saul is a young, zealous Pharisee, passionate about the Law of Moses and the authoritative oral traditions that now surround it. He sees the folks proclaiming that Jesus is the Messiah as a direct threat to everything Judaism stands for. He is passionate about stamping this threat out, and we find him on the road to Damascus with orders in his pocket giving him the authority to capture both men and women and bring them to trial.
Saul’s plans go awry when Jesus shows up in a blinding light. The world, and Christianity itself, will never be the same.
We cover Acts 9.
Peter and Cornelius
Peter, along with James the brother of Jesus, is the clear leader of the new church. In this story he has an epiphany that leads him to the household of a Roman centurion named Cornelius. Jews aren’t supposed to associate with, go in the houses of, or eat with Gentiles such as Cornelius. But the Lord tells Peter to do all these things.
Peter’s choice shifts Christianity for all time.
We cover Acts 10-12.