Hello and welcome to Friday’s foundations podcast… have you got that Friday feeling yet? I haven’t because I am recording this thought in advance of the designated day. But I hope you have had a great week. I hope this package of a short thought, Bible reading and worship song has been a BIG blessing to you and helped all of us to draw close to Jesus each time we have listened.
Today’s passage is Acts 5:17-26.
In this passage we witness the first time the the disciples get thrown into prison (this won’t be the last!). But before we get into it… let me start with a question: Have you ever found yourself out of your depth? In work, at school or with your family? Even at home? The passage we will read gives encouragement that God – in every circumstance – will meet our needs. He provides in ways that are sometimes surprising, sometimes supernatural.
Now, in terms of being out of my depth… a place that comes to mind is on Alpha. I love being part of Alpha at STC. In my opinion Alpha is one of the best ways anyone can begin to explore the Christian faith. Alpha played a significant role in growing my faith and giving an opportunity for lots of my friends and family to meet God. I love it. But I often feel out of my depth. Over time I’ve become more informed on how to answer questions as I have read and studied further but I do often feel a little ill equipped to answer everything. People often have very clever or very personal questions and I often feel out of my comfort zone. But when I track it back or talk to friends who have come to faith through Alpha I’m often surprised how the Holy Spirit uses our efforts – often gives us the words to say to make himself known.
Let’s get into the Bible passage for today and we can explore that idea further.
Verse 19: But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out.
If you can remember yesterday’s podcast that would be helpful; if not let me recap slightly. The Jesus movement is growing. They had begun to experience life, and life in all its fulness; signs and wonders and the joy of being filled with the Spirit. As we set out our theme on Monday, all of this week’s Bible passages play into a theme of increasing opportunity and increasing opposition for the early church. We sometimes use the words ‘battles’ and ‘blessings’ to describe this. It is actually a pretty accurate description of what it is like to follow Jesus – it is full of these interwoven moments of opportunities and opposition. It is actually what Jesus promised us when he sent out those first few people to share the good news – that we will face rejection but they are not actually rejecting us but the one that sent us. There is the battle and there is the blessings. This early group of Christians were in the middle of something looking like revival. People being added to their number daily, a passionate spirituality was growing and practical care for each other (remember Tuesday:- no one had need). Now some of this community are imprisoned for “telling people about this new life”.
It is not like blessing is directly opposed to battle. It is like they are two sides of the same coin when it comes to following Jesus. We can in one moment experience the wonders of what God is doing. Then the next find ourselves in the most unusual circumstances or challenging situations. We are in a spiritual battle but the blessing of God is never far away. What is interesting about this story today is that the apostles did not let their circumstances dictate who they where and what they were about. They waited for the Lord, they were obedient when called & courageous and fearless in speaking publicly when asked.
When Jesus was teaching on what it might be like to have faith in tough times in Matthew 10, he anticipates what we are reading in Acts today. I wonder if these words would have come to mind when they found themselves behind bars… Jesus says this, “but when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10).
I may not always have the words to say, but he hasn’t let me down yet. I may not see the whole picture, but I trust one that does. I suppose that’s what this all comes down to… trust, faith… let’s pray for more of that today.
Jesus, when we face battles and blessings today help me to trust you. Increase in me the gift of faith. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
READING: Acts 5:17-26
Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. ‘Go, stand in the temple courts,’ he said, ‘and tell the people all about this new life.’
At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.
When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin – the full assembly of the elders of Israel – and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, ‘We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.’ On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.
Then someone came and said, ‘Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.’ At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.