What does it say?
As Peter returns from Cornelius’ home, the Jews in Judea struggle to accept Peter’s violations of Jewish tradition in entering the home of a Gentile (Acts 11). As Peter recounts the story of what happen, God gives grace and they accept that God is doing something beyond their immediate understanding and experience. The last part of the chapter describes how the Good News of Jesus Christ is widely accepted among non-Jews in Antioch of Syria. Again the Jewish believers in Jerusalem struggle to understand and send Barnabas to investigate.
King Herod kills James and John as he begins a period of persecution against the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12). He also arrests and imprisons Peter. As the church goes to prayer, God miraculously frees Peter. Infuriated, Herod kills the jailers and then goes to Caesarea where God strikes him dead for his pride. We can only imagine the reaction among the people, but God uses this time of persecution to multiply the church.
What does it mean?
As the Gospel message explodes among Gentiles in Antioch, only now can we begin to understand Jesus’ continued emphasis on reaching out to non-Jews in his earthly ministry and his constant references to what the prophets said about the other peoples of the world as warning to the Jewish leaders From Genesis 12:1-3 God clearly states that he chose Abraham that all the people of the world might be blessed in him and the nation that would come from him. Israel’s failure to comprehend and obey this mission is what brings God’s judgment upon them.
Jesus also promised persecution to his followers, and we are seeing this prediction come to pass. However, we also learn that God uses persecution as fuel to multiply his church and carry out his mission.
How will I respond?
Am I open and welcoming to those who are not like me? Am I a bridge like Barnabas to connect people outside our group to those within? Am I willing to endure persecution and misunderstanding to be God’s messenger to those other might consider unacceptable? What is one practical application I will make to my life from this reading?