Acts 4


Reading Luke and Acts in 2020

Week 28 |  Acts 4

Acts 4 Reflections and Questions

By Rev. Karen Kagiyama

Proclaiming the Gospel with Boldness

The Book of Acts would make a great TV mini-series. With signs and wonders, perilous journeys, evil plots and a multicultural cast, Acts is filled with enough conflict, intrigue, and cliffhangers to keep us coming back each week for more.  Chapter 4 does not disappoint.  Just when you think the Gospel is ready to move out into the world, with Peter speaking boldly from Solomon’s Portico at the Temple in Jerusalem and thousands hearing and believing, things take a turn.  Peter and John have caught the attention of the religious authorities.  They are arrested. We don’t know what the charges are, other than that the Sadducees are much annoyed about their claim that “in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead.”

As with Jesus, the threat to the Gospel comes from the keepers of the law, the religious leaders who are disturbed by street gatherings and proclamation of a news so good that the lame walk, the blind see, and the captives are set free. Luke juxtaposes the names of the authorities—Annas, Caiaphas, John, Alexander and later in verse 27, Herod and Pontius Pilate—against the spirit-filled witness of those who claim the power of Jesus’ name to disrupt and heal and save. Peter and John threaten the power and status quo of the religious establishment who are worried about these people who are turning the world upside down.

They are right to be worried. In the middle of the chapter, the disciples gather in prayer, remembering the words of Psalm 2. The rulers of the earth have conspired against Jesus and continue to thwart God’s purposes, but these believers are ready to “speak your word with boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (v 29). Prayer is the pivot around which any movement succeeds. The words we pray give us the words by which we protest.

In this season of social distancing and social protest, the holy boldness of Peter and the early disciples challenges us. By what name do we hope to be healed and saved? How does our faith in Christ inform our care for the least of these? Is wearing a mask and social distancing a political statement or an act of generous compassion toward our neighbors? Will we boldly proclaim the word of God, crying out for justice, naming the sin of systemic racism, holding to account those who have the power to create a more just and peace-filled world? Will we do the personal and communal spiritual work needed to overcome centuries of injustice and oppression?

Echoing chapter 2, the description in chapter 4 of the beloved community grounds the movement.  One can only go out into the world to speak boldly without fear if one is situated in loving, compassionate community. Our public discourse must mirror our communal way of life. We need to feed our bodies and our spirits, nurture our friendships, care for the least among us and live together as those who are redeemed by the resurrection of Jesus. Luke tells us the whole community were “of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.”  Luke wants us to know what kind of community formed around the resurrected Christ.

Having one heart and soul by relinquishing ownership of our stuff is an aspiration that probably won’t become a reality. However, the gross inequities in our global economy demand that we take seriously the intent of early Christians to live together so “there was not a needy person among them.”  That is the greater purpose of sharing things in common. The urgent challenge in the 21st century is how we form the beloved community where no one is in need and justice and righteousness roll down like an ever-flowing stream. We could start with the power of the Holy Spirit and the healing, saving name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. We could be bold enough to claim the power and proclaim the name!  To the glory of God!
Questions for reflection:
  • What does boldness look like for you?  Where do you need to be bold in your witness?
  • Healing is a powerful witness.  Where and with whom can you be a healing witness?
  • Salvation is not about reciting the right words but claiming the power of the Holy Spirit to change your life.  Where do you still need to be changed?
  • Community feeds a unified movement.  How can you help your community be of one heart and soul?
  • Prayer shakes things up.  How are you praying in this season?

Rev. Karen Kagiyama is the O. Wayne Rollins Director of Pastoral Care, Wesley Woods Senior Living.