The Church Year and the Lectionary Commentary – the 6th Sunday of Easter (Day 1)
44 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell on everyone who heard the word. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 They heard them speaking in other languages and praising God. Peter asked, 47 “These people have received the Holy Spirit just as we have. Surely no one can stop them from being baptized with water, can they?” 48 He directed that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited Peter to stay for several days.
This is the second huge, mind-boggling, heart-challenging, event in the life of the early church. The first is obviously Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. That’s the game-changer; the “after which” nothing can or will ever be the same again. The book Acts is, in effect, an ever-widening rippling out of sequels to the resurrection that unfold the various ways that nothing is the same again for those who follow Jesus.
Among these ripples, though, the one we read about today stands out above the rest in significance. In terms of God’s great promise to and through Abraham and Sarah to the world, this event fulfills the third aspect of that promise (Gen.12:1-3). Through Jesus got has gotten a great people from Abraham and Sarah, blessed them with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and now, through the outpouring of that same Spirit on the Gentiles, God blesses the nations through this people.
In short, when Peter realizes what God’s giving the Spirit to the Gentiles means, he and those with him are shocked to realize that God’s way of blessing the nations through Abraham’s family is to make the “Us” and the “Them” into “We”!
If God intends to heal that primal and deepest of all breaches, that between Jew and Gentile, then all the lesser breaches and divisions between human beings are to be overcome as well. There is no longer any basis or justification for there to be an “Us” and a “Them.”
No more “Us” and “Them.”
No more “Us” and “Them.”
NO MORE “US” AND “THEM”!
The “them” who did not share the physical mark of belonging to God’s people, circumcision, are now among the “us.” No wonder the Apostle Paul can say: “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal.3:28; see also Col.3:11).
It’s not worthwhile to belabor this point. It is not difficult to understand. Just to practice.
So let us examine ourselves today. Who are the “them” we don’t have or don’t want in our lives. Make it personal – put a face and name on this: someone you don’t like or want in your life. Who is it? Reflect on the fact that Jesus died and was raised so you and this person might become friends who share life together.
It’s that simple. And that difficult. May God have mercy on us.