The First Reading for this Sunday is from the Acts of the Apostles. The text is Acts 5:12-32 and is obviously not an Old Testament reading. Throughout the season of Easter in the Three-Year Lectionary, the Old Testament texts are replaced with readings from Acts. Because of this I will be following the Lectionary and providing textual notes and sermon helps from these New Testament texts.
In this reading there is obviously a great deal of tension revealed between the followers of Jesus and the ruling authorities, especially the Sadducees. During Jesus’ earthly walk, the conflict seemed to be more extreme with the group called the Pharisees, although the Sadducees were definitely a part of the dustups on occasion. Now, after Christ has ascended to the right-hand of the Father, the Sadducees appear to play a bigger and more aggressive role in stifling the followers of Christ. There is good reason for this, and it can be summed up in one word: “Resurrection!” One of the main theological differences between the Pharisees and the Sadducees is the Sadducees did not believe in a physical resurrection. Now, as our text indicates, the Apostles and other disciples are running around proclaiming how this Jesus has risen from the dead and they are eyewitnesses. This does not set well with the Sadducees, who are also identified with the Priesthood of the Jerusalem Temple. However, for them, this conflict becomes much more about power and politics. Thus, they arrest the Apostles, throw them in jail, and demand they cease speaking of Jesus and His resurrection!
Also note the fear from many of the people around them. In verse 13 it says, “None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.” This may seem strange at first, but the Sadducees have a lot of power, including the authority to kick people out of the Temple. The reality of their culture in this instance may be hard for us to identify with. To be barred from the Temple was like being ostracized from society as a whole. If this happened, other Jews would not be allowed to even communicate or do business with you. It was a powerful card to hold, and the Sadducees were not shy about using it.
Of course, the Apostles listen to a higher authority. “We must obey God rather than man.” It is this obedience which fuels their witness even in the face of beatings, prison, and eventually for most, death.
Of course, the Apostles listen to a higher authority. “We must obey God rather than man."
5:12 ἐγίνετο from: γίνομαι Imperfect, middle: “to do” The imperfect indicates a regular, ongoing, repeated action.
ὁμοθυμαδὸν “with one accord; all together”
5:13 ἐτόλμα from: τολμάω Imperfect: “to dare”
κολλᾶσθαι Present, middle infinitive: “to join”
ἐμεγάλυνεν from: μεγαλύνω Imperfect: “to make large; magnify”
5:14 προσετίθεντο from: προστίθημι Imperfect, passive: “to add; to add up” The imperfect indicates repeated action.
5:15 πλατείας “street”
τιθέναι from: τίθημι Present, infinitive: “to place”
κλιναρίων “bed; small bed; cot”
ἐπισκιάσῃ from: ἐπισκιάζω Aorist, subjunctive: “to overshadow”
5:16 συνήρχετο from: συνέρχομαι Imperfect, middle: “to come together; gather together”
ὀχλουμένους from: ὀχλέω Present, passive, participle: “to trouble; torment; afflict”
ἐθεραπεύοντο from: θεραπεύω Imperfect, passive: “to heal”
5:17 ἐπλήσθησαν from: πιμπλημι Aorist, passive: “to fill”
5:18 ἐπέβαλον from: ἐπιβάλλω Aorist: “to place upon” As in “to arrest”
5:19 ἀνοίξας from: ἀνοίγω Aorist: “to open”
ἐξαγαγών from: ἐξάγω Aorist, participle: “to lead out; bring out”
5:20 σταθέντες from: ἵστημι, Aorist, passive. Participle: “to stand (passive: to take a stand)”
5:21 . Παραγενόμενος from: παραγίνομαι Aorist, middle, participle: “to appear; to show up; to come on the scene”
συνεκάλεσαν from: συγκαλέω Aorist: “to summons”
ἀχθῆναι from: αγω Aorist, passive, infinitive: “to lead”
5:22 ἀναστρέψαντες from: ἀναστρέφω Aorist, participle: “to turn again; to be turned”
5:23 κεκλεισμένον from: κλείω Perfect, passive, participle: “to close; to shut”
5:24 διηπόρουν from: διαπορέω Imperfect: “to be perplexed”
5:26 ἐφοβοῦντο from: φοβεομαι Imperfect, middle: “to be afraid; to fear”
λιθασθῶσιν from: λιθάζω Aorist, passive, subjunctive: “to stone”
5:27 ἐπηρώτησεν from: ἐπερωτάω Aorist: “to question
5:28 παρηγγείλαμεν from: παραγγέλλω Aorist: “to command; charge” Frequently used in a legal sense.
ἐπαγαγεῖν from: ἐπάγω Aorist, infinitive: “to bring”
5:29 Πειθαρχεῖν “to obey; to obey one in authority”
5:30 ἤγειρεν from: ἐγείρω Aorist: “to raise”
διεχειρίσασθε from: διαχειρίζομαι Aorist, middle: “to take in hand; to do away with (as in kill)”
κρεμάσαντες from: κρεμάννυμι Aorist, participle: “to hang”
5:31 ὕψωσεν from: ὑψόω Aorist: “to lift up; to exalt”
As with most pericopes, there are several directions one could go with a sermon. Some of the themes of specific interest to me are the “Offense of the Resurrection,” the “Obedience to God Rather than Man,” as well as the “Witness in the Face of Persecution.” Perhaps a combining of these themes could take place as long as one is careful not to split his message and confuse those in the pews!
This text does bring to mind a sermon illustration I used years ago. In fact, although it may be a bit dated, you could still find it useful:
In the Asian country of Nepal, several years ago now, there was a law I think you will find very interesting. In Nepal, there was only one religion allowed: Hinduism. All other religions are illegal. This law is not the only thing interesting. Perhaps even more fascinating is the punishment for breaking the law. If you followed another religion, including Christianity, you were placed in jail for one year. If you were caught witnessing about your faith, the sentence was three years. If you witnessed to someone and they converted to believe your religion, the sentence was five years. With such strict penalties you might think there was only one religion in Nepal, but such is not the case. There is an active Christian church in Nepal, but the majority of the members are in jail. Would we/you be in jail?
Concordia Theology: Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Acts 5:12-32.
Text Week: A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Acts 5:12-29.