”Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.’” (Acts 5:29-32)
The last half of Acts 5 is a pretty important part of the Christian story. The Church, the followers of Jesus are out in the world doing things on their own, the movement is growing. Then, Peter and the rest of the apostles are brought in front of the Sanhedrin, the same council that condemned Jesus to death. In fact they are called to that council for the same reason that Jesus was: they were saying that Jesus was King, and everyone else was pretending.
Jesus said he was the real king and it got him killed. I can’t imagine that the apostles expected anything less. I’ll bet they walked into the meeting with the Sanhedrin prepared to die. Stunningly they went of their own free will (see vs. 26).
When put to the test, when asked directly about what it is they were up to, Peter and the apostles did not shy away from the truth: they laid it all out there right in front of the Sanhedrin, challenging their authority by proclaiming God’s authority. The Sanhedrin thought it was their job to administrate the religious life of Israel, but the apostles flatly accused them of killing the one who was truly meant to lead Israel to repentance.
In the space of four English sentences the apostles: accused the Sanhedrin of killing the Messiah, proclaimed the resurrection of the Messiah, explained where the Messiah was and that he had ultimate authority over themselves and everyone else, put the entire thing into the political and historical context of the people of Israel, called the Sanhedrin to repent (which is like a civilian telling a police officer “you are under arrest”) offered the Sanhedrin a path to forgiveness and new life in the Holy Spirit, and claimed that their authority in these things was not only what they had seen but that the presence of God himself was with them (Holy Spirit.)
Bam! The Apostles believed in resistance. They believed in Jesus enough to challenge authorities and change their way of life.
And so should we. That is what Sundays are all about. Sunday is about setting apart a gathering to proclaim Jesus’ authority not only over the world but in our own lives. Sundays are about orienting our life and priorities toward Christ, because he is really in control. Sundays are about remembering that Jesus has risen from the dead, sits at the right hand of the father, is offering us forgiveness, and has promised the Holy Spirit to those who follow him. Sundays are about challenging all the things that pretend to be authorities in the world: our job, money, The United States of America, sex, corporations, drugs, relationships, bosses, family, health, food, our “image,” sports, video games, school… etc. etc. etc. Any person, thing, or circumstance in this world that has a message behind it that says “do this” or “be this” or “buy this” or “become this” must ultimately be challenged by the authority of Jesus.
If it’s not for God and for his Kingdom, then what is the point? I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but whatever “it” is, it won’t make you happy, it won’t make you whole, it won’t fix your problems, it won’t give your life meaning. If its not for Jesus, it’s a waste of time.
Churches believe in resistance, because if they don’t they become just like the world around them. Jesus calls us to resistance because he wants the world to hear about his freedom, to experience new and incredible life, to have the presence of the Holy Spirit be a constant in their life both now and in the promised coming Kingdom.
Sunday is a resistance, a revolt, a revolution. The leader of the revolution is Jesus. The message of the revolution is new life. The followers of the revolution are us. Jesus is King, everyone else is pretending. I’ll see you next Sunday and we can practice saying so together.