Saturday, April 11, 2015

What Are We to Do With These Disciples

“What are we to do with these men?  Everyone living in Jerusalem knows that a remarkable sign was done through them, and we cannot deny it.  But so that it may not be spread any further among the people, let us give them a stern warning never again to speak to anyone in this name.”  Acts 4:16-17

But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised.  He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”  Mark 16:14-15


The choice that challenges all of us is to pick the right path – not the easy path, not the straightest path, but the right path.  The easy path for Peter and John would be the path of least resistance.  They can just obey the elders.  Stop healing, stop proclaiming and stop going down the path that will lead to inevitable suffering.  They don’t.  They pick the path Jesus walked.


Who do you obey when the requirements they set out are in conflict?  The Gospel tells us how Jesus rebuked the disciples for not believing – AND doing – as he asked of them.  Although they were ordinary men – fishermen and farmers and tax collectors – they obeyed and observed the instructions from Jesus with a boldness that amazed the more learned leadership of the temple.

As the disciples emerged from the safety and comfort of their cocoon in the Upper Room, they went back out among the people in the world to proclaim the Good News.  In doing so, the disciples became a threat to the powers that be in the temple.  Therefore, the power structure instructed the disciples to stop doing the very things that Jesus told them to do.  

What is the right course?  “Whether it is right in the sight of God
for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges.
It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”

Obedience is at the heart of the Credo.  We are to act on what we believe.  What then should we do when there are two competing paths?

Even in these early days of the church, we can see the roots of conscience and civil disobedience emerge.  The Acts of the Apostles predated Henry David Thoreau by about 1800 years.  Yet, without the roots of this obedience to a higher authority, history might never have witnessed the likes of the Boston Tea Party, Gandhi or Lech Walesa.

Yet these choices are not all about life and death, war and peace.  Sometimes, we find ourselves having to choose among two options which both have merit and which both have problems.  

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