Friday, April 08, 2016


By Colleen O’Sullivan

After recalling the Apostles, (the Sanhedrin) had them flogged, ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them.  So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.  And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus.  (Acts 5:40-42)

When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”  He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do.  Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.”   (John 6:5-7)

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
  whom should I fear?
The Lord is my life’s refuge;
  of whom should I be afraid?

If I were ever in need of proof that there is a God, a mighty and powerful God, I think I could find it in the juxtaposition of these two Scripture readings. 

Prior to today’s reading from John’s Gospel, Jesus has shown the crowds as well as his intimate circle of friends that he is no run-of-the-mill itinerant preacher.  He’s changed water into wine at a wedding in Cana, cleansed the Temple, forgiven the woman at the well every sinful thing she had ever done and given her a fresh start, healed a royal official’s son simply by declaring him well again from a distance, and cured the man lying ill by the pool in Bethesda.  You’d think the disciples would be changed simply by being in Jesus’ presence and witnessing these miraculous and compassionate acts. 

But Philip doesn’t seem to have gotten into the spirit.  A huge crowd, hungry for healing, follows Jesus and the disciples.  Jesus looks at them with loving eyes and sees people who also need physical sustenance.  Philip doesn’t seem worried about the throng of people at all.  His concern is mainly that it would cost a fortune to feed them.  It doesn’t even occur to him to trust that Jesus could perform a miracle here just as he has at other stops along the way.   All the way through John’s Gospel to Jesus’ words of farewell and consolation after the Last Supper, the disciples continue to appear somewhat thick-headed.  They certainly don’t seem to see that Jesus is the human face of God.  The idea of a suffering Messiah strikes them as ludicrous.  They don’t want Jesus to leave them, and they don’t understand why they can’t go with him.  If this is where the story ended, I’d be depressed.

But then we come to the reading in the Book of Acts.  These same people have been transformed!  They are no longer sitting around wondering how they’ll survive without Jesus.  They’re preaching and teaching the Good News.  They’re healing in the name of Jesus.  In today’s reading, they’ve been flogged for continuing to preach the resurrection of the dead.  They’re warned not to speak in Jesus’ name again.  These people, who not long before couldn’t abide the notion of a suffering Messiah, react by rejoicing in their own suffering for such a worthy cause!   They leave the Sanhedrin and immediately begin preaching Jesus all over again.

What happened?  God happened.  God raised Jesus from the dead.  God unleashed the power of his Holy Spirit upon the disciples.  These are not the same sad people who sat around the table listening to the Lord after their final meal together.  These are not the dispirited folks who barely knew what to do with themselves on Holy Saturday.  This is not the frightened group who hid behind locked doors.  These Apostles have been remade from the inside out!  There is no stopping them now from proclaiming the Good News.  And that is how I know there is a God, because I don’t believe any human being could ever effect such a radical, overnight change in a group of people.  Nor do I believe that any of us can do this for ourselves.  It can only be the power of God.

When have you been transformed by God?  What were you like beforehand?  How were you different afterwards?

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