Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Author of Life

Acts 3:12-19, the First Lesson for the Third Sunday of Easter in the Year of Mark, is another post-resurrection story where we see the power of God at work in the post-Easter people of God.  The apostle Peter refers to Jesus in this text as the Author of Life.  This title comes as he declares that it is the power of the Risen Christ that has healed the man born lame, but that title comes down to us as well.  Could there be any more apt title for the Risen Christ than that?

(The following questions have been developed as a way of answering some of the fundamental concerns of Law and Gospel preachers.  They are not meant to be exhaustive, but to be used alongside other fine sets of questions which might reveal the treasures of a particular text.  For more on this unique genre of preaching, see my brief guide to Law and Gospel preaching, Afflicting the Comfortable, Comforting the Afflicted, available from wipfandstock.com or amazon.)

1.  How does the Word function in the text? The Word here, in the form of Peter's preaching, is explicitly both Law and Gospel.  The Law comes as Peter confronts the people with the fact that they killed the Author of Life, albeit, as he says, "in ignorance."  The Gospel comes as Peter invites all to repent and turn to God, "so that your sins may be wiped out."  This text also functions as testimony to the power of the name of Christ, which "itself has made this man strong."

2.  With whom are you identifying in the text?  We are the listeners, those who are confronted with our willful murder of the Christ.  This brings to mind the cries of the mob in Luke's gospel:  "Crucify!  Crucify!" (Luke 23:21)  We are those who are invited here to repent and turn to God.

3.  What, if any, call to obedience is there in this text?  The only imperative here is to repent, therefore any call to live in a certain way in response to the Gospel is missing here.  The call to repentance is not the same as a call to obedience.

4.  What Law/Gospel couplet is suggested by this text?  There are plenty of phrases to draw on in this text in order to compose couplets.  Some suggestions:  ignorance/wisdom; calling for death/embracing life; killing the Author of Life/being saved by the Author of Life.

5.  Exegetical work: It is important to remember that Acts is the second part of Luke's account of the Jesus story, and so his view of the enemies of Christ continues into the Book of Acts.  Mark Allan Powell, in his excellent work, shows the differences in how Jesus' enemies are portrayed, reminding us that in Luke's account, "The religious leaders are not evil but self-righteous, not blind but foolish.""In short, [Luke] expresses sympathy for them, not hostility, and thus the implied reader will surely regard them with sympathy also." (What is Narrative Criticism?, p.65)  This view of Jesus' enemies can be seen in a striking way at the Crucifixion as Luke is the only one to report that Jesus cried out from the cross, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)  This is exactly what Peter argues in the Acts text:  "I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your rulers." (Acts 3:17) Another noteworthy point is Luke's explanation for the death of Christ:  "You killed the Author of Life whom God raised from the dead." (Acts 3:15)  There is no Pauline understanding of the Cross here. As William Willimon points out:  "We find no substitutionary atonement in Luke, no notion that Jesus Christ had to die to satisfy some divine requirement of justice.  No, the explanation for Jesus' death in Acts is simply human perversity."  (Interpretation series, Acts, p. 46)  The only solution for us who are party to this murder?  Repentance.

6.  How does the Crossings Community model work with this text?  Steve Kuhl focuses in on the very thing that Peter lifts up in the text:  "Why do you stare at us as though by our own power or piety we had made [this man] walk?"  He argues that this is our bondage, that we too are seduced by power and piety, instead of relying on Christ.  Go to crossings.org/text-study to see the entire analysis.

Blessings on your proclamation!

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