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Posts Tagged ‘Sanhedrin’

Verse 8: “Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?”

Way back when DC Comics had published the storyline “The Death of Superman”, in which Superman seemingly perished defending Metropolis from the alien monster known as Doomsday, the eventual return of Superman to life was depicted in the storyline “Reign of the Supermen”. As an epilogue to that story, Superman and Lois Lane were shown by the supernatural detective, Dr. Occult, just how Superman “came back from the dead”. Long story short, it was a series of factors and events that only occurred in a once-in-a-lifetime configuration; Superman was as close to death as he could be (for a Kryptonian). This fact was lost on a gathering of people who began to worship Superman, as he had “come back from the dead” in their eyes. Kal-El was horrified to see that these people flocked to him like he was a god, and he had to vocally reprimand them that, telling them that he was mortal (although he has “power and abilities far beyond mortal men”, to quote the old Adventures of Superman TV show). He could no more raise people from the dead or cure the sick supernaturally than they could. Thankfully, his words snapped them back to reality.

Paul begins his defense before King Agrippa by harkening back to his defense before the Sanhedrin: that he believes in the resurrection of the dead. He evens parlays it into the rhetorical question he puts before Agrippa: “Why should it be though incredible by you that God raises the dead?” If God is truly all-powerful, omniscient, and omnipresent, then why wouldn’t He be able to raise the dead? Paul is laying the foundational basis for his later arguments regarding Jesus.

I am reminded of the times when we have to be reminded of God’s power. Take Matthew 8: 23-27 and Matthew 14: 22-33. Both times, when out on the water, Jesus performs miracles over the power of the storm and of the sea in the face of his disciples’ fears. He then reminds them, “why did you doubt, o ye of little faith”. The disciples’ replies that marvel at His power are perfectly summed up in Matthew 14:33: “Truly You are the Son of God”.

Why should we think it incredible that God can’t do the impossible? He’s God!

More to come.

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Verse 6: “But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!””

In French Rarebit, Bugs Bunny is in Paris and walked right between two French cafés, whose chefs, Francois and Louis, were both determined to make Bugs the main entrée that day. Bugs pulled a typical maneuver and got both chefs arguing with each other over who owned the rabbit. This led to physical insults (nose tweaking, beard pulling) and, of course, led to cartoon violence with frying pans and the like. Bugs just calmly watched, noting the “terrible display of temper”.

You might say Paul pulled the same maneuver. He knew about the simmering rivalry between Sadducees and Pharisees, especially when it came to religious doctrine. All he had to do was claim honestly that he was a Pharisee and what he stood for (resurrection of the dead). Non-cooperative minds and partisan defenses did the rest. Soon, the council wasn’t even debating why Paul was brought before them, but back to common infighting. The Pharisee scribes, not fans of Paul, nevertheless claimed in council that they could find no fault with this man.

I find it remarkable that God blessed Paul to use the gifts and training he had to not only stand for Christ, but to also point out the hypocrisy of religious leaders of the day…much like Jesus did.

Something to think about.

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Verses 35-37: “This Moses whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ is the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush. He brought them out, after he had shown wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red Sea, and in the wilderness forty years. This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘ The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.’”

In December 2008, Auburn fans were waiting to see who the university would hire to replace the recently-resigned Tommy Tuberville as head football coach. I first got word at a Sunday School Christmas party as a friend of mine had been catching the latest news. A lot of alumni were expecting a “big-name” hire…and my friend told me that they hired…Gene Chizik. I must admit, it took me some minutes after saying, “Who?”; I was reminded that he had once been Tuberville’s defensive coordinator, but was recently at Iowa State. I wasn’t alone in my confusion; I heard from several fans I knew that they were perplexed that Chizik was going to be “the man” to coach my alma mater’s football team. In the day and age of universities trying to get the “big name”, some weren’t satisfied with the hiring of Chizik, who just finished that year at Iowa State with a 2-10 record. Yet, not 2 years later, he was the head coach of Auburn’s BCS national championship win over the University of Oregon. Everyone was riding high now that Chizik was indeed “the man”. For the record, he was fired after only 4 seasons.

The point I was trying to make was that, although a former successful assistant at Auburn, some folks didn’t like him at first as the choice for head coach. Stephen is reminding the Sanhedrin, in the history lesson he’s giving them, that Moses, God’s man to lead Israel, at first wasn’t accepted by Israel either! Moses even told them that a Prophet would come from the lineage of Israel, and that the people better listen! Now…who do you think he was referring to? Hint: the council didn’t like Stephen’s analogy! The answer, of course, is Jesus Christ.

What if you knew that you were about to deliver the last message you’d ever speak…what would you say?

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Verse 39: “but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”

Two businessmen are walking through a train station. The first one is talking about advice his broker gave him: “My broker said to hang onto that stock…that it should really take off in the long run. What does your broker say?” The second one replies, “Well, my broker is E. F. Hutton, and he says…” at which point everyone working or walking around them, stops, and quietly leans in, ears cocked to the conversation, to hear the advice that Hutton gave this man. This is an old TV commercial for E. F. Hutton: the marketing caption was “When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen”.

So it was with Gamaliel, a wise teacher and Pharisee on the Sanhedrin council. Footnotes in my Bible record that he was the teacher of Paul; his was a calming influence on the council, especially since this council was ready to kill the disciples. He argued that other insurrectionists had come and gone, and nothing lasting had ever resulted from their efforts. His proposal was to let the disciples alone; if their cause was from man, it would crumble. But…if it was from God “you cannot overthrow it”. He was reminding them that if God is for something, man cannot oppose it and hope to win…man would be doomed to failure and to punishment.

My Holman Concordance on Acts had a very interesting paragraph on page 79: “This passage holds two great lessons for us. First, the calm, quiet logic of Gamaliel should appeal to Christians repeatedly told in Scripture to be sober and controlled. Second, though committed believers must speak out against heresy and cultic error, attacks against fellow Christians on minor matters are out of place and out of character. People whose views do not agree with ours should be left to God, lest we discover they were right and we were wrong and find ourselves fighting against God. Such was the case of the apostle Paul who all his life could never forget he had once been God’s vigorous enemy.”

Would that we had more Gamaliels in today’s contentious, bickering world.

Something to think about today.

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Verses 13-17: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.””

Police Commissioner Wainwright Barth was having dinner with his nephew, Lamont Cranston, in the fashionable Cobalt Club. He was scolding his nephew on being late to this meal that Lamont had invited him too. Lamont apologizes, stating he was late because there was some…trouble on the bridge. Barth then receives an urgent message about another report of…the Shadow.

Lamont: “I thought you said he was only a rumor.”
Barth: “I’m sick of this Shadow business…his meddling in police affairs. This time tomorrow, I’ll put a task force on him.” (Barth crumples the note).

The light around Lamont dims, his eyes shining, showing the viewer that he is about to use the powers…of the Shadow.
In a hypnotic, dark voice he says, “You’re not going to appoint a task force.”
Barth agrees…”I’m not going to appoint a task force.”
Shadow: “You’re not going to pay any attention to these reports of the Shadow.”
Barth: “Ignore them entirely.”
Shadow: “THERE IS NO SHADOW.”
Barth: “There is no Shadow. If there were, I’d be Eleanor Roosevelt.”

Uncle Wainwright frowns and rubs his head as if he had a momentary headache; then he continues talking to Lamont, who has resumed his normal identity.

Barth: “Where was I?”
Lamont: “You were about to tell me who she is”, Lamont says. (referring to the recently-arrived, attractive woman named Margo Lane.)
(This dialogue was taken from The Shadow, a 1994 movie starring Alec Baldwin as Lamont Cranston/The Shadow, Penelope Ann Miller as Margo Lane, and Jonathan Winters as Commissioner Wainwright Barth.)

Of course, the Shadow was a fictional crime-fighter, just like Batman or the Phantom. He used his powers to cloud men’s minds in order to crush the criminal element…sometimes he also had to cloud the minds of the police in order to remain what he wanted to be…a 1930’s urban legend that no one would seriously consider was real. He used misdirection, rumor, and denial to conceal the truth of what was fact…that a costumed vigilante was waging a successful war on the underworld of crime.

In real life, there are those who would conceal the truth to further their means. Governments of other nations not as democratic as ours suppress information daily in their attempts to control the populace. There have even been recent revelations that certain government agencies in our own nation have concealed spying operations on our population. The Sanhedrin and religious leaders in Acts were no different. Yet they were cornered: here was truthful evidence of a miracle: a lame man of over 40 years of age walking and leaping; two men, not educated or formally-schooled, yet speaking to the council on religious matters as if they were; what’s more, they were disciples of Jesus…the same Jesus who had been crucified for saying he was the Messiah! And were there ever a whole lot of witnesses to attest to the act! The only thing they could do at this point, was threaten them in the name of their “religious authority” not to continue their preaching. In other words…pop the hand, don’t do it again!

Ever heard of trying to “ignore the elephant in the room”? (something so obvious, that NO ONE could say it wasn’t so?) We’ll see in the next passage how the council’s actions…at hiding the overwhelming truth of Jesus Christ…were about as effective as those of Commissioner Barth.

Something to think about.

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