Sermon Series- The Acts of the Apostles: The First Thirty Years
The intense sharing of a common life has a profound effect on people. The natural family demonstrates the strength of the bond built through a shared life. Living together, sharing a home, a table, clothes, good times, and hard times for a long time creates a bond not easily broken. The most intense losses we go through as human beings are when our parents, spouses, siblings, and even sometimes when our children pass away. Why? Because they leave a void in our lives. Mothers and brothers can’t be replaced. It is not possible. We grieve at their parting. The ancient world had traditions that lasted months to allow families to grieve their losses because they recognized the place and strength of family ties.
You hear people speak of a bond similar to that of a family built sometimes among soldiers. A docu-drama from the early 2000s called “Band of Brothers” featured the story of the men who served in “Easy” Company, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, of the 101st Airborne Division. There is a Tennessee connection as the 101st Airborne is stationed at Fort Campbell in Clarksville, TN. The word “Brothers” in the title describes how those men came to feel about each other. They shared a long traumatic experience. They lived in close quarters and shared the one thing other than life that ties us all together, death. In the end, “Brothers” was the only word they could think of to describe their relationship. Thinking of a fellow soldier as a brother is so common that we describe soldiers as, “brothers in arms.”
The apostles have experienced both living in an intense common life and shared traumatic experiences around death. They are far different men than they were when Jesus called them. They lived together for three and a half years and shared a common life with the only begotten Son of God. They’ve seen things that no one else has seen. Peter, John, and his brother James have seen what no others have seen, the transfiguration of the living Christ. All the Apostles suffered the shame of their scattering when their Shepherd was struck. They all suffered the grief of Christ’s crucifixion. They all suffered the embarrassment of not believing the first witnesses of Christ’s resurrection, the two Marys, who saw Him outside the tomb. They all experienced the exhilaration of seeing the resurrected Jesus for themselves. They all also experienced the wonder of watching Jesus ascend and being told by angels that He would return in like manner. They all shared in the power of the newly descended Holy Spirit, the first tongues, the first healing, and now the first persecution. The apostles are brothers in arms by now, and the disciples, because they have received the seed of God in the person of the Holy Spirit, are a spiritual family. The words “brother” and “sister” are likely already being used in the early church. Today our text describes the degree to which the Apostles have cultivated what Paul will later describe in Ephesians as “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:3) With this as our backdrop, let’s look in on the Church in Jerusalem and conclude chapter 4 of the book of Acts today.
32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Look for Part 2 tomorrow!
Blessings and may God be with you!