Thursday, January 15, 2009

Homily 10

Acts 4:1-22

And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them.

Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.

And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide,

Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.

And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,

And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.

And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,

If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;

Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

And beholding the man which was 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 that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.

But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name.

And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus.

But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.

For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.

So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done.

For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.


I'm struck by the extraordinary number of people converted-- does five thousand refer to the new Christians as a result of Peter's sermon in the temple, or is it the total number of Christians now in Jerusalem?

It's interesting that the major question the temple leaders ask is, by whose name do you do this? Just as later heresies centered around the use of false names, so it is the use of Christ's name, more than the actions done in that name, that are the center of attention.

I wonder what Peter specifically means when he says "salvation" in this context. It's just after reference to the man who was healed (and is still with them)-- is he speaking of the salvation of bodily healing? He's also speaking of the resurrection of the dead, and this salvation may be in the context of the Resurrection.

And I wonder why the age of forty is so significant, why it's so amazing that it was a man over the age of forty who was healed.


Chrysostom notes that the leaders of the temple have become more audacious since the Crucifixion-- "sin, while it is yet struggling to the birth, is attended with some sense of shame; but when once fully born, it makes those more shameless who practise it." (63)

Although the people see Peter and John arrested and put in bond's, Peter's sermon brought five thousand of them to Christ. "For, say they, if He that was crucified effects such great things, and makes the lame to walk, we fear not these men either." (64)

Although Peter and John are uneducated, the Holy Spirit comes upon them as Christ had promised in Luke 12:11, 14. Peter, in his response to the leaders, emphasises the Resurrection, and as for the temple leaders, "the miracles shut their mouths." (65) Before, Peter could not bear to be questioned by Annas' maidservant; now he is opposing the High Priest himself. (66)

Chrysostom again turns his sermon to the subject of oaths and swearing. He quotes the Wisdom of Sirach, and speaks of swearing as a bad habit. He compares this to other habits, such as making the sign of the cross when crossing a threshold even to the public baths, or when lighting a candle even at home. (69) Like these good habits, which are done even without thinking, oaths can become habitual as well.

...none names the Name of God with honor. Yet if you love any one, even at his name you start to your feet; but God you thus continually invoke, and make nothing of it. Call upon Him for the benefit of your enemy; call upon Him for the salvation of your own soul; then He will be present, then you will delight Him, whereas now you provoke Him to anger... For you to make mention at random of any person of consideration, is taken as an insult: and do you bandy God about in your talk, in season, out of season? I do not want to hinder you from keeping God always in your mind... if a man refuse to believe you, and that is why you swear, say to him, "Believe me:" however, if you will needs make oath, swear by yourself. (69)

It is true, when I take a Gentile in hand, I do not immediately lay this injunction upon him, but in the first place I exhort him to know Christ. (70)

How can one break the habit of swearing? Chrysostom suggests that we enjoin our servants and family to constantly notice and catch us when we slip up.