Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday in Pentecost, Proper 18: The true and living God

Opening Sentence
The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. John 4:23

Great is the Lord

Collect of the Day
Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 47, 48

Lessons: Job 29:1-20, Acts 14:1-18, John 10:31-42

The Greeks in Lystra responded to Paul and Barnabas in a manner quite different from their Jewish detractors in Antioch and Iconium. It would be short-lived, but the initial reaction, after Paul healed a crippled man, was, "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!"

While this put Paul and Barnabas in the difficult position of having to restrain the people from offering sacrifices to them, it illustrates the stark contrast between the reaction of the Jews and that of the Greeks. When Paul declared Jesus as Messiah to a Jewish audience, the reaction was most often hostile. The very ones who had the Word of God refused to believe it had been fulfilled in the incarnation, God coming in the likeness of man, Jesus, the Word made flesh. Conversely, the Greeks were all too eager to believe, "The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men."

As misguided as the Greeks were, their over-zealous response did open the door for Paul to preach the good news to them, that they "should turn these vain things to a living God, who made the heavens and the earth, and the sea and all that is in them."

To what degree Paul and Barnabas succeeded in this instance is difficult to ascertain, as the people seemed intent on offering sacrifices to them even after Paul's exhortation. In due time, the angry mob from Antioch and Iconium would turn the crowd against the Apostles. This early encounter with a Greek audience, however, provides insight into how Paul would, over the next few years, persuade many a Gentile to have faith in Jesus Christ. "The gods" of Greek imagination could not make a crippled man walk. Only the true and living God, who had come down in human form, could do such a thing. In Jesus, there was good news for all who had lived in the darkness of sin and brokenness. God incarnate came to set the captives free.


Come, Thou Almighty King