Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you.” John 20:21
The Book of Acts and the Early Ecclesia—Part Eleven
God Takes Care of His Apostles
But the high priest rose up and all who were with him, that is, the party of the Sadducees, and filled with jealousy they arrested the Apostles and put them in the common prison. But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and taught. Acts 5:17-21
Good morning Prayer Team!
There is a song named “Tubthumping” by the British band Chumawamba who refrain says over and over again, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you are never gonna keep me down.” If there was a theme song for apostles, this might be it. Because an apostle is going to get knocked down, in the sense of being persecuted, but will also be able to get up again with God’s help. And with His help, nothing can keep the true apostle from doing his or her work.
In the verses immediately before today’s Scripture passage, in Acts 5:12-16, we read about the Apostles healing many people who were brought to them. People had such great faith in the ability of the Apostles to heal people that they laid people in bed in the streets hoping that even Peter’s shadow might fall on them!
The result of all of this healing and good will was consternation by the high priest and the Sadducees that they directed towards the Apostles. They put them in prison. However, an angel opened the doors of the prison, and told the Apostles to go to the temple and preach the message of Christ. When the high priest and the Sadducees heard that the Apostles were not in the prison but had somehow escaped, even though the doors were still locked, they sternly told the Apostles to not teach about Jesus. Peter told them “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5: 29-32)
After this, they beat the Apostles and told them not to preach any longer and let them go. The Apostles were “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” (Acts 5:41) And they continued teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ without ceasing.
I am reminded of the words Jesus said in Luke 21, that the disciples would be delivered “up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my Name’s sake. This will be a time for you to bear testimony. Settle it therefore in your minds, not to mediate beforehand how to answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” (Luke 21: 12-15) Jesus tells us that as His Apostles, we can count on being persecuted. But even more, we can count on His help in our persecutions. We can count on Him for strength to withstand any hardship that is brought on us because of our faith. We can count on Him for wisdom in what to say. And we can count on Him even to provide the thoughts and the words that we will need to say to defend our faith.
Being an apostle is not an easy task. Nowhere does Jesus promise us that it will be easy. However, He promises us that He will walk with us, especially in the moments when it is hard. And He will provide strength, wisdom and words when we need them. It is interesting to note that in Acts 5, Peter and the Apostles move around with joy and with confidence, despite their persecution. This is how God wants us to act as His apostles—to be confident and trusting, even when we are persecuted for our faith, believing and trusting not only in the message of faith we have heard, but in the power of Christ to help us articulate His message and to help us sustain the inevitable challenges that being a Christian will bring.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still water; He restores my soul. He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23
God takes care of His apostles. Be a good apostle. Have no fear. The power of Christ will be there to fill in the gaps, help with the challenges, bring wisdom to our minds and mouths, and give us comfort to withstand persecutions and hardships.
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now
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