Tell Me Again
I think, Luke the Physician, the author of the book of Acts, might have taken some business courses when he was studying for his medical degree.
The reason I say this is that everyone who has taken a business communications course has learned this.
If you want your sales presentation to effectively get its point across. Then you use the following pattern.
First, you tell your audience what you are going to tell them.
Second, you tell them.
Third, you tell them what you told them.
the key to getting your point across if you really want people to hear what it is you are trying to promote.
So, what is the idea Luke has been promoting over and over again since the Holy Spirit spoke to representatives of every nation of the known world in chapter two of Acts?
Just this; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is in the world taking the healing word of salvation through Jesus Christ Messiah out beyond the confines of Jewish religious traditions, offering it freely to all nations.
Starting with the persecution of the church in chapter eight, which drove all followers of the Way, except the apostles, out of their Jerusalem comfort zone.
God began to break down the disciples’ self-imposed limitations on who the Gospel of Jesus Christ was meant for.
God did this by creating for them a situation where they were forced to carry the Good News of the Gospel with them into broader Judea and Samaria as they fled for their lives.
So, we hear of Philip’s evangelistic travels to Samaria, with a follow-up visit there from Peter as he too ventured into the wider world after hearing of Philip’s exploits.
Then Philip travels, led of the Spirit down to the Gaza road, where he meets a man from Africa, shares the Gospel with him and plants the seeds of the African church, a church still in existence today.
Then in chapter nine we have Saul’s conversion with its big take-away message that this man, a former persecutor of the church was Jesus’ chosen instrument.
Chosen through two powerful appearances of God in the form of the risen Christ to do what?
To carry Jesus’ name before the Gentiles.
Saul preaches in Damascus until things get too hot for him there and he flees to Jerusalem.
The pattern of persecution repeats itself in Jerusalem and the brothers there send him packing to his home town of Tarsus.
Where he preached until he was led into the wider Gentile world to fulfill his calling to become the most famous of all Christian evangelists. Then Luke takes us to Peter in chapter ten.
Peter finds himself staying with Simon a tanner in Joppa, a town on the Mediterranean coast north west of Jerusalem.
Last week we learned about the vision Peter received there as he prayed while waiting for his dinner to be prepared.
God sent a sheet from heaven filled with all manner of creeping, crawling and flying creatures; all stuff that good kosher, first century Jews were taught never to eat as they are unclean.
God says to Peter in the vision,
“Call nothing unclean that God has made clean”.
God repeats this message how many times?
Yes, three times. Until Peter finally gets the point.
And the point is that his God is bigger much bigger than his learned religious traditions.
He learns that his God is more merciful, less judgmental, than Peter’s narrow interpretation of the Law.
In particular Peter learns that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is much more inclusive than Peter’s religious training has allowed.
Peter finally gets it; the message of the grace of God found first in the Law and the prophets, affirmed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Messiah applies to all peoples.
So, in these eleven chapters of Acts, starting in Acts 2, Luke clearly first told us what he intended to tell us. God’s grace, poured out in the world through the Holy Spirit, is much larger than we mere mortals can comprehend and are prepared to extend to others.
Then over the course of eight more chapters Luke repeated that same message in different ways; affirming it through the acts of many different people.
Telling us over and over again that God meant all along that the salvation of God which came to the world through Jesus Christ the Son is for all peoples.
God’s saving word for us today is also for all nations, for all peoples, for all who believe, for all who love Jesus by obeying all that he taught.
And finally, we come to today’s lesson in chapter eleven. And what is the lesson.
It is Luke reviewing the entire last ten chapters by telling us again what he told us already.
So, tell them what you are going to tell them. Then tell them. And then tell them what you have told them.
A message in three parts.
A message over eleven chapters.
A message powerfully focused on in great detail:
first in chapter ten and then repeated almost verbatim in chapter eleven.
When I was in seminary, one of the many things I learned about interpreting the Bible is this.
When the Biblical narrative slows it does not slow by accident.
A slowing of any story in the Bible is a heads-up to the reader that what is going on in this part of the narrative is very, very, important.
Repetition is a literary technique used by first century authors to slow the narrative; to intensify the readers’ focus on the topic at hand.
Luke is not trying to bore us with repetition.
Luke is not simply belabouring a point because he likes the sound of his literary voice.
Through repetition, Luke is giving us the opportunity to reflect on his message.
Because he knows his message, the message of God’s gracious inclusion, which he has returned to over and over again over the course of eleven chapters.
Is the message we still today need to learn. Learning it over and over again.
And so, I dare to repeat myself.
Last week I encouraged you to hold up against the light of God’s gracious inclusion your most cherished Biblical interpretations, your most deeply ingrained religious traditions.
During your devotional time this week please continue to do this.
Please persist in letting the light of God’s gracious love shine in on your inner most being. And reflect on this question.
Is God trying to reveal to me the ways in which my learned way of being a follower of Jesus is in fact in conflict with the Father’s plan for healing the world in the name of the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit?