Scripture: Acts 15:13, 19-21; Matthew 16:13-20
This week we continue our new series, Church and State: The Rise of Early Christianity. We’re exploring the history of the early church through the documents we find in the New Testament. Last week we began this series by talking about the immediate aftermath of Jesus’ death. What I tried to make clear is that we don’t know exactly what the disciples saw, but whatever they witnessed, it inspired them to continue Jesus’ movement after his death.
The problem the disciples faced was how do we keep Jesus’ movement alive? Well, the most obvious way that you would achieve this goal is by trying to convince the people around you to be part of Jesus’ movement. But what exactly do you say? Do you talk about how this guy who was executed by the Roman government for treason came back from the dead? You would sound crazy, and even if you are able to convince someone to hear you out, most people aren’t going to believe you.
Moreover, Jesus is gone, so they don’t have anybody to provide them with a game plan. They have to figure it out for themselves. Thankfully, there’s a few details in the New Testament that give us some hints as to the game plan that they eventually developed following Jesus’ resurrection appearance.
One important detail is that Jesus and his disciples are Jewish. I think it’s safe to say that following Jesus’ resurrection appearance around 30 A.D., the disciples returned to their local synagogues to tell people about Jesus. So following Jesus’ resurrection, some of them like Peter and his brother Andrew, would have returned to Capernaum and preached in that synagogue. Others, like Bartholomew, would have returned to Cana and preached in that synagogue.
Everybody goes back to their families and tries to convince the Jews in their towns to believe in Jesus. And it’s important to remember, there’s no New Testament at this point. There’s nothing they can hand people to read. These guys are simply telling everyone what they saw in their own words. Everybody’s putting their own spin on it to convince people to believe in Jesus. In other words, from day one, Jesus’ message was not consistent, which sets the stage for the first real conflict in Christianity: who’s in charge of Jesus’ movement? I hope you can be there this Sunday because this sermon is an integral part of what we will be talking about for weeks to come. Enjoy the warm weather and I will see you on Sunday!