Summary: Year C. The Nativity of St. John The Baptist June 24th, 2001 Acts13: 22-26 Title : “Continuity between the life of Jesus and the lives of his disciples conforms to the pattern of the life of Christ like a mirror and an echo.”
Year C. The Nativity of St. John The Baptist June 24th, 2001
Title : “Continuity between the life of Jesus and the lives of his disciples conforms to the pattern of the life of Christ like a mirror and an echo.”
This is an excerpt from Paul’s sermon, spanning 13: 16-41, his first and last sermon to Jews recorded in Acts, given at Antioch “of Pisidia.” The city, a civil and military center, is actually in the province of Phrygia, near Pisidia; hence, the name “Antioch towards Pisidia” or, more correctly “Pisidian Antioch.” Seleucus I founded several cities and named them after his father Antiochus. Since there was another Antioch in Phrygia on the Maenander River, this one was known as Pisidian Antioch. Phrygia had belonged to the kingdom of Galatia and was incorporated into the Roman province of Galatia by Augustus in 25BC. It was Paul’s practice to go first to the major cities and towns of an area, preach first to any Jews there, and after rejection by them, turn to the Gentiles. The central location of these cities and towns made it easier to radiate out from them into the smaller habitations.
Paul’s sermon takes place in the synagogue of Pisidian Antioch. Like Jesus, it was his normal practice to go to synagogue on the Sabbath. Throughout Acts, the author, the same person who wrote Luke, likes to show how the disciples of Jesus relive the experiences of Jesus, just as Jesus foretold they would. He describes them in terms of prophetic imagery. For instance, he has trial of Stephen echo the trial of Jesus, Stephen’s last words echo those of Jesus, and Peter’s escape from prison echo Jesus’ resurrection. Here the author has Luke 4: 1-40 as his background to show that what happened to Paul here also happened to Jesus earlier. In this way he shows that Jesus’ life was “prophetic” of the life of his followers.
Like Jesus, who was “filled with the Holy Spirit,” Luke 4: 1, after being baptized, so also Paul was commissioned by the Spirit in Antioch. Like Jesus, who went into the wilderness and confronted the demonic powers and bested them, so also Paul confronts and bests the demonic powers presented by the magician Bar-Jesus. Like Jesus, who preached his inaugural sermon to his countrymen in a synagogue on the Sabbath after being asked by the leader to do so, so Paul preaches his inaugural sermon after being asked and after readings from the Law and the Prophets. Like Jesus he showed how the Scripture was fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus. Like Jesus, who was initially favorably received, Paul was so received at first, but later rejected and attempts were made on his life. Like Jesus in Luke 4: 30, Paul left that place unharmed, if unpopular, to preach elsewhere. Luke obviously wants to show the continuity between what was prophesied about Jesus and what Jesus prophesied about his followers, all of it come true.
If there is continuity between the life of Jesus and the lives of his disciples, there is also continuity between their preaching. Paul’s sermon looks like both the sermons of Peter, that is, Peter’s first sermon in Acts 2: 14-36, and the speech of Stephen in Acts7. Like them he addresses his fellow Jews, along with some God-fearing Gentiles, that is, those philosophically and religiously sympathetic but not ready or willing to be circumcised or totally commit to observance of the Mosaic law. Like them he plunges straight into a survey of Jewish history in order to show that Israel was chosen by God, and why he preaches to Jews first, giving them a chance to repent, before going to the Gentiles, and provided them with both land and kings, especially David, the up-till-now ideal king, culminating in the long awaited and prophesied savior king, Jesus. He is the one whom God promised and delivered, who would deliver his people from their sins.