The Things Jesus Began to Do and Teach

MP3 Audio:  WS330291_Dn-Joseph_The-Things-Jesus-Began-to-Do-and-Teach.mp3

This homily was preached on Ascension Day, Thursday morning, June 13, 2013,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

~

Epistle Reading:  Acts 1:1-11

“The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach until the day in which he was taken up.” (Acts 1:1-2)

In the name of the Father and of the Son of the Holy Spirit, our God is one.

I think this is one of the fascinating and meaningful verses in Scripture.  And it is one that often is just passed by as being “introductory.”

We know that Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke, and then he also wrote the book which we call, “The Acts of the Apostles”.  And most Christians, if you were to ask them, “I want to know about the life of Christ, I want to know what he did, I want to know what he taught,” which one of those two books do you think most Christians would go to? Would they go to the Gospel, or would they go to the book of Acts? The Gospel. Absolutely.

Luke wrote down with his own hand both of these books. And in the Gospel, we hear about the conception, the birth, a little bit of the young life of Christ. We hear about his public ministry, we hear about his miracles, we hear about his crucifixion, death, and resurrection. And now we get to the end of the gospel of Luke. And for many people, they say, “Well, there it is. There’s the whole story. That’s everything that Christ did and everything that Christ taught. We go to the book of Acts to find out what other people did later.”

But look at what Luke says at the very beginning of the book of Acts. He said, “Most excellent Theophilus . . . in the former book, I wrote about what Jesus began to do and to teach.” In other words, the conception, birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ is only the beginning! Those are just the things that he began to do. Everything that He preached while on earth, those are just the things that he began to preach.

He just started! That’s not the whole story; that’s just the first chapter of the things that Jesus does and teaches. And the implication is–now that Luke is writing this second book, this book of Acts–if the first book was what Jesus began to do and teach, then what is the book of Acts about?

The things that Jesus continued to do and to teach.

And sure enough, what do we see? We see the deacons are set apart in Acts chapter six; one of them is named Stephen. And after Stephen becomes a deacon, he is preaching the truth, he is teaching the truth, and Jesus shows up. We see when Stephen is stoned to death at the behest of Saul of Tarsus, Stephen is put to death for Christ, and Stephen in the book of Acts sees the heavens open, and sees Christ, not sitting at the right hand of God, but standing to receive His first martyr after His resurrection and ascension, to receive St. Stephen. Well, that is something Jesus is doing after the fact.

But is it just stuff in heaven? No, no, no. Because a couple chapters later, we are reading about Saul of Tarsus, who became Paul, and ended up writing two thirds of the New Testament. He had watched over approvingly while they were stoning Stephen to death. And now he was on the warpath. With venom and with vengeance, he was going out to persecute, to torment, and even to kill, anyone who dared to name the name of Christ. And on the road to Damascus what happens to Saul? Does Jesus let him just go about his own business, unhindered? No!

He is blinded. Who blinded him?  Jesus.
And who talks to him?  Jesus.

And what does Jesus say? “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting my people?” Is that what He said? That’s what we might expect him to say, because here in the book of Acts, Jesus has already ascended into heaven. “He’s not here. He’s gone. He took the Metra to Chicago. He’s not in southern Illinois anymore. But His people are still here. His people are getting persecuted.” And so we might expect Jesus to blind Saul, and to get after him, and to say, “Sayl, why are you persecuting my people?”

That’s not what He says.

In Scripture it says, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4)

When they were throwing stones at Stephen, who were they throwing stones at?
Jesus.  Remember what Jesus said? “Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it into me” (Matthew 25:40). So when Stephen was stoned to death, they were stoning Christ.

But what does that also mean?

When the apostles were preaching, who was preaching?  Christ.

When we see the apostles at the gate called “Beautiful” and there is this man who had been there lame for forty years–and remember, he was just begging for gold, he was just begging for money, just food to get him through the day–I’ll see 4 or 5 people similar to that, just walking from the train station to where I work at Sears in downtown Chicago, just on that one walk, people just waiting there, “Just give me some food to get me through the day. Give me some money to help me get some food.”–And remember what the apostle says, “Silver and gold have I none, but that which I have I give thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And they lifted him up, and his feet became strong. And after 40 years, suddenly he can do this, he can dance, he can move.
(Acts 3:1-10)

And it is very interesting–the timing of it, too–do you realize that for years Jesus himself walked by that guy and did not heal him? The time was not yet. Jesus was going to heal him, at the right time, through his apostles, after He had already ascended into heaven.

Jesus could have healed the guy while He was still here on earth. Who knows how many hundreds of times Jesus walked in and out of the temple, right past that guy? Maybe He asked Judas to pull a coin out of the treasury and toss it in the guy’s cup.

But the healing, not yet.

Jesus would heal that man, but it would be through his apostles.

And so when we read the book of Acts, we are not just reading about what Jesus’ people do; we are reading about what Jesus himself does. The apostles even testified of this. They say, “Do you think it is in our own power that we did this? That we healed this man? No, this man was healed by . . .” And they give the glory to Christ. They give the glory to the risen Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 3:11-16)

Every healing that you see in the book of Acts is another thing that is done by Jesus. Every apostolic, godly teaching that you see in the book of Acts, that’s Jesus teaching. Every persecution against God’s people in the book of Acts, that’s a persecution against Jesus himself. And this is the mystery of the body of Christ.

Remember what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10: “Is not this cup a participation in the blood of Christ? Is not this bread a participation in the body of Christ? We all are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

That’s Paul’s way of saying, “You are what you eat.”
We eat the body of Christ, and thereby become the body of Christ.

Now, if I walk over to Ben, and I punch him in the arm just as hard as I can, is Ben gonna say, “Oh, no problem, you didn’t hit me. You just hit my arm.”?

How about Russ? If I yank on your ear, are you gonna get mad? And I’m gonna say back to you, “But Russ . . . it wasn’t you, I didn’t do anything to you, it was just your ear.”

No, it doesn’t matter. If I punch you in any part of your body, I have attacked you personally, haven’t I?

Same thing, if your feet are really tired and you just can’t stand anymore, and I give you a chair to sit in–ahh!–and then your feet feel so much better because you’re not standing anymore, and you’re seated, and you’re just flexing your toes, and you feel so much better, and then you say, “Thank you!”–And I say, “Well, why did you thank me? I just helped your feet. I didn’t help you.” It’s the same way. If I do something good for you, if I’ve done anything good for any part of your body, I have done something good for you personally.

So it is with the body of Christ.

So many of us think, “Oh, it would be wonderful just to have Christ physically here with us. I want to hear what He teaches, not what other people teach. I want to do what He wants, not what other people want. I want to hear Him talk, I want to serve Him.”

But guess what? His body is right here!

Anything you do to hurt anybody in the body of Christ, you have just done to hurt Jesus himself. You have attacked the Lord and Savior. And He might say to you the same thing that he said to Saul: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”

“Oh! I wasn’t persecuting you, Lord! I was just picking on one of your people. I was just picking on somebody in the body of Christ.”

That’s like saying, “I wasn’t hurting you, Russ, I was just yanking on your ear.” “I wasn’t hurting you, Ben, I wasn’t attacking you personally. I was just punching you in the arm.”

In the same way, if you serve–in love and humility–one of your brothers, one of your sisters in the body of Christ, guess what?

You just served Jesus personally. Himself.

You have always wanted the opportunity to have Jesus over to your house? Well, then invite Ben over, invite Russ over, have Jeni to eat with you, invite Christa, Amy, me, get together with Bruno.

That’s how we serve Christ.  By serving each other.

That’s also how we hurt Christ, all over again.  By hurting each other.

We are deceived if we think that it’s possible to turn our backs on a brother or sister in Christ, and yet remain friends with Christ himself. For we are all one. There is one body. There are not two bodies, or three bodies, or thirty thousand bodies. There is one body of Christ. And if you’re part of that, that means however you treat somebody else in that body is how you are treating Christ, whether good or bad.

If you want to love Christ, if you want to serve Christ, then love and serve the person that you see to your right, and to your left today, because that is how you do it.

Christ has ascended into heaven. We have even extinguished the Paschal candle to show that his physical, visual presence among us, is now in the heavens and not with us any longer. And I think that God would say us, the same thing the Angels said to the men when they saw Him go up. “Men, why are you just standing here looking up in the heavens?”

Don’t just stand around looking up, think that, “Well, I’m just gonna wait for Him to come back.” You’re gonna be waiting a long time! You don’t know how long it will be before He returns the same way He ascended. If you’re looking for Christ, why are you standing here looking up into the sky? Get busy!

If you’re part of the body of Christ, then the things that you say, the things that you do, the things that you hear from the teaching of the apostles and those whom they have consecrated, the actions that you do within the church–these are the continued actions and words of Christ on earth.

So don’t just stand around looking up into heaven, wondering when He is going to come back. But get busy! Go out into the world, among your brothers and sisters, and among those in the world who you pray eventually will become your brothers and sisters in Christ, and in so doing, that’s where you find Him present on earth even now.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, our God is one.

~

This homily was preached on Ascension Day, Thursday morning, June 13, 2013,
at Christ the King Orthodox Church in Omaha, Illinois, by Dn. Joseph Gleason.

 

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About Fr Joseph Gleason

I serve as a priest at Christ the King Orthodox Mission in Omaha, Illinois, and am blessed with eight children and one lovely wife. I contribute to On Behalf of All, a simple blog about Orthodox Christianity. I also blog here at The Orthodox Life.
This entry was posted in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, Acts 3:1-10, Acts 3:11-16, Acts 6, Acts 7, Acts 9, Ascension Day, Fr. Joseph Gleason, Matthew 25:31-46. Bookmark the permalink.

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