Bread – Command

April 27, 2011


Readings for Wednesday, April 27, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Micah 7:7-15; Acts 3:1-10; John 15:1-11; Psalms 97, 99, 115

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I am not sure what to call this Bread and the word “command” may be the wrong word. If it is, pick your own.

Our focused reading this morning is from Acts: “The Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’” Acts 3:6

In most commentaries, the ordering of the crippled beggar to walk is an example of the apostle’s exercise of the Holy Spirit to perform a miraculous healing. Theology debate may exist regarding whether this exercise of Holy Spirit power was limited to the age of the apostles in order to demonstrate their authority or whether it is still alive today, but neither this debate nor the fact that this involved a healing is going to be discussed today.

Instead, I want to focus on the nature of the command which Peter gave. To get away from the medical aspects of this, pretend that the beggar is not crippled but is hungry. We as Peter, then, walking in the power of Jesus Christ, can say to the beggar “In the name of Jesus Christ, eat.” The result is the same. The non-believer has a need and, “in the name of Jesus Christ,” the disciple satisfies the need.

There are several aspects to this reading. First, there was a beggar – someone in need. Second, there was a disciple of Jesus Christ present, who today we might call a “Christian.” Third, grace was spoken by the Christian “in the name of Jesus” to the non-believer. Fourth, there is no exclamation point at the end of the sentence.

This last point is fascinating. Normally, we would follow a command with an exclamation point, for example “Halt!” Here the imperative is no less. Peter does not wish good tidings upon the beggar, he orders him to walk. There is no exclamation point though to the command. Why, maybe because when an act of charity, of grace, of outreach, of Christian power is done “in the name of Jesus Christ” there is no need for one. The God of the universe has no need for exclamation marks to punctuate His commands, and as His ambassador representing His full power in the world, neither does Peter.

The third point (working backwards) is that the command to satisfy the need was issued “In the name of Jesus Christ.” Now, what does this mean? I have heard it said that, for example, if you want someone to be healed, you say something like this “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command ….” This strikes me a whole lot like magic words or an incantation. If we only hold our mouths the right way and say “Abracadabra” then wonderful things happen. It appears to me the better meaning of this is that I, as a Christian, am so sold out to Jesus Christ and His work on the cross and am therefore so identified with Him that for purposes of the command I am Him. The use of the phrase “in the name of Jesus Christ” in this context is therefore no more than a reminder that, apart from the power of God (Jesus Christ), we can do nothing. This is in fact the very lesson we have today from John, where Jesus says “I am the true vine….No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me….; apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:1, 4, 5b.

The second and first points are almost obvious except that we routinely forget them. There is a person in need and there is me, a Christian.

You will meet people all day long today who are in need. They are sick, they are hurt, they weep, they are hungry, they lack a place to sleep, they do not know that God loves them and sent His son to die for them, they are lost, they are broken. We are around these people. Why are we not speaking commands full of grace, hope, love, wisdom, and power into these people’s lives? Why are we content to let others feed these people, house these people, care for these people. Why are we not engaged like Peter was?

Maybe it is because we cannot really speak for Jesus, we cannot really speak in His name, because we do not abide in Him, we do not love Him, we do not honor Him, we do not obey Him, we do not worship Him. Where are the Christian commands into a dying world – walk, eat, love, pray, worship, live? Where are they – where am I?

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