A Few Good Men–message 02.08.2015

Last week, we had a snow day with the big blizzard in the Midwest.  So today we resume our Sunday preaching series on Acts of the Holy Spirit and the Apostles As long as I am in announcement mode, by way of reminder, the 2015 Lenten Devotionals entitled With Christ in the Upper Room will begin on Ash Wednesday (February 18th).  If you’ve signed up to receive them on the Seminary Gal Home Page side bar,  you will be receiving those automatically on Monday through Saturday, as well as the Sunday messages during the Lent time frame.  Now to our message for today which comes from Acts 5: 27-32.

There are some movies our family has watched enough times for memorization.  One of them is A Few Good Men.  Our son Eric can recite easily half the movie from memory.  We all get particularly animated in a couple of scenes.

One is from Gitmo:

Col. Jessep: I run my unit how I run my unit. You want to investigate me, roll the dice and take your chances. I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me, so don’t think for one second that you can come down here, flash a badge, and make me nervous.

And the other two are from the courtroom.  Defense attorney Kaffee’s opening statement:

When Dawson and Downey went into Santiago’s room that night, it wasn’t because of vengeance or hatred, it wasn’t to kill or harm, and it wasn’t because they were looking for kicks on a Friday night. It’s because it was what they were ordered to do.

Let me say that again: It’s because it was what they were ordered to do. Now, out in the real world, that means nothing. And here at the Washington Navy Yard, it doesn’t mean a whole lot more. But if you’re a marine assigned to Rifle Security Company Windward, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and you’re given an order, you follow it or you pack your bags.

Col. Jessep later proves the point about orders by asking the defense attorney Kaffee questions, as if to emphasize his authority.

  • Col. Jessep: Have you ever spent time in an infantry unit, son?
  • Kaffee: No sir.
  • Col. Jessep: Ever served in a forward area?
  • Kaffee: No sir.
  • Col. Jessep: Ever put your life in another man’s hands, ask him to put his life in yours?
  • Kaffee: No sir.
  • Col. Jessep: We follow orders, son. We follow orders or people die. It’s that simple. Are we clear?
  • Kaffee: Yes sir.
  • Col. Jessep: Are we clear?
  • Kaffee: Crystal.

The issues of following orders and of obedience in the chain of command were front and center in the courtroom scene as they were also central to the accidental death of Santiago.  Hold that thought of orders, obedience, and crimes…

In our passage of Scripture today, the high priest had given strict orders and yet Peter and the other apostles disobeyed a strict order from the Jewish religious leader, an order he gave to stop this teaching.  Stop.  Stop.

Stop sharing the Gospel!

Why?  Because the religious leaders felt like it was making them guilty of crucifying Jesus, the Messiah.  Which of course, they were…guilty, that is.  As are we all.

From the moment we take our first breath, we’re living, breathing sinners.  We come from a long line of sinners going back to Adam and Eve.  Of course, none of us wants to view ourselves as guilty.  But the truth is that since we sin, Jesus had to die or God’s image bearers would be lost forever.

Let’s look at our passage.  So far, there’s been a divine jail break with an angel getting the apostles out of prison so they could resume teaching in defiance of the high priest’s orders…orders given during the last time they were teaching and were imprisoned.  Right now, the apostles have been doing the very thing they were told not to do and are brought by the officials to the Sanhedrin.

Acts 5:27 Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest.  28 “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said.  “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”

The special guilt that the religious leaders had (that the rest of us do not) was in the plotting to get rid of Jesus because He was making their religious lives harder.  People were no longer seeing the leaders as authoritative, as if their behavior was worth imitating.

Why did the leaders’ orders have to be followed differently by the people than by the leaders themselves?  Good question.

Jesus taught with God’s authority.  God was calling them to live differently than the hypocritical religious leaders were living, especially noticeable when Jesus was saying things like the 7 Woes found in Matthew 23:1-39.

 Matthew 23:1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

The religious leaders liked their positions of power and authority.  It made them feel pretty proud of themselves.  But they didn’t obey orders.  They only gave them for others to obey.  Then Jesus comes along.  He’s a very humble guy, seeks no adoration whatsoever, and yet the crowds of people hang on His every word.  He does what He preaches.  He lives it.  And in doing so, He pointed out that the religious leaders did not do what God told them to do, along with everyone else.  They were hypocrites.

He didn’t mince words about it either.  Jesus said, Matthew 23:33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

Ouch.  No wonder they didn’t like Jesus very much.  All of this was in the mind of the high priest when he told the apostles to stop teaching in the name of Jesus.  The religious leaders remembered the events leading up to the moment Jesus died.

John 19:5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” 6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” 7 The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

It was the religious leaders who would initiate the cry to crucify Him.  It was the religious leaders who appealed to Roman law because they had no power to crucify (John 18:31-32), only to stone to death (Leviticus 24:16).

chain links colorrt.jpgWe see here a chain of command, just like in A Few Good Men.  Jesus tells Pilate that he has no power other than that given by God and therefore, the worse crime was done by those who handed Jesus over.  The religious leaders tried to wash the blood from their hands, figuratively speaking.  They tried to forget that this is what they had done!  And then here come these apostles.  Teaching about Jesus.  It’s like He never died!  It’s like He’s back!  It didn’t stop with His death, it only scattered the teaching authority over a wider group of disciples who find their courage in obeying God’s orders.  The ones Jesus gave them to take the Gospel to the very ends of the earth.

29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!  30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.  31 God exalted him to his own right hand  as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.  32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

The apostles state very clearly that their chain of command rests with God.  The guilt Jesus had paid to atone for was true guilt upon all the people of Israel and the people of the world.  It’s why it took both the religious leaders of the Jews and the legal system of the Gentile world to crucify Him.  There was plenty of guilt to go around.  And we’re all responsible.  In a sense, we were all there shouting “Crucify!”

Fortunately, the forgiveness of God is greater.  He commutes our sentence and pronounces us Not Guilty when we come to Him, when we come acknowledging our sins and asking His forgiveness.  When we make obeying God, obeying Christ, our first and only priority.  That’s when we go from being many sinful and guilty men and women to being a few good men and women who are good only because we are forgiven by the blood of Christ so that we might obey God in all we do.  Let’s pray.

Categories Chapel Worship/News | Tags: | Posted on February 9, 2015

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