Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday in the 2nd Week of Easter
There is One Thing I Ask…

Readings: Acts 5:34-42; Psalm 27:1, 4, 13-14; John 6:1-15

At first glance it would seem that if there’s one thing that both readings have in common, it’s probably the unexpected way in which things turn out. On the one hand, one would have expected the apostles to meet their end at the hands of the Sanhedrin. Yet they find an unlikely ally in Gamaliel. And even though they have to suffer the pain of being flogged, their experience rejuvenates them. After their release their proclamation of the Good News was never interrupted. On the other hand, we would probably have expected those who were fed by Jesus in the gospel to aid him in him in his mission. After all, don’t they sound like the ancient equivalent of a modern day fan-club? Instead, by wanting to take him by force and make him king, they become an obstacle in his path. Faced with their obstinacy, Jesus has no choice but to flee into the hills.

Still, a deeper connection between the readings can perhaps be found when we consider what sets these two groups of people apart. What is it that makes Gamaliel and the Sanhedrin an unlikely help and the Jesus fan-club an unexpected hindrance to the spread of the gospel? What is it that leads the former to release the apostles and the latter to cling inordinately to Jesus? A likely answer is to be found in the response to our psalm today: there is one thing I ask of the Lord, to live in the house of the Lord…

It is likely that these two groups of people can be distinguished by their primary desire. Gamaliel argues for the apostles’ release because he doesn’t want to end up fighting against God. Even though the apostles’ preaching is a thorn in his flesh, Gamaliel is willing to let them go because they might actually be carrying out the will of God. Even if he is still unsure whether the apostles are actually sent by God, Gamaliel demonstrates through his words and actions that his overriding desire is to be on the side of God. He truly wishes to live in the house of the Lord. In contrast, even though the fan-club seems to be acting in Jesus’ best interests, they’re really looking out only for themselves. The purposes of God do not figure in their decision-making processes. In clinging to Jesus, their only concern is to fill their own stomachs. That is the one thing they would ask of the Lord.

Faced with these two starkly contrasting sets of attitudes, both Jesus and the apostles demonstrate a similar wisdom and steadfastness of purpose. Even though the thought of being king might well be a tempting prospect Jesus hides himself. And intimidating though the threats of the Sanhedrin might be, especially after having been flogged, the apostles proclaim the gospel with greater zeal than ever. Their primary motivation is thus made clear. There truly is one thing they ask of the Lord, to live in the house of the Lord all the days of their lives…

What is it that we ask of the Lord today?

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