Our second observation from Acts chapters 1 through 5:
The overwhelming and consistent message of the Early Church was “You killed Jesus.”
Peter’s message in Acts 2 was “you killed Jesus, whom God made both Lord and Christ.” Then in chapter 3 when Peter’s miracle gathers a crowd, his message to them is “You killed Jesus. You were ignorant, but that’s no excuse.” When confronted in chapter 4 about healing the beggar, his response to the religious authorities is “You killed Jesus.” Just in case it wasn’t clear to them, he actually says it twice. Then in chapter 5 when the apostles are hauled back into jail (second time in two chapters) and threatened again by the religious leaders (remember, these are the guys who murdered the man they are following and preaching about), the apostles’ message again is “You killed Jesus.” The apostles don’t build up to it, ending their message with this. This is how they begin their response, saying it right after the Jewish council, who is enraged and wants to kill them, tells them to stop saying it, again.
Ok, so now I understand the level of boldness that the Holy Spirit empowered the early Christians with. Not “here’s how Jesus can change your life.” Not “Jesus loves you and let’s all sing kumbayah.” Not “look at all the blessings that come with knowing Jesus.” And decidedly not “just say this little prayer so you can be saved by Jesus.” No. Their message was “You killed Jesus. Oh and by the way, this Jesus you killed, God raised from the dead and declared Him once and for all to be Lord – Master over everything – and Christ.” That word “Christ” is the Greek equivalent word for the Hebrew Old Testament word “Messiah”. It means “anointed one,” as in what happens when someone is made king. So their message is “You killed The King. The One. You killed Him.”
I should probably tell you that I’m a preacher. That small country church I told you about earlier – I’m the new guy. And when I think about what to preach, and what to keep preaching, the overwhelming thing popping into my head isn’t to tell our congregants over and over again that they killed Jesus. When I think about “sharing my faith” with non-Christians, and how to best get into conversation with them, and where to take that conversation, it doesn’t even come close to my mind to tell them “you killed Jesus.”
(Remember – we’re still working on getting people to sit together, and closer to the front.)
I’m convicted. This is, after all, the gospel. This is what Paul later wrote that he preached all the time (1 Corinthians 1 & 2) – Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. He preached the cross. He preached that we all killed Jesus. We nailed Him to the cross. Our sin is responsible for His death. It was so simple for the apostles. Why isn’t it so simple for me? Why do I feel the need to dress it up, package it nicely, make it more palatable? Why does it need to be made more practical?
Ouch. It’s not that I don’t think other lessons can be appropriate for the church, especially as needs grow more specific and diverse. But this one lesson – this simple message – is not enough at the heart of my messages. Maybe not even enough at the heart of my heart. After all, Jesus did say out of the overflow of my heart, my mouth speaks.