The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
In Acts 13:13-31, Paul finds himself in a synagogue. According to the custom, a traveling rabbi is welcomed to speak, at least briefly. We see here an example of a sermon.
As with the sermons of Peter and of Stephen, which we have seen earlier in Acts, Paul’s sermon begins with an historical overview. Though this may seem disconnected from the topic at hand, it serves at least two very important purposes.
First, the historical overview points out to the hearers that Paul is speaking about something which he can find solidly grounded in Israel’s history. The provision of God through the Exodus, and both God’s rescue of his people from captivity in Egypt and from their wandering in the desert foreshadow Jesus’ rescue of his people from sin and death. The ideas of exodus and redemption are tied very closely.
Second, Paul is able to come from a position as a credible witness to Israel’s history, then present himself as a credible witness to something else, which may seem less likely. The same person who speaks reverently about known historical facts will speak reverently about a miraculous rising from the dead. This lends credence to Paul’s claim that Jesus is the one who overcame death.
When asked to give a defense of the Christian faith, we all too often lapse into a defense of things that seem right or feel good to us. We do well when we learn from the biblical account and speak of what God has definitively accomplished in the past.
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