Acts: The Temple

Acts:  The Temple

Transcript:

Does Jesus get what Jesus wants? The answer to that question has to be yes! Right?

Another question: What does Jesus want? To answer this question, let’s look at Jesus’ prayers. If you read through the Gospels, you see that Jesus was very committed to prayer. After he ministered, taught, or casted out demons, he went to a secluded place to pray. To which I say, wouldn’t it be nice to know what Jesus was praying about in those moments? And were those prayers answered? John 17 is an important passage because it is detailed prayer of Jesus. As I read you this prayer, think about this question: Does Jesus get what Jesus wants?

Jesus says, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”

Then, Matthew 26, picks up the story. Jesus says, “Tonight, all of you will desert me. For the scriptures say God will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” He’s referring to the fact that in just a few hours, he is going to be seized by the Roman authorities and crucified.

Was Jesus’ prayer answered 2,000 years ago?

Then, you have to ask Is Jesus’ prayer being answered today? Are Christians united completely united? As you ponder that question, I would remind you that there are three thousand recognized Christian denominations.

Further, as a result of the pandemic, we’ve experienced an incredible societal, cultural and even spiritual upheaval in the last year and a half. Most estimates say that a third of practicing Christians have not attended a church, either in person or online, since the pandemic began. And there is a possibility that some of those people may never come back to a corporate gathering in person or online.

I’ll ask again. Is Jesus getting what he wants when it comes to his people, his church, his followers, that they would be perfectly united in all things?

We’re going to look at the story of how this church moves from a scattered, disorganized chaotic and fearful mess to ultimately coming together in an amazing picture later in the story. And that story begins to take place in Luke 24; the end of Luke’s gospel which says, “Just then, Jesus led them being the disciples to Bethany and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven, so they worshipped him and they returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. Then they spent all of their time in the temple praising God.”

The response to the good news of the resurrection was gathering together in a corporate environment.

Now we turn the page to Acts 2, where we see a description of this community living in a Jesus centered environment—a koinonia or a fellowship. And in verse 46, Luke tells us that, “they worshipped together at the temple each day, they met in homes for the Lord’s Supper and shared their meals with great joy and great generosity, all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of the people.”

It’s such a radical, simple idea that we don’t even see the power of what these disciples devoted themselves to. The literal Greek translation is that they continued together by common consent each day at the temple. The word continued is the same Greek word that is used to describe the believers earlier when it says that they “devoted themselves.” This means they committed to gathering each day in the temple because they wanted to continue to affirm the fact that Jesus was alive.

The Greek word homothumadon is usually translated as “together” or with “one accord,” with “one mind” or with “one passion.” Not only were they together in a physical space, but they also had something that bound them together in mind, passion and purpose – Jesus.

It reminds me of those nature documentaries. One of my favorites is Blue Planet. There’s a scene where they show a gigantic school of sardines—they estimate about 100 hundred million fish. The camera zooms in and you see this giant mass of fish, but they’re not just they’re not just swimming around randomly. They they’re together in a school. Do you ever have a sense that when you watch a flock of birds, there must be some sort of collective consciousness that’s binding them together? There’s no leader but they’re doing moving together in this inexplicable way. That’s what’s happening with these fish.

But then the music changes. Sure enough, this giant school of sardines attract the attention of sharks. Sensing the danger, they get into a tight ball and start swimming frantically. The sharks take off and go full throttle right through the school. They open their giant mouths open with their dead, lifeless eyes rolled back in their heads but come out empty. Because as it turns out, when these fish are schooled together the sharks can’t eat them! The sharks wise up to this and realize that in order to be successful, they have to divide the school. So they begin to separate the giant school of fish into two schools of fish. Eventually, this small ball gets scared, disperse and are instantly eaten. It’s easy to pick off a fish when it’s alone.

I think that’s a picture of what homothumadon means. It means you’re bound or knit together in mind and in spirit around a common purpose and around a common entity. Homothumadon describes radical unity of the church which typifies the Book of Acts. Acts 1:14 says, “All of these disciples continued together in prayer with one mind.” They prayed in a unified way. Acts 8:6 says, “the crowds were paying attention with one mind to what Phillip said.” Phillip is preaching the gospel and the people were all. In Romans 15 Paul says, “gather together with one voice to glorify God, the father of our Lord Jesus.” Which is a statement about praise and worship.

This sounds like an answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17! For Christians to be perfectly united. To be completely of one mind and one accord and what we see happen, and again. They moved from being a scattered bunch of sheep, to a united flock, because they realize that their shepherd was alive and it changed everything about their community.

We see this play out in the rest of the New Testament and Hebrews 10: 23, it says, “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together as a [third of Christianity] has chosen to do. Encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return being Jesus is drawing near.”

Sadly, many people have in some way, shape or form, either abandoned worship entirely or it becomes something we do when we have the time for it. Yet we find that what this community devoting themselves to the gathering daily.

I want to challenge three people here today, and the first person is you, watching online and who have not been in a physical gathering since the pandemic began.

I understand that there has been uncertainty, risk, and concern, but here’s how I want to challenge you: Do an honest self-assessment. Ask yourself what’s really going on in your heart. Is it a concern over health? If it is, we would never ask you to violate your conscience, but consider the habits you are developing. Yes, community means being in person with real people, with real handshakes and real hugs. I pray that you would answer the question, when is the time?

To the choir that I’ve been preaching to, I’d like to say, thank you! It is good to be together each and every week. I also want to challenge those of us who attend church but have not devoted themselves to worship. Make church the central part of your week. Barring sickness or vacation, you make a decision to be here and you schedule the rest of your life accordingly. We cannot be completely united if we are not consistently together.

Finally, I realize that some of you have considered getting your mail delivered right to the church because you are so faithful to be here. I’m grateful to you, we couldn’t do what we do without you. My challenge for you is simple: Help someone else discover the joy and the passion that you’ve discovered with church. Help them to understand the importance of what it is that we do here and why they need to be a part of it too. Maybe it’s someone that you need to talk to and encourage them. Or perhaps this is an opportunity for you to talk to some of your friends who maybe have been disconnected from church.

If we all show up to church every Sunday, does that solve our problems? No, it does not. It does not mean that we will be united perfectly, it does not mean we will come together in unity on the major beliefs of our faith and all denominations will disappear.

But it’s a start.