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Jesus is the Messiah

Date: May. 18, 2014

Author: Bob Henkins

Acts 17:1-35

Key Verse: Acts 17:3

“explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said.”

When I started preparing this message I had a difficult time trying to decide what title I should give it. I wanted it to be clever and incorporate the main point of the passage and yet not be too long. Maybe I could title it “To Receive or Not to Receive – that is the question,” or maybe “From Jealous Jews to Believing Bereans,” “Religion or Worship.” None of these seemed to work. Then as I reread the passage again this morning I found it, “Jesus is the Messiah.” This was the point of Paul’s preaching as he went from town to town. And based upon this point, the people either accepted it or rejected it. Let’s find out how did the people receive it in today’s passage.

As Paul and his companions left Phillipi, they headed to Thessalonica. As they traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia their trip covered about 100 miles before they reached their destination. Thessalonica was a major seaport and the second largest city in Greece with a population of about 200,000. When the Romans took over Macedonia in 167 B.C. it was made capital and it became the seat of government. As a reward for siding with Marc Anthony and Octavian, it was given the status as a free city in 42 B.C. This meant that it had local autonomy, which means that their government could do things the way they wanted and thus it followed more of the Greek way of administration instead of the Roman’s way.

Let’s look at verses 2-3. “As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said.” Once they arrived in Thessalonica, Paul followed his usual pattern of beginning his preaching in the synagogue. They did this on three consecutive Sabbaths. Since Paul was preaching to Jews, his main point was to help them understand what the scriptures were really telling them. So that’s where he began, it says that Paul “reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” This was his pattern, to “reason with” his listeners about the meaning of God’s word and how it applied to their lives. When God created mankind he gave us a brain for a reason. This is what makes us different from animals. Where animals are creatures of instinct, man must use his brain to think. Think about what? God didn’t give us our brain to think only on the animal level. What am I going to eat next, when am I going to get to sleep, when am I going to get to have sex next? While these are important questions, I believe that God wants us to think higher than that. And I believe that the pinnacle is to think about where we came from, and what is the meaning of life. To think about our creator, to know God. And the best way to know God is through his word, the Scriptures. When a person thinks on the basis of the Scriptures they can discover spiritual truth that opens their eyes to see God and experience his presence. And by the way, did you know that we are commanded to love God with our minds? (Mt 22:37)

So what did Paul reason with them about? According to verse 3 it was that the “Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead.” What was this so important? Having a right concept of the Messiah is essential for salvation. The Thessalonians did not understand that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. They probably had a popular concept of the Messiah as a great conqueror like King David. In the same way, many Christians today have a similar concept of the Jesus. They think that he came to fulfill their dreams and that’s it. That was Peter’s problem. Even though Peter had made a sincere personal confession that Jesus is the Christ (Mk 8:29), still he didn’t really know what he was talking about, because he still wanted to live an easy, comfortable life full of glory (Mk 9:5). We must know that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead.

The next logical question is why did the Messiah have to suffer? It was for our sins. Isaiah 53:4-5 explains this well. It says, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him,and by his wounds we are healed.” Sin is our real problem. Sin makes people sick and sorrowful. Sin makes people lawbreakers who deserve the full measure of God’s punishment. Sin fills people with guilt, shame, distress and fear. Sin wounds people and then they go on to wound others without even realizing it. Sin is so terrible that it demands the suffering, bloodshed and death to pay its price. Only by suffering the full measure of God’s punishment that sin demanded could the Messiah save men from sin.

Jesus wasn’t a stranger to this either. He said repeatedly, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law. He must be killed and after three days rise again” (Mk 8:31). Jesus, knew there was no other way. (that’s why he said that he was the way) He had to suffer, die and rise again. This was the main work of the Christ. We must come to know the Christ as the one who died for our sins and for the sin of the world. We must have a right concept of the Christ and a right concept of sin. St. Paul said, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst” (1Ti 1:15). However, to many, sin is not very serious, and even considered fun. Some think of sin as a genetic disorder or psychological problem. Some avoid coming to Christ personally by being busy doing something for God. At the bottom of their hearts, they are proud. We must come to Christ humbly for the forgiveness of our sins.

The Christ also had to rise from the dead. In Acts 13, Paul delivered a resurrection message from the Old Testament by referring to Psalm 2:7, Isaiah 55:3 and Psalm 16:10. Thus, Paul proved from the Scriptures that the Christ had to rise from the dead. Christ’s resurrection made a statement. Christ’s resurrection declares with power that he is the Son of God and that God is the living God (Ro 1:4). Christ’s resurrection reveals God’s final victory over sin, for it proves that Christ’s sacrifice was acceptable and those who believe in him are justified by faith in Jesus (Ro 4:25).

Even though the Jews had read the Scriptures all their lives they missed the main point. So Paul concluded with the main point of his message, “This Jesus I am introducing to you is the Messiah you have been looking for.” Some of the Jews that were listening and a large number of God-fearing Greek men, and quite a few prominent women believed and they joined with Paul and Silas. Here we see how God has broken down all the barriers, rich & poor, men and women, black and white. God wants to open the door to all people. This was wonderful news. God was working in their hearts.

We don’t know how long Paul stayed in Thessalonica but it was long enough for him to receive financial help from the church in Philippi two times. (Phi 4:15-16) But so often is the case, where God works, Satan is right there trying to undo the work that God has done. Take a look at verse 5. “But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.” From this verse we see how Satan attacked the Jews in Thessalonica through jealousy. Personally I think that they became jealous of Paul and the others because of all the joy and excitement the gospel brought to the new believers. When they accepted Jesus as the Messiah, who they had been hoping for all their lives, how could they not be excited and joyful? When the other Jews saw this sincere joy, they scowled at Paul instead of repenting of their unbelief. Basically the Jews problem was their pride. They were so proud that they never considered anything Paul was saying. SO they rejected his message thinking, “Who are you to think that you can teach me.” Not only that, the unbelieving Jews envied Paul’s success. They wanted to be the ones that everyone respected and went to for spiritual matters. Also they were grieved to see Gentiles and the influential women leaving the synagogue and along with them their big donations. Paul hoped that the salvation of the Gentiles would provoke the Jews into studying the Scriptures and discovering their promised Messiah (Rom 11:13-14) for themselves, but in this case it only provoked them into persecuting the young church. So the Jews gathered up a bunch of gang members from the streets and started a riot in the city and started a man hunt for Paul and his companions. They went to a guy named Jason’s house looking for them.

Take a look at verses 6-9. “But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.”When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil.Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.” I’m not sure who Jason is, but he must have been well know because the author Luke calls him out by name without any other indication. But apparently the rioting Jews try to pin the blame on Jason who was just Paul’s host. The Jews’ accusations were similar to the ones used against Jesus: disturbing the peace and treason. Their crime was saying there was another king other than Caesar. I find it kind of funny that they used the whole “subverting the king” cry when Thessalonica was a free city and didn’t really follow the Roman way to begin with, but they used whatever means they could. The Greek word here translated for “another” means “a different kind” that is, a king unlike Caesar. And when you read the two letters that Paul’ wrote to the Thessalonians, you see the strong emphasis that he put on the kingship of Christ and the promise of his return. And we know that Jesus’ kingdom isn’t political or even of this world, (Jn 18:36-37) but the unbelievers didn’t understand this. The kingship of Christ is different than the rulers of the world. He conquers with ambassadors, not armies. His weapons are not guns and bombs, but truth and love. He brings peace by upsetting the peace and turning things upside down. Jesus conquers through his cross laying down his life for those he loves, even his enemies. (Ro 5:6-10) The mob was agitated because they couldn’t get Paul, so they settled for second best, and made Jason pay a lot of money for a peace bond (to keep the peace) to make sure Paul left immediately.

So Paul, not wanting to put the young believers in further risk, decided to leave. Verse 10 tells us, “As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.” Notice the urgency of the situation in the fact that they leave that night, even using the cover of darkness to hide them. Traveling with Paul would not be boring that’s for sure. Berea was about 50 miles away or approximately a 3 day journey on foot. And what did Paul do when he got there, he looked for the first Synagogue he could find. Paul was unshaken by what just happened in Thessalonica.

However when he arrived in Berea he found that they were different from the Thessalonians. Take a look at verse 11. “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” The Bereans were more refined and dignified people. They weren’t the street thugs of Thessalonica, they were honorable and classy. They were open minded and ready to hear the gospel. This shows their humility and how they were different from the Thessalonians. They were eager to study God’s word and did it every day. Thus they received Paul’s message with enthusiasm and embraced it which was quite different and refreshing. You can tell that they had exceptional interest and paid close attention evaluating it against what they read in the Scriptures. In doing so, they respected Paul as a teacher and were sincere in their pursuit to understand God’s word. “As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.” (v12) All of us should imitate the Bereans by faithfully studying God’s word each day, discussing it and testing the messages that we hear. When you think about testing what someone says you either don’t’ like what they’re saying and you want to prove they’re wrong or you can have the attitude of “can what they are saying is really true?” and you are sincerely seeking to find the truth. I don’t’ think either is wrong. We probably will not like everyone we meet, but just because we don’t like them doesn’t mean that can’t be right. This just means we have to set aside our feelings and evaluate what they are saying. And if they are right, we should acknowledge that. On the other hand, we can’t be to liberal and just except everything we hear as truth because not everything is true, that’s why we have to test it against what the Bible tells us. And as the Bereans questioned Paul about the Scriptures based upon his teachings, they discerned that his teachings were true and the Scriptures had indeed been fulfilled as he proclaimed. They recognized the truth of God’s work in Jesus and many were saved. And again we see the unstoppable gospel continue to spread among people of different social classes, gender and nationality. Paul must have been greatly encouraged at this point as he saw the Holy Spirit work changing people’s hearts right before his eyes. This is the joy that every gospel worker hopes to have.

Just when Paul thinks everything is going great, once again Satan stirs up trouble and verse 13 comes along, “But when the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, some of them went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up.” What are they obsessed? Can’t they leave Paul alone? We could be tempted to be discouraged here, and in our own lives, when we see Satan causing trouble. But we should remember that Christ’s authority is greater than Satan’s. And in spite of the growing opposition still the gospel was being proclaimed and people were believing the message and receiving eternal life. So we should be encouraged that God’s word does not return empty (Isa 55:11) and that our labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cor 15:58)

So what can we take away from this passage and apply to our daily lives? First jealously is dangerous and we must stay away from it at all costs because all it does is destroy, destroy, destroy. Pride is at the root of jealously. The reason we become jealous is because we think that we are better than others and deserve more than them. Jealously and pride can blind us. The second point to take away is humility. We must have humble hearts to accept others, but we must not accept everything, we have to test it against the Bible to make sure it’s true. And lastly, Jesus is the Messiah, the one who saves us from our sins.

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