Well, Christmas season is upon us. It is officially December 1st here in Japan, and my 5 year old daughter and yesterday I put up our Christmas tree and all the Christmas decorations. I’ve probably mentioned this before, but this is truly my favorite time of the year.
In this passage, we see the church going out and spreading the joy of Christ to the areas beyond Jerusalem. But it wasn’t without a push. With the death of Stephen, persecution swept the Christian community in Jerusalem under a Pharisee named Saul. The ironic thing is that he hoped to squash Christianity, but not only did he unintentionally cause it’s initial spread by persecuting the church, he would eventually be responsible for its spread throughout the known world as a minister of the gospel.
I wonder, though, if such persecution would have come to such an extent if the apostles had done what they were supposed to do. Jesus told them,
Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)
Then just before his ascension, he told them,
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
And yet though the Spirit had come upon them, they all stayed in Jerusalem. Had they all left Jerusalem to do what Jesus had commanded, would the church still have been persecuted with all the main leaders out of sight of Jerusalem? Perhaps, but it’s possible that a lot of the trouble they suffered would have been avoided.
Even after persecution struck the church, the apostles still refused to leave. Why? I don’t know. Maybe they felt they needed to show their courage to the rest of the church. But in doing so, they continued in disobedience to the Lord’s command.
But others did go out. One of the deacons, Phillip, went to Samaria, a place where Jesus had visited before, but which was despised by the Jews. But Phillip followed in the footsteps of his Lord, not only preaching the gospel there, but performing miracles as well. The result?
There was great joy in that city. (Acts 8:8)
It can be so easy to become self-centered at Christmas. To focus on ourselves and the things we want. But let us remember that Jesus doesn’t want us to focus simply on our own joy, but to take the joy we have received and to spread it to the people around us.
So many people are hurting and are in need of Christ. So let us be filled with his Spirit to the point of overflow, so that every person we touch can be touched by his Spirit and be changed.