Jesus Is

“After [Paul’s] arrival he gave great assistance to those who had come to believe through grace.  He vigorously refuted the Jews in public, establishing from the Scriptures that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 18:27b-28).  Those are the closing words of our first reading today.  It captures nicely what this whole section of Acts is all about.  Paul, invigorated by the Holy Spirit, is supporting, nurturing, growing, and defending the primitive church and the disciples it is composed of.  And why do this?  Why does he face persecution, arrest, and beatings?  Why does he stand for people he has never met, even former gentiles?  Why does he stand against his own people?  It really is a tense question.

No, I mean it.  It is a question of tense.  See how the last part of Acts 18 renders it, “the Christ is Jesus.”  This is a present tense statement.  10 times out of 10 you should talk about someone who was crucified in the past tense because they are, well you know, dead.  But Acts doesn’t read, “The Christ was Jesus.”  Instead, it says, “The Christ is Jesus.”  He still lives.

This is why St Paul does what he does the way he does it.  Not because Jesus was merciful, kind, stern, passionate, meek, humble, intense, etc, but because he is those things.  Jesus is.  That changes everything.  Death has lost, good can’t be outmaneuvered by evil, and justice and mercy will have the last word said in unison.

As we close this reflection, I find myself drawn to Matt Maher’s song, “Because He Lives.”  I’ll leave some of the lyrics below, but please, go and find it here if you don’t know it.  As we look at St. Paul, I think the words of this song tell us exactly why he lived, served, and died the way he did.

“…I believe in the risen One
I believe I overcome
By the power of His blood

…I’m alive, I’m alive
Because He lives…

I was dead in the grave
I was covered in sin and shame
I heard mercy call my name
He rolled the stone away…

Because He lives
I can face tomorrow
Because He lives
Every fear is gone
I know He holds my life my future in His hands…”

Jesus, you not only lived, but you live.  You are present.

Amen

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