42 As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath. 43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.
44 The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. 45 But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, reviling him. 46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.Acts 13:42–46
Happy Wednesday, everyone. I was reading through Acts in my Bible readings last week, I almost missed the message in the above passage. I read it over, basically glossing over it. And then something told me to read it again.
In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas came to Antioch to preach the good news of Jesus to the Jews, and the Jews were receptive. More than receptive, in verse 42 we see that they “begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath.” They were begging. Amazing, right? They were eager to hear! Except, they weren’t expecting the message that Paul and Barnabas would be preaching that following week.
But first, we need to go back a few chapters for some context. In Acts 10, Cornelius, a righteous Gentile, was asked by God to send for the apostle Peter. As a Gentile, this wouldn’t have been expected, as Jews and Gentiles did not associate.
However, many Jews had rejected Jesus, and therefore rejected God. In other words, the invitations for a great party had been handed out, and instead of them being received with joy, they were spat on.
Before Cornelius’ messengers reached Peter, God gave Peter a vision, which we see in verses 9–15:
9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”Acts 10:9–15
The vision wasn’t merely in reference to animals, but to the Gentiles as well. God was telling Peter that the Gentiles, should they accept Christ as Lord, were also just as ‘clean’ as the Jews. We see that by Peter’s statement in verse 34–35:
34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”Acts 10:34–35
This had huge implications. God’s invitation of eternal life, after being spat upon by the Jews, was now being extended to the Gentiles. And after a moment, I realized that this concept of ‘extending the invitation’ sounded familiar. That’s because it is. It sounds like Matthew 22, in the parable Jesus shares:
2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.Matthew 22:2–10
So now that we have our context, let’s jump back to Acts 13. After the Jews had been receptive to Paul’s teachings, he came back the following week since he had been graciously invited. And with Acts 13:46, Paul tells the Jews that the Gentiles will now receive God’s gifts instead. In verses 48–50, the Gentiles rejoiced, and the Jews became angry.
48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.Acts 13:48–50
So this leads me to ask: do you act more like the Jews or Gentiles in this passage? Sometimes Jesus will reach out to those who we deem ‘unworthy’. Maybe they don’t pray or worship the same way we do. Maybe they’re a newcomer to Christ, and so you don’t take them or their faith seriously.
To rejoice means to be full of joy. Are you full of joy when baptisms take place at your church? Are you joyful when those who had strayed start seeking the Lord? Or, are you like the loyal son in the Prodigal Son story, bitter and unwelcoming to his brother, not wanting to share Christ’s love or heaven? What I’m asking is—are you joyful for Jesus, or are you joyful for the reward?
If we’re joyful for Jesus, then we find joy in what the Lord delights in: our hearts turning to Him. But if we forget Jesus, and instead source our joy in our prize, i.e. something we can possess, then greed will spring up and take control. It’s not about how good we are or seem to be; it’s about how vulnerable we are with Christ. The only way to reach holiness is via intimacy with Jesus, which leads to a love for others.
So I’ll ask again: are you joyful for Jesus, or are you joyful for the reward? It’s an important question.