A Fresh Wholeness: Reflections on Acts 4:5-12

In the light of Luke's earlier reference to Psalm 117:22 (in the Septuagint version) in his gospel at the end of Jesus' parable of the vineyard (Lk. 20:17), he here in Acts 4:11 addresses the religious leaders specifically as those builders "who have rejected the cornerstone," who is Jesus. In fact, to make his implication even more plain, Luke replaces the Septuagint verb "reject" with his own verb "scorn" (not in the NRSV's translation) in order to read "the stone that was scorned by you the builders;" this verb is used twice in his gospel to describe the attitude of leaders (see Lk. 18:9 and 23:11). And he also adds "by you" to the Septuagint psalm to make clear that those who are listening to him today in the Sanhedrin are specifically implicated in the murder of Jesus.

But their killing has ironically lead to this astonishing announcement: "Salvation is in no other, for neither is there another name under heaven given to humans by which we must be saved" (4:12). The name of Jesus, unlike any other name, brings now "salvation," healing and wholeness and newness of life to those who believe. Perhaps one way to understand this new claim is by reference to the Hebrew shalom, a term that in part underlies the Greek term salvation. The Hebrew means, at the base, "wholeness" or "unity" or "oneness." What salvation in Jesus promises is a fresh wholeness, a divine unity whereby a broken world can be restored.

It is nothing less than tragic that the idea of "being saved" has too often done precisely the opposite; it has divided people rather than united them. Ironically it will do that as well in the ongoing story of Acts, as Jews and early Christians grew further and further apart. Still, as the famous, and infamous, John 3:16 proclaims, "God so loved the cosmos" and sent Jesus, "not to condemn the cosmos," but in order that the "cosmos might be made whole," restored, made one again. By implication, any time that the name of Jesus is used to divide, and not unite, to generate hatred and not love, to separate person from person rather than join them together, that name has been besmirched, misused, profaned. We Christians, all of us, would do well to meditate on our use of Jesus' name and ask ourselves what use we have made and make of it in our own faith lives.

4/22/2012 4:00:00 AM