Word for the day by Christian Education Forum
St. James the Apostle’s DayActs 8:1-11
Acts 8:1 - “And Saul approved of their killing him. On that day, a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.”
We know that St. James the Apostle was the son of Zebedee and Salome and the elder brother of St. John the disciple (Matthew 4:21-22). James' zeal for Jesus resulted in him being the first of the twelve apostles to be martyred, and he was killed with the sword on the order of King Herod (Acts 12:1-2), around 44 A.D. Every year, Christians celebrate July 25th as St. James the Apostle’s Day.
The passage assigned for today’s devotion (Acts 8:1-11) covers three narratives. Though today’s devotional does not mention St. James the Apostle, the narratives are illustrative of an apostle’s challenges, mission, and gifts. The passage begins with Saul’s approval of Stephen’s killing (Acts 7:59-60), and the persecution and scattering of the church through Judea and Samaria(Acts 8:1). The second narrative is about Philip’s preaching and healing ministry in Samaria (Acts 8:5-8). The third narrative is about Simon the sorcerer who eventually believed Philip’s good news of the Messiah and was baptized (Act 8:9-13).
Meditation on these narratives highlight the intense difficulties that early Christians like Stephen, Philip, and James experienced in order to preach the good news. They denied themselves, took up their cross, and followed (emphasis added) their Master (Luke 9:23).
We know that Saul who was a silent witness to Stephen’s killing (Acts 7:58), approves of his killing (Acts 8:1), and proceeds to persecute Christians, but eventually he becomes a champion of preaching Jesus the Christ after a vision from God. Biblical commentaries suggest that the spectacle of Stephen’s faith, his courage, and the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:55), even when he was facing death at the hands of the Sanhedrin, may have influenced Saul. It is also conceivable that Stephen had no idea that his death would leave such an impact on the history of world.
The persecution of the followers of Christ resulted in a scattering most believers (Acts 8:1), except the apostles. Such a scattering and eviction of believers from the comfort of their homes and hometowns might not have been by choice but by necessity. Yet the outcome of this scattering was that the Gospel reached other parts of the world. The Church grew.
As beneficiaries of the growth of the Church, and as the Church celebrates St. James the Apostle’s Day, it may be appropriate to reflect on the following questions:
How appreciative and grateful are we of times when our lives have benefitted by the lives and sacrifices of others, and the Word of God they shared with us?
What are our challenges, mission, and gifts to serve God?
How are we impacting the growth of the Church, and the world around us by our walk with Christ?
God, grant me the courage to faithfully follow you without doubting your plans for me, and the world
Thought for the Day
I have the potential to leave either a small or a large trail that may influence humanity long after my lifetime. I need the maturity to understand that God is always at work within me and through me, even amid my challenging and disastrous failures.
Dr. Mathew T. Thomas, MTC of Greater Washington, Maryland