Acts 17:1-9, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

(sermon note: 04-21 sermon note)

After Paul and Silas had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three sabbath days argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, ‘This is the Messiah, Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you.’ Some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. But the Jews became jealous, and with the help of some ruffians in the marketplaces they formed a mob and set the city in an uproar. While they were searching for Paul and Silas to bring them out to the assembly, they attacked Jason’s house. When they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some believers before the city authorities, shouting, ‘These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has entertained them as guests. They are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying that there is another king named Jesus.’ The people and the city officials were disturbed when they heard this, and after they had taken bail from Jason and the others, they let them go.


Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace. We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of people we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place where your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

This morning’s reading reminds me of the one about an elderly couple who went to their favorite restaurant they’d been visiting together for decades. The man addressed his wife with all sorts of endearments, calling her his “darling,” his “sweetheart,” his “treasure,” and so on. When the wife excused herself and went to the bathroom, the waiter commented to the man, “Wow, you have an amazing relationship with your wife! All those lovely names you call her after all these years!” The man looked at the waiter and responded, “To be honest, it has become a necessity. I actually forgot her name about 3 years ago.”

Most of us do what we must, when we must. Ole boy had enough common sense to know he needed to use loving endearments in addressing his wife instead of, “hey you!” or “wifey!” I imagine most wives would prefer being addressed by loving endearments rather than their names anyways. I know I prefer it over my name! Ole boy was in a win-win situation after all…

I say most of us do what we must, when we must. There are undoubtedly some of us who refuse to do what is necessary simply because they like being defiant. Not all of us do what is necessary, and I suppose this is one of the reasons why the world is the way it is, full of fear and doubt. If only we all did what is necessary, then perhaps the world would operate a little more smoothly. In our reading from Acts, we heard that Paul and Silas taught a rather counter-intuitive lesson to the good people of Thessalonica. It says that for “three sabbath days [they] argued with them from the scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead.” Most people would claim that anybody’s death is necessary for anything. Death is the great enemy of life. Death separates us from our loved ones in this world. Sure, Paul tells us later in 1 Thessalonians that we “will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” but still, there is a separation, however momentary it may be, in death. There’s a reason why we despise death. We are separated from loved ones in this world and that is frightening and cruel. Why does God allow for such separation? Perhaps to enhance the joy we’ll experience when we are reunited with them in heaven. Perhaps to make our own deaths more appealing knowing what awaits us on the other side. I don’t know why God allows for death and the separation that results from it. I pray God will explain it to me one fine day. In the meantime, I’ll continue to be frustrated with him for allowing separation between loved ones.

Paul makes the bold assertion that it was “necessary” for Jesus to suffer and die and rise from the dead. I think we have to be very careful how we hear his words. For Jesus, his suffering and death had a very specific purpose. It was a means to an end. Jesus’ suffering and death gave us new lives in this world and revealed there is life after death. Death is not an end but rather a beginning. We know nothing more about what awaits us in the next world from Jesus’ death and resurrection. All we know is that there can be new life that arises from death. Jesus’ suffering and death was only “necessary” for new life to occur.

Are Jesus’ suffering and death the only necessities of scripture? I’ve reflected on this throughout the week and come to realize there are a few more necessary tenets in this life of Christian faith. Evidently Paul wasn’t the only one who thought Jesus’ suffering and death was necessary. Jesus himself repeatedly told his disciples that his suffering and death were necessary. Paul was simply echoing Jesus’ words. Jesus taught us a few other lessons on necessity. We heard in John’s gospel Jesus teaching Nicodemus, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” (3:3) If we are to see and experience the kingdom of God, then we must claim the new life that Jesus suffered and died for. Jesus’ resurrection is the key to the kingdom! And as with all new life, it all begins in a pure, naïve form. Hence, Jesus’ deep love for children. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2-3) And it’s important to remember Jesus didn’t consider the kingdom of God or heaven as a far-off place. No, the kingdom can be seen and experienced here in this world! We must simply carry ourselves with the same fearlessness and inquisitiveness as children in this world.

Both Paul and Jesus taught us about what is necessary in this life and in this world. Jesus’ suffering and death were necessary. Living in the new life his resurrection opened to us is necessary. Living with fearlessness and inquisitiveness is necessary. And yes, loving endearments are necessary! Let us give thanks for all of their teachings on what is necessary. Thanks be to God!

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.