When Paul went sightseeing in Athens he became “greatly distressed,” Acts 17:16, on discovering “the city was full of idols” representing the gods the Athenians believed controlled the world, and their lives too. How tragic, that these bright-minded people had been reduced to worshipping objects of their own creation. This wasn’t what God had created humans in his image for.
So Paul shot off to where people gathered in the local market place, verse 18, and started “preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.” But why that subject right off the bat in a city that knew little to nothing about Jesus or a resurrection? And why was that specific subject stirred in Paul’s mind on seeing all those sculptures and rock carvings of gods?
It got me thinking if Jesus and the resurrection are the subjects that need preaching about today too, though, because we’re in a pandemic in which most people, it seems, simply go along with the “gods” of our making too. Because we too have gods that we believe control the world and our lives, namely our government and the media. So whatever they say is what we base our lives, hopes and emotional responses on. Which seems to be the only explanation I can think of for our mob panic and fear at the latest virus outbreak or variant.
How tragic that in our highly sophisticated and progressive world we’ve been reduced to lemming like behaviour, where instead of critical thinking or taking a step back to think things through a bit more stoically, we’re being ruled by our emotions instead. It’s understandable, I suppose though, because government and media are in our faces every day with their hyped up versions of what’s happening to keep us glued to them and the god-like status and power they’ve suddenly found themselves with.
But how would talking about Jesus and the resurrection have any impact on that? It didn’t make any difference in Athens, because the leading thinkers thought Paul was just “babbling” on about stuff that had no connection to the world they were living in (verse 18). But it did get their attention, enough for them to ask what Paul was getting at.
So he explained it, that the entire reason for our existence as humans was to connect up with the living God who really does have control over everything that’s happening in our world, and our lives too. And the reason for wanting to connect up wth this living God is because we are his children and he deeply loves us and wishes we’d contact him because he’d respond to us if we did (verses 24-28).
And the reason for him wanting to respond to us is because he “set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed,” verse 31. Everything in our lives, in other words, revolves around this “man” he appointed to straighten out our mess, and straighten out the people causing it.
And the proof that such a man exists with that kind of power and compassion is his resurrection from the dead. So he’s a human just like us, which means he totally understands what we’re going through and how to deal with it, and he’s alive right now as well in the process of making the world God made for his children into a wonderful place to live in. No pandemics, no emotional hype from the government or media, no mob panic and fear, and no more useless gods of our own making that we base our lives on.
And all our living, loving God wants from us is to believe it. So if we’re having trouble believing it because all we can see is just more trouble and even worse times coming, he’ll respond to us if we reach out to him. We’re his kids, for heaven’s sake, so of course he’ll respond to us if we cry out to him. And especially if we’re crying out to him to become part of the restoration of our amazing planet, and even more so to restore us humans into his image, rather than be reduced to pathetic lemmings. Because this is what he’s sending his “appointed man” to make possible right now, and for certain in full at an appointed time in the future (verse 31).
So is it a good time to preach Jesus and the resurrection? Well, in Athens some people “believed,” verse 34, and they wanted to know more, so if it happened then, why not now too?