Easter 2 • Acts 4:32–35 • April 15, 2012
By Erik Herrmann
My children love to listen to the songs of Justin Roberts (a virtual “rock star” of the kid music world)—years of minivan rides have engraved most of the lyrics onto my brain. One of his songs is based on the story of the “Three Little Pigs.” Actually, it is sort of a postmodern deconstruction of the traditional story. Instead of inculcating the prudence of long-range planning, investment, and sweat equity, Roberts reads the fairy tale against the grain and turns the meaning on its head:
Now the third little pig built a house of bricks
And he got real old and he got real sick
‘Cause it takes a long time to build a house of bricks
And while you build the house the clocks go tick…tick…tick
Sure there’s a lot of strife,
But I ain’t gonna let no wolf run my life.
Perhaps I am making a silk purse out of a…ahem…sow’s ear, but such a radical reinterpretation of life and values reminds me of this text. That is to say, Easter—by definition—turns everything on its head. And it seems that what Luke gives us is a glimpse into what life can look like when you actually believe in “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” It is a striking picture of fellowship and community—“the full number of those that believed were of one heart and soul…they had everything in common…there was not a needy person among them.” But lest we get caught up in utopian visions, remember that this passage comes on the heels of violent threats and impending persecution. The rulers and elders of Israel, who, alongside the “Gentiles,” had “raged against the Lord and his Anointed,” were now turning their wrath against those who testified to the resurrection of Jesus.
What is one to do in the face of such danger, in the face of death? Oddly enough…they share. They give to those in need. They sell their property and offer the money to those among them who are hungry and poor. But aren’t they paying any attention? Don’t they know what could happen? Shouldn’t they be stocking up for the storm, preparing for the onslaught, bracing themselves against the bloodthirsty? But they don’t do any of these things. Their actions are not governed by fear of death, but by freedom…the freedom of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. “Sure there’s a lot of strife”—but Christ is risen!—and the “wolf” can’t run my life. Notice how, contrary to popular opinion, belief in the resurrection does not require retreat from this life, but propels one into it. Putting to death the uncertainty of tomorrow, the resurrection frees us to love lavishly, even recklessly, today.
Luke singles out Barnabas as an example of such faith and generosity. He is described as a Levite. It is a curious detail given the context. The Levites were traditionally without land. As the one tribe set apart for service in the temple, the Levites were given no particular inheritance in Canaan but relied upon the tithe of the other tribes to provide them with cities to live in and fields to tend. Thus, it seems like a remarkable reversal for Barnabas the Levite to be the benefactor rather than the beneficiary. But when we read why the Levites were not given land, it is perhaps not that odd: “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel” (Nm 18:20). I am your portion and your inheritance… beautiful… a future found in God. That’s Easter. That’s actually believing in “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”