The Gate of Heaven is very low; only the humble can enter — St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton
Jn 1:33 I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
1 For 1:1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sos′thenes,
Whenever any of us hear a sentence that starts with the line: “God told me to . . ,” we automatically raise an eyebrow and assume that the information that follows is probably an attempt at fraud of some sort. Yet, here are John the Baptist and Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles saying that who they are, what they do, and what they say is somehow given directly by God in some way. In the case of Paul, we know the story from the Damascus Road. I am not sure what authority we allow that story to have in this respect.
Both speak or write with confidence in the conviction that it is indeed as they say: Their authority rests in God. They look at and see reality in the framework of what God has told them and they are certain that indeed the God of Abraham was and is the one who spoke to them.
At the same time, both have the attitude that they must not be the center of attention. “he must increase I must decrease,” Says John. (Jn 3) “I came not with eloquence and wisdom,” says Paul. (1 Cor 2) They seem to say: “I am only the messenger; not the message; not the origin of the message either.
People like that are impossible to argue with. Even the authorities at the temple had a problem with this sort of confidence. (Acts 4:1ff, 5:27ff) Gamaliel and company try to control it, if not outlaw it, but in the end they merely “let it be” in the thought that it might just go away. That, in turn, seems to the antithesis of confidence. It says: We think they might be wrong but we are not sure enough that we are right. Let’s wait and see instead.
It is said we live in a cynical age. Maybe even a post cynical age. Once the junk mail, email spam and phishing attempts, and telephone solicitation calls were somewhat clever, compelling even. It seems that they have quit trying. It is obvious what one is looking at or listening to when these things arrive. Now, the cleverness has been replaced by sheer quantity in the hope that eventually someone will fall for it. Political speech is the same way. Maybe if we say it often enough and loud enough, it will stick in sufficient numbers of skulls that we can win our cause.
Speech and thought has become cheap. It can be reproduced and amplified in awesome volume today. Maybe this was Gamaliel’s hope: That what the early church says would be drowned out by the voices of so many other revolutionaries and false prophets that it became irrelevant.
Has Gamaliel won? Has the cacophony taken over and drowned out all who would say: Thus sayeth the Lord?