Uniform 03.16.2014: Passing It On

Psalm 110:1-4; Acts 2:22-24, 29-32

When I tell my mother that I don’t feel old enough to have been a mom for nearly ten years, she laughs and says, “Try being a mom for nearly thirty-seven years.” To which I reply, “Thanks for reminding me how old I am.”

Honestly, there are many days when I can’t pinpoint my age. Once I hit thirty-five, I kind of stopped counting, and now I have to do the math whenever anyone asks. Not that people ask often. On most days, I’m focused on my children’s ages. When did I last measure their height and mark it on their growth charts? When’s the next birthday coming? What kind of party will my daughter want when she turns seven? Are both girls reaching the right milestones? Is it time to schedule their yearly health and dental checkups? Are their shoes too small? Am I preparing my older girl for the changes her body will undergo in the next five years? How much should she know at this point? Am I giving my little one the same kind of regard I gave her big sister? When will she be ready for Harry Potter?

Some questions are essential, while others are more lighthearted. But one question hovers above them all, and it’s often the hardest for me to answer: am I teaching my daughters what it means to love God with all their hearts, minds, and strength, and to love others as they love themselves (Mt 22:36-40)?

When it comes to teaching my children, faith is a sticky issue for me. I want them to see my faith in my life. I don’t want to indoctrinate them. Sometimes, though, I’m afraid that I err too heavily on one side. In order to avoid telling them what they should believe, I don’t tell them enough about what I believe.

Natalie is almost seven now, but a few years ago, just before she turned four, she asked me this question: “Mama, which one is God, and which one is Jesus?”

Talk about feeling like a religious failure. How did I miss teaching her this lesson? But then I realized that, to be frank, there are times when even I don’t know the difference, and I certainly don’t know how to articulate it. I bumbled through an answer anyway, telling her that God is the one we can’t see, the one who made the whole world and everything in it, the planets and the universe beyond. I told her that Jesus is the person whom God sent to earth as a baby. He was born just like we were born, and he grew up and lived and taught and showed us what God is like. Since we can’t see God, God sent us Jesus.

It wasn’t a great explanation, so I tried to hear my words as Natalie might hear them—literally. Judging by her next question, I didn’t do such a good job of putting myself in her shoes.

“How can God make everything if he isn’t real?” she asked.

What? Is that what I’d said? No. It was simply that, for Natalie, visibility equaled reality. What is real is what we see. What we see is what is real.

“God is real, honey,” I replied. “He’s—he’s….”

Where is he? And is he even a he? My internal dialogue won out for a moment, and it bothered me. I couldn’t answer my kid’s question in a way that she would understand. As I grasped for a better answer, she followed a completely new train of thought. I finally realized that she was no longer interested, and I stopped trying to explain the unexplainable.

But later that night, my little girl’s questions haunted me because I found that I couldn’t answer them honestly—not even for myself.

As Peter built the spiritual foundations of the early church, he emphasized the importance of sharing the story of God down through the generations. He stood in front of brand-new Christ followers and tried to explain how Jesus was connected to the long-awaited hopes of their past. “Remember King David?” he asked. “Well, we have his tomb with us today. He died, and his body’s still buried. But God told him about a future descendent who would sit on the throne. David knew that this person’s body would never decay. And guess what? God’s promise has come true. Jesus was raised up. We saw this happen, and now we can tell others about it.” (Acts 2:29-32)

There will always be parts of our faith that we can’t articulate, explain, or even understand. Even so, we are charged with passing it on. The generations of the past did this, preserving the words and actions of Christ. Today, we know those words and actions, and we too are responsible for sharing them with our children, who will share them with their children, and on and on. It’s both a weighty responsibility and a glorious privilege, especially when the kids grow old enough to turn our questions back toward us, challenging us to find bolder, better answers.


1. Have you ever tried to share your faith with a child? With an adult who doesn’t believe? With a fellow believer whose thoughts about Christ differ from yours? What was the experience like?
2. Has anyone asked you a question about your beliefs that you found difficult to answer? How did you handle it?
3. What do you think makes your faith strong? Do you need to have all the answers?
4. What do you think it was like to be an Israelite who heard stories from your ancestors about the promised Messiah? What do you think it was like to be a new Christian in the crowd, listening to Peter make the stunning connection between David and Jesus Christ?
5. Why do you think it’s so important for us to “pass it on”? How do we pass our faith on to others? How do we decide what to share and how to share it?

Reference Shelf

Verses 22-32 turn attention directly to Jesus himself, giving further comment to “this thing” (v. 16) that the Jewish audience does not understand (v. 12). Peter’s approach is to summarize the Jesus story (vv. 22-24) and then to quote and interpret Scripture in light of Christian experience (vv. 25-32).

Peter assumes that his audience knows about Jesus and the mighty works, wonders, and signs that God accomplished through him (v. 22). It is Philistine to ask how every Jew in Peter’s audience could know this. The Lukan Gospel has offered many scenes where Jesus spoke the word and did the works of God before the people, with Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem being the culmination of his public ministry. Understanding the Jewish multitude as a “character” on the dramatic stage of the story allows readers to connect Peter’s audience with “the people” who appeared on stage during the last week of Jesus’ life.

Peter claims that through the mighty deeds, God was “vouching for” or “legitimizing” (apodedeigmenon) Jesus to these Jerusalemites. Yet they rejected him: “you crucified and killed [him] by the hands of lawless men” (v. 23). Summarized here is Luke’s Passion Narrative, free of the nuances of the more extended narrative. For example, Luke’s tendency to place most of the blame on the Jewish leaders in the Gospel itself (see especially Luke 24:20) is appropriately omitted here, given that Peter’s audience is the citizenry itself, not their leaders. The reference to “lawless” men likely refers to those who do not live under Jewish law, the Romans.

This death Peter declares was “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” The juxtaposition, without comment, of human agency and divine plan, often leaves modern commentators looking for a logical reconciliation between two seemingly inconsistent ideas: human freedom and divine sovereignty. The death of Jesus, however, was overcome by God’s act of raising Jesus from the dead. According to Acts, this initial presentation of the gospel focused on the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is echoed by Paul’s summary of the early kerygma that was delivered to him (see 1 Cor 15:3-4). This message lies at the heart of genuinely Christian proclamation from the earliest days of the church.

Peter describes God has having “loosed the pangs of death” (v. 24). This peculiar metaphor is explained in part by the fact that the Hebrew word for “bond,” which would make perfect sense here (“God loosed the bonds of death”), was almost identical to the Hebrew word for “pangs,” as in “birth pangs.” On occasion, translators of the LXX would translate the Hebrew phrase “bonds of death” as “pangs of death” (see LXX of 2 Sam [LXX = 2 Kgs] 22:6; Ps 18 [LXX = 17]:5).

The metaphor of “birth pangs” could denote the woes and tribulations that would precede the glorious manifestation of the “Age to Come” (Mark 13:8 || Matt 24:8). It is possible that the use of this phrase to describe Jesus’ death shows an early understanding of the death of Jesus as a piece of the trails, tribulations, and sufferings which must precede the end-time triumph of God. For Jesus, this victory has been won through God’s raising him from the dead. For Jesus’ followers and the rest of creation the present is still a time to endure the “birth pangs” (cf. Rom 8:18-25, 28-30).


J. Bradley Chance, Acts, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2008).

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor for Smyth & Helwys curriculum since 2001. She is a member of West Highland Baptist Church in Macon, Georgia. She enjoys reading and writing fiction, spending time with her husband and two daughters, and watching British television shows. Her goal for 2014 is to learn to play the piano.


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