In the thirteenth chapter of Acts, we encounter again a relation of God's promises fulfilled, preached by Paul and Barnabas. We also encounter the claims of Bar-Jesus or Elymas (Acts 13:6-12).. It is this encounter upon which I offer this reflection.
As Paul, John, and Barnabas set out upon a journey to spread the word about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, they encountered those who disagreed with them and those they confronted. Amongst these, the figure of Bar-Jesus (like that of Simon Magus in Acts 8), hold some interest for me. The cultures in which Paul and the other apostles and followers of Jesus ministered were full of men (and sometime women) who claimed to hold divinely inspired power to do all sort of beneficial and malevolent things. They claimed to heal, to harm, to protect, to win a lover, and to eliminate an enemy. Divine power was called upon to serve the purposes of people.
Paul and Barnabas will have none of it. The power of the Holy Spirit, as Paul and Barnabas experienced it, was to share God's grace to forgive and to make whole. Paul rebuked the idea that Divine Power was to satisfy our desires and wants. Divine Power exists to save us from the false claims of a priest-magician.
Who are the priest-magicians in my world? Who promises to invoke divine or human aid to fulfill my wishes and thwart those who oppose me? How do the promises they make stack up the promises of God through Jesus and through the core message of the missionaries and apostles amongst the earliest followers of Jesus? The followers of Jesus in Acts promise grace through Jesus' sacrifice, not that all of my problems will be solved or that my wishes will be gratified. This chapter of Acts reminds me that my faith is in the saving grace of God