Weekly Meditation - 23rd April 2017
Acts 2:14a, 22-32
1st Peter 1:3-9
In these readings, for the week following Easter, we see the value of what Jesus’ death and resurrection bought for us, the outworking of our salvation.
In his resurrection body, Jesus appeared to his disciples, giving them physical proof – visible and tangible – that he had conquered death (John 20:20, 27). He gave them his peace, promised them the Holy Spirit (20:21-22), and to Thomas – the doubter - he showed his matchless grace and mercy, not rejecting Thomas for his initial disbelief, but returning to invite him to see and touch (20:14-27). Jesus drew from Thomas the most powerful declaration of his divinity, words that have remained as one of the strongest proof texts for the Trinity (20:28).
Belief in the resurrection is central to the Christian faith, and the faith of the apostles was essential for the future of Christianity. It was necessary that there were eye-witnesses of the resurrection so that the story could be perpetuated, and future generations could in turn put faith in Jesus.
This was first demonstrated by Peter when he addressed the crowd that had gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost. Newly filled with the Spirit, Peter seized the opportunity and gave a concise account of Jesus’ ministry, trial and death (Acts 2:22-23). He then used the remainder of his speech (2:24-36) to testify to the resurrection of Jesus, of which he and the other disciples were “all witnesses” (2:32). Peter reasoned from the Scriptures to prove that 'it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him' (2:24). He quoted Psalm 16:8-11 (Acts 2:25-28), revealing how King David had long before been inspired to write of the resurrection of Jesus. Peter proved that the words 'you will not abandon me to the grave nor will you let you Holy One see decay' could not apply to David himself, for 'David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day' (Acts 2:29), but the promise was to one of David’s descendants who would reign in his place (Acts 2:30). Jesus was this descendant of David (see Matthew 1:1-16), legally entitled to the throne of Israel, and Israel’s messiah. If his ministry had not been sufficient proof, the resurrection set the seal on Christ’s messiahship.
Peter’s faith in the resurrection of Jesus was further demonstrated in his first letter. He writes that God has given us 'new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus' (1 Peter 1:3). The resurrection was the most graphic demonstration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death, and of 'an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade' (v 4). Because of the proof we have of God’s power over death, Peter can assure his readers, and us, that they have every reason to rejoice even through grief and trials - which come only that their faith might be refined like gold (v 6-7). Christians today have not been eye-witnesses either to Jesus’ ministry or to the resurrection, but because of the strength of the apostles’ testimony and of the way in which they disseminated their faith, we can all share in their confidence and experience their 'inexpressible and glorious joy', ultimately receiving 'the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls' (v 8-9).
Jesus’ own earthly ministry resulted in about a hundred and twenty followers (see Acts 1:15). The resurrection and subsequent coming of the Holy Spirit transformed the disciples of Jesus into a fearless, articulate cluster of gospel-proclaimers. Peter’s first sermon caused 'about three thousand to be added to their number' (see Acts 2:41). It was the resurrection that made the difference. Because of the apostles’ faith in, and witness to the resurrection, the gospel spread throughout Jerusalem, into Asia Minor and eventually to the whole world.