|Peter Preaching in Jerusalem|
This gives special prominence to the dramatic difference the Resurrection made to the lives of the disciples, and gives us a feel for the radical change they underwent. Life with the historical Jesus had itself been powerfully transforming, yet it now turns out that this was only a pale reflection of what life in the spirit of the Risen Christ was to be.
Today’s short passage from Acts reveals that a marked feature of this ‘new life in Christ’ is a special kind of fearlessness. Peter is in conflict with the Temple police and the High Priest once more. But how very different is this Peter from the one who denied Jesus out of fear, and then burst into tears as he acknowledged his own wretched fearfulness. Now he speaks out boldly, even though he knows the risks that he runs by doing so. The important point for us is that the Resurrection has not put an end to persecution and oppression. These things continue, and intensify even; tradition has it that Peter himself was crucified in the end. But the Resurrection gave him, as it gives us, the Spirit with which to overcome fear.
|Incredulity of St Thomas - Matthias Stom (1620)|
By taking us back to the theme of Advent, the lesson from Revelation makes the same point. “Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”. This is the passage that provided Charles Wesley with the words of his great Advent hymn. In the light of the Resurrection, we can now read them differently. It is God, not human institutions like the Roman Empire or the Temple police, who will be our ultimate Judge.
It is against this background we should understand the famous 'Doubting Thomas' episode that this week's Gospel of John records. Thomas is granted his demand for empirical evidence. But his declaration 'My Lord and My God' goes far beyond anything that his eyes or fingers might be called upon to confirm. Perhaps this is why John notes, but does not recount all the other Resurrection signs. Faith in the risen Christ is not simply a belief about an historical event. It is something that sets us free to live with the confidence that the love of God alone can give.