This week's lesson from Acts is a speech widely regarded as the earliest and definitive statement of the Christian ‘kerygma’ -- the essential Gospel, or Good News of redemption in Christ. Peter makes this speech in the market place shortly after the disciples’ explosive experience on the Day of Pentecost., and the point he is most concerned to highlight is that Jesus stood in King David’s line, but brought the Messiahship of God to a fulfillment far surpassing even David’s greatness. Since, as most in Peter's audience would have known, Jesus had recently been crucified as a criminal, this is a truly remarkable claim, and the most powerful evidence we have of the dramatic difference that the Resurrection had made to the psychology of the disciples. These are men transformed by new theological insight into the ways of the God in whom they had always believed.
The Epistle may or may not have been written by Peter himself, but it conveys the same vibrant message to a fledgling church, this time in the form of a song of praise rather than a sermon. In these few beautiful sentences we witness a transition from theology to liturgy – and indeed, thanks to the 19th century English cathedral composer S S Wesley, this text has become one of the most widely sung choral anthems for Easter.
|The Incredulity of St Thomas -- Matthias Stom|
The Gospel passage for this Sunday has also stimulated great art. Several famous paintings show‘doubting’ Thomas examining the wound in Jesus’ side. Their slightly chilling realism is a powerful reminder of how, when it is taken past a certain point, understandable skepticism can make us incapable of wonder. Thomas insists that he must see the bodily evidence with his own eyes, but Jesus insists that believing without seeing is more blessed. The post-Resurrection appearances of a bodily Jesus, in fact, proved to be a short lived gift to just a few disciples. The enduring truth of the Resurrection, and the significance of its redeeming power, on the other hand, is perpetually waiting to be experienced in the Body of Christ that is given to us in the sacrament of communion. Available to all who will receive it in penitence, trust and adoration, the Resurrection is the ‘mystery of faith’ that Christians proclaim Sunday by Sunday.