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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Friday, August 3, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Acts 2:22–36

“You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know—this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power. For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will live in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One experience corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ “Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (NRSV)

This Jesus God raised up, and, of that, all of us are witnesses.

Imagine being someone who could have said this. I know, I know; as twenty-first-century Christians we are empowered to say this now as we reflect on and speak about our experience of the Risen One.

But Peter was talking to a crowd that had just undergone the cacophony and confusion of Pentecost. They had heard the apostles telling the story, each in his or her own language, though they were from all over the known world. Days earlier crazy stories had circulated about Jesus, whose public and brutal execution was common knowledge. Word on the street was that he’d been “raised from the dead.” Whatever that meant. Maybe, incredulous but still hopeful, a believer had even caught a glimpse of him on the shore by the fishing boats or turning a corner on the street. What would that have been like?

It’s heartening to think that these earliest disciples needed help unpacking this bewildering experience. In fact they needed help over and over again. This speech is the first of five in the Acts of the Apostles, speeches in which Peter, and eventually Paul, explain Jesus step-by-step. These newly minted teachers use every tool they can think of, and present the lesson several different ways, so that their hearers can begin to get it, because it’s really big and really new and really radical.

For us, too. We weren’t in the crowd that day to listen to Peter preach, though perhaps we’ve been hearing about Jesus our whole lives. We need to remember just how big and new and radical this tale is and how much our world needs it. Then we need to place ourselves in positions like theirs so that we can keep unpacking the message and our experience of it. It’s why we worship, why we pray, why we study, why we share the story.

God of our ancestors in faith, keep us curious about what it means to be a Christian. Engage and enlighten us so that we may be energetic witnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Amen.

Written by Susan Quaintance, Director, Center for Life and Learning

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