Today’s blog uses the daily reading of the Reformed Churches along with a headline from world news as a focus for reflection
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition (NRSVACE)
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. 14 When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. 16 They said, ‘What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. 17 But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.’ 18 So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; 20 for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.’ 21 After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened.
Here is one of Luke’s snapshots of the first Christian community. Peter and John have healed a man in the name of Jesus. A name has power in ancient Jewish thought. The King’s name on a document gave it authority; while God’s name was too holy even to be spoken. To know someone’s name was to gain some sort of hold upon their lives. In other words, names were no mere words but instruments of power. Peter and John have healed a man using the name of Jesus, indicating that the healing power comes from Jesus’ character working in them rather than from their own ability. Unlike God’s holy name, this holy name can be spoken; like Jesus in his life, it enters into the life of the streets, where of course it risks misuse while offering life to those who are open to receive it.
Clearly this event disturbs the religious authorities, who cannot however deny what has happened: an act of healing has taken place in the public realm. Equally Peter and John are unwilling to deny what they have seen and heard in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. None of it has happened behind closed doors. Why should they keep quiet about it?
Christian faith is not a religion. It arises from events which have happened in the world, first of all in the life of Jesus and the in the lives of his followers. Goodness has been done and spoken. The Christian message is simply a witness to this goodness. Peter and John don’t argue about their convictions; they bear witness to the fact of Jesus and demonstrate his goodness in their actions. That’s what Christianity is; nothing more, nothing less. The facts of faith can live with the facts of the world, such as the threats of war in Korea.
I’m better at witnessing to the fact of Jesus than showing his goodness, but I realise that the credibility of my witness is undermined by my failures of goodness. I keep going however, knowing that the story of Jesus may inspire others to a better goodness than mine.