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  • Writer's picturePastor Elaine

Fourth Sunday of Easter: "On the Change in Peter"

Is this the same Peter from a few weeks ago?


“May the words from my lips and the meditations of our hearts always be pleasing to you O God.”


Our reading this morning from the Book of Acts finds us in the middle of a story.  Let’s get caught up!


Peter and John have been wandering around, telling people about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  They have been making converts and this has the religious authorities a little on edge.  There is talk that thousands are becoming believers!  But what gets Peter and John in so much trouble that they are under house arrest?


They healed a man.


So the authorities put them under arrest until they can gather to question them.


This group  - the Sadducees did not believe in resurrection. But that’s not really the issue.  It is more an issue of power - they liked their power and did not want to lose it.


This group of leaders  were not strangers to Peter and John - they were their people.  The people in the temple, the people who oversaw the law and religious life.  Impossible at the time to separate the two.


This group, the Sadducees, were also the ones that Jesus stood before and that condemned him to death.


But this does not seem like the same Peter.  The Peter we are most recently aware of denied Jesus - three times.  Peter, whom Jesus would call “The Rock”.  The Peter that Jesus saw as a future effective leader.  That Peter had denied Jesus.  He had fled from the cross.  He had hidden in a house with the door barred.  He had been afraid.


But Peter had been changed.  Our scriptures tell us that Peter had experienced the risen Christ.  This experience made him a different person.  As Acts tell us, he was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Now he could proclaim the risen Christ.  Now he could preach the Gospel.  Now he could bring others to belief in Christ.  Now he could heal.  Now he could stand before the legal and religious authorities and speak with conviction.


For the leaders, the arrest of Peter and John and the subsequent interrogation was about power and authority. They want to know under whose authority or power they were working.  There is power in a name as we read today.


Peter kind of changes the narrative here.  He almost seems to be asking - what’s the big deal?  We did a good deed.  Here was a man, a person who had to beg in order to eat and to survive. Peter and John did a good thing.  They healed him and he rejoiced.  


So what is the problem?


The Book of Acts tells us that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit.  As a result, he can counter the charges of the Sadducees.  He now knows what to say.  Like Moses and Aaron, he has the words.


He can preach about the risen Christ - the Messiah.  


Peter does not claim that he and John brought about the healing on their own.  He tells the authority that the healing has come about because of the name Jesus of Nazareth - and then reminds them that this is the man that they had crucified!


There is power in a name.  Peter is telling them that there is power in the name of Jesus.


We are told that before the arrest the Sadducees were “greatly annoyed”.  What do you think their mood was now?


Not only had Peter and John been preaching and proclaiming the good news they had been telling people that they had experienced the risen Christ.  They were making converts - The Book of Acts tells us that 5,000 had come to belief.  They healed a man and said that it was because of the name of Jesus of Nazareth.


And so they find themselves in front of Annas, the high priest, Caiphas, John and Alexander, and all who were of the priestly family.  And Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit and dares to challenge the authorities.  He quotes - or rather, misquotes - a psalm when he declares that Jesus is the cornerstone that was rejected by them. Peter tells them that upon Christ, the cornerstone, God is building a new world that is overflowing with wholeness and well being for all.  No wonder so many were coming to believe.  This is a powerful, positive message that we still want to hear - want to proclaim - want to share.


Peter  tells the authorities in no uncertain words that Jesus is now the centre and the strength.  


Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah.  It is Jesus who will bring Salvation.


How do you think the authorities responded?  They were the primary opponents to the Christian message.  They liked their power.  They wanted to control the power that has been given to the followers of Jesus.  Peter answers them simply that the name of Jesus Christ is the source of physical, spiritual and social well-being.


Peter and John were preaching about the resurrected Jesus, this was their reality - a reality that overcomes anything that would try to restrict it.


This was not good news to the members of the high priestly family gathered to interrogate Peter and John.  Our reading ends with Peter’s reminder that they crucified Jesus.  But the story does not end here.  Peter and John have challenged the religious and legal authorities.  I do not think they will let this go.  


The Peter that we read about today is a very different Peter from the man who denied his dear friend and teacher three times.  A very different man who fled from Jesus’ death on a cross.  A very different man from one of the 12 who hid in a room.


Peter’s experience of the resurrected Jesus, the risen Christ, has called him to repentance.  Peter now preaches that those who denied Christ should repent and receive him - in spite of Roman oppression.


Peter has learned not to fear death.  Peter now preaches that God, in Christ, overcomes evil, suffering and death.  He shares his hard-learned knowledge as he proclaims the risen Christ.


Peter encourages his fellow Israelites to grow in faith and knowledge of God.  This is his message to us as well.


Peter understood the fear and ignorance of his audience.  He understood what motivated their questions and behaviours.


Peter encourages us to receive healing from ignorance, which is the source of fear.


May it be so.

AMEN



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