In the beginning

Like the apostles’, our witness is a matter of life and death

in the beginning
Father Mike Stubbs is the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and has a degree in Scripture from Harvard University.

by Father Mike Stubbs

The most significant event in Jesus’ life and ministry is never described in the New Testament. Instead, it is only pointed to indirectly.

The last hours of Jesus’ life — his passion and death — are examined in great detail. They all lead up to his resurrection, but that event itself remains hidden.

All four Gospels show us the empty tomb that the women visit on Easter Sunday morning. We hear the angel announcing to them that Jesus is risen.

But the event itself of Jesus’ resurrection takes place during the night, shrouded in mystery. No one sees it.

In Sunday’s first reading — Acts 2:14, 22-23 — speaking on behalf of the Eleven, Peter stands up to testify to Jesus as the Messiah:

“Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders and signs, which God worked through him in your midst.” Peter is pointing to those miracles as a way in which God has witnessed to Jesus.

More importantly, though, Peter points to Jesus’ resurrection as the way in which God validates Jesus. Jesus’ resurrection is the most powerful witness that God can provide.

Significantly, Peter affirms that he and the other apostles are witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection:

“God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.” They did not see it happen, but they saw the evidence that it left.

By raising Jesus from the dead, God was affirming all that Jesus had accomplished in his ministry. God was showing approval of the message that Jesus has been preaching. And most importantly, God was accepting the sacrifice he made on the cross.

In their witness, Peter and the Eleven are echoing the witness that God has borne to Jesus.

He is challenging his audience to accept that witness. He is inviting them to also share in bearing witness. He wants them to be part of this great cloud of witnesses.

It is significant that the Greek word for “witness” gives us the English word “martyr.”

Many of the early Christians would eventually give witness to their faith through the shedding of their blood. The challenge that Peter was making was no light matter.

Similarly, Peter’s words also challenge us to bear witness to Jesus Christ and to take that task seriously.

It may not result in the shedding of our blood, but it still is a matter of life and death, a matter of eternal life and resurrection from the dead.

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Fr. Mike Stubbs

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