How Are You Changed?
April 3, 2016
When the temple police had brought the apostles, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:27-32)
Isn’t it funny how things change? Peter, who blanched at the idea of Jesus’ death, leading to a rebuke from the Lord of “get behind me, Satan!”; Peter, who walked on water for just a few minutes before slipping and falling; Peter, who denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed – this same man is the one speaking forcefully of the might and power and exaltation of the crucified and resurrected Jesus. His witness to the resurrection, and his experience of the power of the Holy Spirit dramatically changes Peter’s life. The visibly imperfect man is now (as Paul would say) made perfect in his weakness; the coward is transformed into a brave rock on which Christ builds his church.
Peter knew that transformation demanded witness. I think we might like to imagine that he was transformed without understanding what was happening – that his understanding of the power of the resurrection to transform the human soul was something he grew into as opposed to consciously chose to witness to. But Peter’s words and action speak otherwise. “We are witnesses to these things,” he says, echoing the words of Jesus – “you will be my witnesses.” Peter was changed by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead; he also chose to change in response to the overwhelming power of that moment.
It’s tempting for me to fall back on the notion that Jesus will transform my life without me knowing. It’s comfortable. It’s easy. It demands precious little of my time, my energy, my effort, my work. But Peter reminds us that it doesn’t always work that way. If we respond, like Thomas, to the resurrected Jesus with our confession that he is our Lord and our God, then it’s time to get to work. It’s time to let complacency go, and let our anxieties about how others may see us, our concerns about how others may receive the good news of Jesus, our worries about being seen as religious zealots – to let all these things go as well. To go back to the Gospels, and our beloved Peter, it is time to know that if we want to walk on water, we must get out of the boat. We must be bold. We must be forceful. We must be convicted. We must be witnesses. God grant us the grace to be that which his resurrection demands – witnesses to the transformative power of the living God, right here in our midst.
Consider your daily life. What does your witness to the resurrection look like? How do your convictions about the power of the Risen Christ change the way you witness to the world around you? Thinking of the example of Peter, what is one thing you might change, with God’s help, starting today?