This Week’s Lectionary Text: Acts 2:14a, 22-32
But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. “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.
According to the writings of Acts, it seems that those who had been with Jesus did get on task pretty quickly and suddenly turned into witnesses rather than limiting themselves to being followers. This passage is part of Peter’s “Pentecost Proclamation”. You can hear the excitement in the voice of the writer. There really is a desire to get everyone on board, to let everyone see what the witnesses have seen, what the witnesses now know. The problem is that with most of us humans, there’s always a “but”, an excuse, a really, really, really good reason why we can’t fully commit to what God is calling us to do.
At first reading, it seems that there exists a strong belief here in the notion of Jesus’ death being “pre-ordained” by God. I’m not so sure about that though. If God did “pre-ordain” Jesus’ crucifixion, does that also mean that God “pre-ordained” the Crusades, the Holocaust, and the terrorist act of September 11, 2001? I mean, where does it stop? Whatever happened to free will? Are we just pawns in some great divine chess game waiting for God to move us to the next place? I have to tell you, that’s not my image of God.
As the Scripture says, I think God actually DID intend to hand this God Incarnate over to us, to give up a piece of Divine control, to invite us to respond to this incredible act of God literally walking in our midst. Think about it…you know how you take that favorite jacket to the dry cleaners? Life is not designed such that you can stand there and watch them check it in, go through the dry cleaning process, and hang it back in its environmentally-unfriendly plastic bag (yes, that was a little bit of a dig!), all the while making sure that it is properly tagged and identified and gets to where it needs to go. No, the truth is, you hand it over to the cleaner. Now, at the risk of comparing the Son of God to a really cute jacket, God handed over the human part of God to us. God relinquished control. It was up to us. But…but we messed up. No excuses this time! We royally messed up. We didn’t like change; we didn’t like being told that the way that we had figured out how to live was not the right way; and we didn’t like the idea that we could no longer control our own destiny. So, we killed God. We lost the Divine in our midst, if only for a moment.
BUT…”God raised him up”. BUT God stepped in and found what was lost, redeemed what was gone, and made alive what was once dead. THAT is what we are called to witness–not that something awful that God had supposedly “pre-ordained” happened, but that God had “pre-ordained” handing the very Godself over to us. And when we didn’t respond the way we should have, God stepped in yet again–not to punish, not to “undo”, but to take the worst of humanity and recreate it into the best of God. Now, my friends, THAT is a good story. THAT is something to which we can witness!
This is the season when God shows us how to be more than followers, how to be witnesses and doers, how to BE Christ in the world…no “buts”…we really are supposed to do it!
Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed!
Grace and Peace,