Read Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Peter speaks these fiery words on Pentecost Day, but the theme of his address is pure Easter. The message Peter and his fellow apostles have for the Israelites (and, in good time, all the world) is extraordinary. Jesus died a horrible death, but God
raised him up.
While Jesus’ crucifixion took place in public, thereby becoming an all-but-indisputable fact, the resurrection of the Messiah is a different matter. On this topic we settle for the testimony of witnesses. To believe the Easter story we must first determine if we believe Peter. We know well Peter’s less-than-stellar record as a follower of Jesus. We not only remember Peter’s density and desertion; we cringe at the way he incriminates the Israelites. You crucified and killed him, Peter taunts; his accusation reverberates throughout history, leaving a shameful wake.
Why should we believe this imperfect apostle? Is his biblical interpretation pointing to the incorruptibility of Jesus’ flesh persuasive? Is his confident delivery convincing? Can we perceive the power of the Holy Spirit at work in his words?
In all honesty, I can come up with no good reason to believe Peter—at least no reason that relates to Peter himself—or any of the other eleven witnesses with whom he stands that Pentecost Day. The person bearing witness of the good news may be a reformed scoundrel or a sinful saint, a relapsed drunkard or a child with a reputation for crying wolf. I believe Peter’s testimony because what he says about Jesus is profoundly true in my own experience and that of others through the millennia.
Jesus, the holy man from Nazareth, the one through whom God did deeds of power, wonder, and signs, could not be held in death’s grip—and because of this, neither can we.
God of Easter, we hear the good news with glad hearts; make us witnesses with Peter. Amen.
Katherine Willis Pershey is the associate minister of the First Congregational Church in Western Springs, Illinois. Ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Katherine was one of the founding editorial board members of Fidelia’s Sisters, a publication of The Young Clergy Women Project. In addition to maintaining a personal blog, she has contributed to publications such as the Christian Century, A Deeper Family, Comment, Gifted for Leadership, and the Englewood Review of Books. She is the author of a memoir, Any Day a Beautiful Change: A Story of Faith and Family (Chalice Press, 2012). Katherine and her husband, Benjamin, have two daughters. She can be found online at www.katherinewillispershey.com.