The Apostle and close friend of Jesus, Peter, builds upon basic Christian doctrine in two of today’s lectionary selections (Acts 2:14a,22-32; 1 Peter 1:3-9).
Peter begins in Acts by assigning Jesus’ demise to his Jewish countrymen: “…this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed…” (Acts 2:23). Peter places guilt for Jesus’ crucifixion on his own ethnic group. Such blame is an ongoing controversy because of the implications and ramifications of anti-Semitism. Discrimination, prejudice, and even genocide have been fed by hatred against Jews.
Peter’s blame on the Jews doesn’t tell the full story because the Romans who occupied Judea in the first century wielded profound control over captive nations. Scripture and a basic understanding of psychology indicate that Jewish authorities didn’t like Jesus because he pointed out their failings and undermined their authority. The gist is that there’s sufficient guilt among the Roman and Jewish officials regarding Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. The ancient Romans have long since disappeared, so no action can be taken against them. Sadly, it has been the diverse Jewish populations around the world who have borne the consequences.
It’s best to not get stuck in the past ruminating over who was or was not involved in ancient intrigues and Jesus’ demise. Peter realizes this when he reminds his readers of hopeful news: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead . . .” (1 Peter 1:3). This is a wonderful proclamation which highlights a bright future. Peter continues his hopeful, energetic message: “By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope . . . and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you…“ (1 Peter 1:3-4).
Peter realizes that Jesus’ ongoing role in heaven is central. It is encouraging for people of faith to embrace God’s promises, realized through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Jesus did not fall into obscurity after he departed earth. Instead, Peter emphasizes that King David’s descendant—Jesus—is active and demonstrates the reality of God’s plan for humanity’s redemption. Do you feel the power of God’s presence in your life?
Jesus’s gospel is made real through God’s love and truth in the here-and-now. Don’t miss out! Has hope been resurrected within you and are you alive in God’s power? Be strong in your decision to live a life of intentional spirituality. Now’s a great time to enthusiastically embrace God’s presence and promises.
It’s great to celebrate the Christian faith as more than an emphasis on the past. Modern readers are similar to their ancient counterparts in that people need reassurance amidst life’s ordeals. Being a person of faith is difficult even in the best of times. Take heart because no matter what challenges you face, God’s power preserves your soul.