3rd Sunday of Easter -Peter Preaches Christ – April 14, 2013 – Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
Peter Preaches Christ
Acts of Apostles 5: 27-32, 40b-41
April 14, 2013
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
After Jesus has been arrested and condemned, after the flogging, the crucifixion, and death, after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, the early Church begins. The Acts of the Apostles focuses on the heroes of the Church in its first age. Peter leads the Apostles in their separation from the established religious leaders, the Sanhedrin.
The Sanhedrin orders that Peter and the Apostles should be arrested. This body of religious leaders instructs the captain to arrest the followers of Jesus, for they are preaching in the name of that Galilean, and their preaching has not been quiet, for these men come to the temple area, openly speaking of Jesus as the Messiah.
They should be quietly arrested. The Sanhedrin does not want to make a show, for the crowds of people hail the preachers as seeing Jesus as the fulfilling the scriptures. “Do not stir up the crowd,” the Sanhedrin orders its captain of the guard (Luke 20:19; Luke 22:2).
The Apostles are led into the court; they stand to hear the Sanhedrin. “We gave you strict orders, did we not, to stop teaching in that name? Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
The Apostles have directly contravened what the Sanhedrin orders. Furthermore, in their preaching, the Apostles had tied the death of Jesus to the Sanhedrin. In their preaching, the Apostles said that the Sanhedrin was responsible for the crucifixion and death of Christ: “You are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.”
True! Peter earlier spoke to the crowd: the Rulers of Israel crucified Jesus of Nazareth whom God raised from the dead. He is the cornerstone rejected by you builders: it has become the cornerstone (Acts 4:10-11).
Such an accusation—accusing the Sanhedrin of causing another’s death—is a serious accusation, serious indeed. Cain murdered Abel, and God cursed Cain for the murder (Genesis 4:8-16; 2 Samuel 1:16). Accusation of killing another brings scripture examples, and scripture condemns murder. Suddenly, the high priest rather that the Apostles is on trial. The Sanhedrin are stung to fury by such an accusation.
The Apostles have heard the charges. Now Peter responds.
“We must obey God rather than man. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.” This refers to a public execution in Deuteronomy (21:22-23), and the expression furthers the accusation of the Sanhedrin having caused the death of Jesus. Peter, nonetheless, states that God has raised Jesus from the dead, and God has exalted Jesus. What the Sanhedrin did, God undid, and God glorified the murdered Jesus.
Then Peter further assaults his judges. “We [Apostles] are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Peter and the Apostles, of course, have seen the empty tomb, have seen and spoken with Jesus when He has appeared to them in the upper room, have been present as Jesus invited Thomas to put his finger in the nail marks, have conversed with Jesus at the Sea of Galilee and have experienced a miraculous haul of fish at Jesus’ word, have been with the Master during forty days. Feeling the Holy Spirit, Peter unabashedly speaks to the High Priest of the Sanhedrin.
Peter undoubtedly realizes that in Jesus’ name, he, Peter, has restored to a paralyzed man the power to walk.
A man lame from birth lay at a temple gate. “Peter looked intently at him, as did the Apostle John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And [the lame man] fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.’ [Peter] took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:1-8).
No wonder that Peter speaks up to the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. No wonder that the Sanhedrin want to order stoning and death. Yet in a trice, the learned Gamaliel speaks and dissuades these Sanhedrin leaders. So the Sanhedrin orders that the Apostles undergo thirty-nine lashes; this beating the Apostles endure. And “as they left the Council, [the Apostles] rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name [of Jesus].”
On Thursday of this week, the President of the United States, in a White House ceremony, posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to a soldier who served sixty years ago in the Korean Conflict. Reverend Emil Kapaun, an Army Catholic Chaplain from Kansas, was recognized for serving heroically. Father Emil Kapaun stayed with wounded soldiers when U.S. commanders, faced with advancing troops from China, ordered retreat. He tended the wounded during internment in China. During icy nights, Father Kapaun gave his ration of millet, corn, and birdseed to the starving. In punishment, guards took his clothes and had him stand for hours in the freezing cold. He led the troops in prayer with a stick cross and a knotted rosary. In the end, he was confined to a death house with no food or water. A blood clot, pneumonia, and dysentery brought his close after two days.
Army Chaplain Kapaun imitated His Lord in His suffering and death for others. As had Peter and the Apostles at the first stage of the Church, so in our day Fr. Kapaun rejoiced that he was worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ’s name. Amen.