Isaiah 4318 “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 19I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” How difficult is it for us, who love new things but who abhor new ideas to grasp this new Way that God has opened for us. We like the old way thank you very much, God. In the old ways, we knew our place, we knew we were blessed be cause health and prosperity are God-given. We knew the people God had touched with judgment because they had leprosy, the AIDS of Jesus day, or were blind, crippled or worse yet, poor. Even Jesus’ inner most circle of disciples, Peter, John & James, professed their desire to hold on to the old ways particularly when Peter rebukes Jesus for talking about dying, and John & James when they argue over their status at dinner party that has come to be known as the Last Supper.
Then comes the confusion about the crucifixion and Easter. The disciples are terrified and don’t know what to do. They gathered in the upper room wondering what to do and some just when home to Galilee and returned to fishing. But everywhere they go, Jesus is there. As much as they may want to avoid the risen Christ and just go back to the life they had… the life they knew… the life where everything made sense… Jesus was there. When they broke and shared bread, when they drank the wine, when they were fishing in the morning and when they gathered in the evening, Jesus was there! Jesus was there, urging them on… pushing them beyond their fears… to a new Way… a new life. God's "new thing" is already happening; the word begins to spread. Jesus lives… Jesus is with us. Soon, the whispers become audible words and with each encounter with Jesus the words become shouts: Jesus lives!
The mysteries of his birth, death, and resurrection are completely beyond our comprehension, and as such they are to be lived, not understood. Beneath Thomas' apparent doubt is a profound desire to know the resurrection… to know its incarnate reality. Thomas’ desire is our desire too. Jesus' response to Thomas is not condemnation but peace, and an invitation: "Do not doubt but believe" (John 20:27). With Thomas’ exclamation, (“My Lord and my God!”) comes the knowledge that we too will bring peace and new life by accompanying one another, as Jesus does, physically and spiritually, through fear, isolation, and all forms of death.
And when Peter is hauled before the authorities, this new Way rises from dead and broken disciples. Nobodies speak back to somebodies: "We must obey God rather than any human authority" (5:29). The Way is born from a whole new authority, not acquired by wealth or property or political clout, but by observing the naked truth of what God really intends for humanity. The disciples see it. They want it. They will die, if they must, for it. The authorities, sensing this, tremble, and fall back on judicial threats. They seek to silence Peter and the others he leads. Peter, who was so weak as a disciple he denied his Master three times. Surely Peter, of all the disciples would once again cower and fall away and this teaching would soon fade,” the authorities thought.
How is the gospel being silenced today? We live in a time when this pulpit has little or no influence on what we do or say. Radio, television and the rest of the mass media do not silence the message of the gospel so much as to shout it down. Why else can people like so-called shock jocks and rappers make millions of dollars while they degrade women in word, picture and song? How else could we live in society that is so numbed by TV’s violence and pain, that we can blithely ignore the real pain and suffering of 20% of our own people living in poverty, let alone the millions in Africa and Asia wracked by wars and living on less than a dollar a day.
What part are we playing in this silencing? It’s really easy. We, like Peter, when he denied Christ, simply deny that there is any problem. We simply live our lives intentionally blind or we succumb to the deafening roar of the media or take comfort in the many diversions that our wealth offers us. But playing the role of Peter isn’t so simple.
Of course, Simon is also the one of whom Christ said, “I tell you that you are Peter, the Rock, upon which I will build my church. Being Peter isn’t easy. But if Christ is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega what about how we live now? Surely, if Jesus lives we can live and proclaim the gospel without fear for "my strength and my courage is the Lord....I shall not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord." The first words of the risen Jesus to his disciples affirm this confidence: "Peace be with you"; Matthew records them as "Do not be afraid." Christ's first gift to his frightened followers is the gift of peace. His last gift is his abiding presence, “I will be with you always, even to the end of time.”
Being Peter, living under the "sharp, two-edged sword" of God's Living Word, Jesus, does not offer easy comfort. Instead, it calls us to repentance, resistance, and trust that, despite all appearances to the contrary, the world is in the hands of a good and loving God. As Peter, we need to repent of our denial and our tendency to succumb to the deafening din of the messages of death, degradation and violence that pervade our lives. We are called to resistance, to deny, defy and declare God’s intention for every human being to live in dignity without war and violence, without poverty and its degradation. Each human being has a God given right to their daily bread and a safe place to lay their head. As Christians, we hold these truths to be self-evident. And so we are called to resistance. We must resist not only resist the blaring bullhorns of our wealthy celebrity media culture and its mindless numbing effect on our hearts, we must resist the temptation to throw up our hands in surrender and say, “its always been this way and nothing can change it.”
No, Jesus who lives and is with us now commissions each of us to tend the suffering, be peacemakers, and to work for justice, no matter what our qualifications, gender, ethnicity, or wealth. Our baptismal promises leave us with no other Way. "Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?" We, like Peter today, must not be silent and demand an end to the cultural outlets that degrade at least half the population of the planet as entertainment. We must uphold the dignity of women and children who disproportionately are the poor; not only in our society but around the world. We must see that their daily bread and a safe place to rest are not sacrificed on the altars of the gods of security and economic stability. Our voice, like Peter’s, must be clear and unequivocal. This is what God intends for God’s people and that God is in charge and we will have it no other way.
The resurrection is true. Jesus lives and is with us now. What have we to fear? Let us go forth in the power of His Spirit to proclaim and bring his vision to a world that is as desperate to see it as Thomas was to see Jesus. “To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5b-6