3rd May 2009 (4th of Easter)
The rulers, elders and teachers of the law were the temple hierarchy, and the leaders of the Jewish state under the Romans. They did not believe in resurrection, nor did they want to hear anything about it. Resurrection implied a new order in which they were not likely to hold the strings of power, and those who talked about resurrection were likely to be trouble-makers. But they could not account for the miracle that had so obviously taken place – the healing of a lame man who had been a fixture at one of the temple gates. So they wanted to know how Peter and John had done it. Was it through the black arts? Or what?
Peter’s straightforward answer was typical of him – he said what was on his mind, without thinking of the consequences. The authorities would not have looked kindly on Peter’s claim that resurrection had taken place, still less the accusation that they had crucified the Saviour of all. Yet that was not all.
The authorities knew that there was more to the story than a simple healing of a lame man. Peter’s explanation that it was by the name of Jesus, the Jesus whom they had crucified, but whom God had raised from the dead, carried with it obvious implications. Peter could only act in Jesus’ name if Jesus was alive and had authorised him to do so. Once someone is dead and buried, their authority has gone – even the greatest emperor cannot rule from the grave: their successor has to take over the reins of power. If Peter had in fact done that miracle in Jesus’ name, then that proved that Jesus had risen from the dead and was alive and well, and that he had authority and power in the world at that time.
Peter did not stop there. He went on to claim that Jesus was now the most important element in the new order of things – the stone rejected by builders because it did not seem to fit is now seen to be the keystone, holding all together. Peter connects this with the coming reign of the messiah: the messiah will save the world, and if we want to be part of the new world he will bring in, we need to accept his authority over us and become his subjects, his followers. There is no other way to achieve that, there is no other person who can ensure we will be part of God’s new creation. This crucified, rejected man from Nazareth is indeed God’s chosen messiah, the one who will bring the salvation the Jews were longing for.
Peter got away with it – the healed man was there with him and John, the crowd was rejoicing in the miracle, the authorities had no other explanation to offer, so they had to let him and John go with only threats.
What about us? Does the resurrected Jesus still exercise power and authority today? Can we act in his name?
The important thing to realise is that Jesus is exercising power and authority in order to bring salvation. The ultimate goal is the salvation that is eternal life in the kingdom of God. But every healing, every increase in harmony and peace, is salvation of a sort, and is a push and a pointer towards the final goal. When we are reconciled to God by Jesus’ death for us, then we put ourselves under Jesus’ authority and become his agents to bring salvation into the world. His resurrection power gives us new life, even today; that new life will not only survive the death of our bodies, but enables us in this life to live for him and to do whatever he sends us to do. It will not always be spectacular. But it will be his work.
1) Paul said, ‘whatever you do... do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus’ (Col. 3:17) How do we do that?
2) Where do you see resurrection power at work today?