Rock solid or rock bottom?

Signpost for Sunday 7 April 2013 – Easter 2: Psalm 118:14-29; Acts 5:27-32; John 20:19-31

On Easter Sunday I went to a church service where we shouted, “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!” three times, getting louder each time. We did it at the beginning and the end of the service sounding like a bunch of soccer fans, and why not. If you’re a fan of Jesus what’s wrong with cheering him on, I say.

Psalm 118 could just as easily be a Welsh rugby crowd’s song this week. It’s a hymn with words that perfectly celebrate everything that was achieved and commemorate all that was endured by Jesus during his life and death. 118:22 contains the words early Christians used from it to persuade other Jews that Jesus really was the promised messiah.

Having said that, it’s not so much Jesus’ reappearance and the apostles’ miraculous escape from prison (Acts 5:19) that I am drawn to in the other two readings. It’s more that I find Thomas and Peter two of the most encouraging people in the New Testament.

Whether Jesus’ ministry lasted two or three years, as John suggests, or just one as the other gospels appear to have it, Thomas was among those who spent most time with him (Matthew 10:3, Mark 3:14, Luke 6:15). The fact that Thomas can’t believe the other disciples aren’t hallucinating when they say they’ve seen Jesus back from the dead gives me great hope that I’m not letting the side down when I can’t quite believe some of the things I’m supposed to. I don’t really see John 20: 29 as a rebuke to Thomas either. I think it’s more that Jesus knows what a tall order it is for most people to believe in him, especially if their only experience is mis-hearing about Jesus second hand from churches that often don’t seem to be as loving and open to all kinds of people as Jesus was himself.

And then there’s Peter. I can just imagine how I’d feel if I was in his sandals when that cock crowed. And all four gospels show him at his worst (Matt 26:74, Mark 14:72, Luke 22:60, John 18:27) so we are left in no doubt that he is far from rock solid. Then how on earth can you come back from letting down someone you love so badly? Three of the gospels leave Peter living with his guilt for the rest of his life. Only John, writing later than the others to convince an audience who had never seen Jesus, assures us that Peter, who must have felt like curling up and dying himself on Maunday Thursday night, had not totally blotted his copy book with Christ (John 21:15-19). There really is hope for us all.

Paul

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