10 April 2018
There is a great line in today’s first reading from Acts of the Apostles:
The apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus with great power….
The resurrection of Jesus changed everything.
There were others, both before and after Jesus in the history of the Jewish people, with messianic aspirations. Each of them at some point ran into the immovable obstacle of Roman tyranny and when Rome broke them, their reputations and followers dissipated. We struggle today to remember anything about them. Not so with Jesus. After His death, the Christian movement grew rapidly, despite wave after wave of violent persecution. Within three centuries the Roman emperor himself fell to his knees and worshipped Jesus as Lord.
The difference between Jesus and the messianic pretenders? He didn’t stay dead.
The early Christians had an unshakable conviction that Jesus was alive. So much more than a fine theological idea, ‘Jesus risen’ was a present reality to them. They felt the effects of his presence through the power of the Spirit and they delighted in the knowledge that the apostles, and quite a few others besides, had, in the days following Jesus’ brutal death, seen him gloriously resurrected (1 Cor. 15.3-8).
What does it mean to testify with great power?
The Greek word here translated ‘testify’ means to witness. It’s the basis for the English word ‘martyr’. The apostles were witnesses, having encountered the risen Jesus in person, and they gave witness ‘with great power’ to what they had seen and heard. In other words, they knew what they were talking about!
The Spirit of the Lord intends to give us the same confidence: to know Jesus is alive and to live and speak in a way that testifies to that truth. That’s Christianity. Testify!