The scene of the apostles being interrogated by the high priest, in the first reading of the third Sunday of Easter, brings great joy to the Risen Christ, living in the hearts of His faithful witnesses.
There were times in the last three years of Jesus’ earthly life in which Jesus at times could rejoice at what was happening in the hearts of His disciples, yet other times their fickleness must have left Him disappointed.
Not any more. These formerly fickle followers are now courageous witnesses, enjoying the power of the risen Christ giving witness through them. The Resurrection of Jesus and the coming of the Holy Spirit made all the difference.
Peter has come a long way since his denial of Jesus. Now, when the high priest scolded the apostles for teaching in the name of Jesus, Peter replied: “Better for us to obey God than men! The God of our fathers has raised up Jesus whom you put to death, ‘hanging Him on a tree.’”
There is nothing like giving witness to the incredible evidence the apostles and disciples had in their hearts. The tomb is empty and Jesus has been unleashed in the hearts of all of His followers.
Peter continues: “He whom God has exalted at His right hand as ruler and savior is to bring repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. We testify to this. So too does the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those that obey Him.”
There is nothing a jury loves to see more than clear and irrefutable evidence, and the followers of Christ have this through the apostles’ courageous witness.
Since the Sanhedrin couldn’t refute the evidence that was unfolding, they were forced to dismiss the apostles, but “ordered the apostles not to speak again about the name of Jesus.”
What was the apostles’ reaction? “The apostles for their part left the Sanhedrin full of joy that they had been judged worthy of ill-treatment for the sake of the Name.” What a joy for the apostles to experience this “pay back” time. Yes, they smarted inside when they had denied and abandoned Jesus, but now it was a joy to stand up against those authorities that might even put them to death.
They would never go back to their past failures. The Holy Spirit brought to life within them everything Jesus had taught them for three years. Suddenly His teachings made sense. They loved the agenda that the Holy Spirit was unfolding within them. Now life was exciting and so meaningful, even if risky and painful. The Spirit of God was leading them now, and that is everything.
In the second reading, John has a vision of what is taking place in heaven. He “heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and elders. They were countless in number, thousands and tens of thousands and they all cried out: ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, and honor and glory and praise!’”
John was given this vision of heavenly glory to encourage followers of Jesus to look forward to what is in store for them for eternity. This vision will help them to put into perspective present heartaches and sufferings that come to those persecuted for following Jesus.
In the Gospel, Jesus appears to the apostles on the lake early in the morning after they spent the entire night fishing without catching anything. Jesus tells them to cast their nets on the other side, and they take in so many fish that the nets are on the verge of breaking.
Jesus wanted to get their attention for the next stage of revelation, and He got it. If Jesus, who isn’t a fisherman, can make professional fishermen incredibly successful, then perhaps He can do anything.
Jesus wants to put structure into the fledgling Church. After questioning Peter three times with the question, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter was hurt but got the message. When Peter responded, “Lord, you know everything. You know well that I love you,” Jesus told him, “Feed my sheep.”
He then revealed to Peter that eventually this would cost Peter his life. Jesus now had Peter locked in as head of His Church!
Peter realizes that from now on, day-by-day, Christ’s plan for His Church would unfold. The Holy Spirit would lead him every step of the way, but it was his responsibility to embrace whatever hardships came his way for the sake of Jesus who was working in him through the power of the Holy Spirit.
From now on the fireworks may not always be as dramatic as in the early days after Pentecost, but the challenges and sufferings will be there daily. Saying “yes” to these daily sufferings and challenges will keep the Holy Spirit alive in their hearts.
So it is for each of us. Our lives may not be as dramatic as the lives of the apostles immediately after Pentecost, but the more we daily meditate on the power of God’s word in our lives, the more we will be energized by saying yes joyfully to unexpected difficulties. When we keep the word of God alive in our hearts by daily meditation, our lives will be energized and filled with joy.