Acts 5:27-32 • Ps. 118:14-29 or 150 • Rev. 1:4-8 • John 20:19-31
Although we prefer a second ￼naïveté (Paul Ricoeur), which admits a childlike wonder over every detail of Scripture, if asked, we will show our hermeneutic hand. “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). We read holy writ “that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in Jesus Christ” (BCP, p. 236).
“The outcome or fruit of Holy Scripture is not insignificant, but the fullness of eternal happiness. For this is the writing in which there are words of eternal life, which have been written not only that we should believe, but also that we should possess eternal life, in which indeed we will see and we will love and all our desires will be fulfilled, and then truly we will know the super-abounding love of knowledge, and so we will be filled with all the fullness of God” (short discourse by St. Bonaventure, Prologue: Opera Omnia vol. 5, 201-02, my translation). The Bible is the book of Jesus. If asked to see it another way, the Christian will feel discomfort. “How can they make it an open question what the country is like which they enter when they pray (read)?” (Austin Farrer, Lord I Believe, p. 9).
This apparent limitation of reading with a christocentric lens will save us from many fateful errors. For when Peter addresses the Jews, who already fear that “you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us” (Acts 5:28), we find him saying, “The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree” (Acts 5:30). “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, the doors of the house where the disciple met were locked, for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19). Reading our story with the heart of Jesus, we take no pleasure in the judgment, feel it rather as a judgment upon ourselves, and regret as we must the horrible misuse of these texts. These words too we read hoping for life in his name, the blessed hope of everlasting life, fullness of eternal happiness, super-abounding love. Thus we reject hateful religion, holding the heart where the heart should be.
So cautioned, we are ready to see that Jesus came to “give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). We are prepared to know that he “loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests to serve his God and Father” (Rev. 1:56). We accept his peace, looking to his hands and side. As long as the old Adam limps, we will doubt. But Jesus is gracious with a second appearing: “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your fingers here and see my hand. Reach out your hand and put it in my side’” (John 20:27). Jesus bestows a special blessing upon those who believe and yet have not seen, and yet not seeing is of a special kind. “Though senses fail to see; faith alone the true heart waketh to behold the mystery. … Faith our outward sense befriending, makes our inward vision clear” (Aquinas, Hymnal 1982, #331). Thus we have a new seeing which invites us to behold Christ in all his redeeming work, the means of grace immeasurable and innumerable. Water, oil, text, and wind; tree and tomb, bread and wine, dayspring and setting sun. Faith ferments everything everywhere to show his hands and side.
Look It Up
Read John 20:22. Receive the Spirit.
Think About It
Be Thomas and say, “My Lord and my God!”