“We must obey God rather than men.”
Acts of the Apostles
In Luke’s version of the Passion (which I heard at Mass this Palm Sunday morning), the disciples demonstrate what ordinary people they were.
During the Last Supper, they argued about who is the greatest. Then when Jesus told Peter that he would deny him, Peter says no way. He’d risk prison and even death before that – and we all know how that one comes out.
Then during the agony in the garden, the disciples keep falling asleep and Jesus has to wake them up to try to get them to pray. The apostles aren’t highly visible during the crucifixion either, unlike the women whom Luke mentions several times.
Fast forward to today’s reading from Acts and juxtapose it against Luke’s account of the Passion and you get a sense of the amazing impact of the Resurrection in the lives of these men – and by extension the potential for transformation of our lives.
What a different bunch of guys (forgive the slang) Peter and company have become as they tell the Sanhedrin that they’re going to go on preaching about Jesus no matter what it costs. Here’s Peter who denied knowing Jesus actually carrying out his original promise to risk imprisonment and death. “We must obey God rather than men,” he says.
As I marvel at this transformation in the apostles, I have to ask if the Resurrection has made any change in my own life. Or is it just the annual joyful celebration that leads to business as usual after Lent?
The apostles weren’t super-heroes any more than we are. As they show in the Passion gospel and throughout the New Testament they were often vain, dense and cowardly just like most of us. But in the end, they allow Jesus to transform them, just as we must.
We won’t confront the Sanhedrin but surely we can live the Easter message more fully if we focus on transforming those faults that keep us from living Jesus’ message. We can all work to be more patient and forgiving – more willing to stick our necks out for our beliefs. If men as ordinary as the apostles could transform themselves (or allow Jesus to do so), we can too.