The Doubter Becomes a Witness (Wed. May 5)

Christ is Risen!

The word of the day is witness.”  Today in our reading of Acts 2:22-36, the Apostle Peter preaches the first sermon after the Ascension of the Lord.  In it He offers convincing  evidence for the glorious resurrection of the Lord.  He says, “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” (NKJV vs. 32).

This proof of all that has happened for our salvation comes at the right time.  By now, some of us might have second thoughts.  We might join Thomas in questioning the truth of the Gospel of the Cross and Resurrection told by the apostles.

Thomas the Doubter Turned Witness

The most famous doubter of the truth of Christ work of redemption  is Thomas.  Yet Jesus appeared to him and assured him of His resurrection.  But He also said, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (NKJV 20:29). Those of us who have not seen depend on those who have.  The role of “witness” to the resurrection, therefore,  is crucial to the faith of the Church.  Note that the first act of the church that was forming after the Ascension of Christ highlighted this importance.  It was to fill in the vacant roster of official witness to the resurrection that the apostasy and suicide of Judas Iscariot left (Acts 1:18-17).

Witness and Fulfillment of Prophecy

If we look at our reading closely we find that the proofs of the resurrection are of two types: the witness of the Apostles and the witness of the prophecy of David in the scriptures. St. John Chrysostom comments that both of these are necessary (Chrysostom, “Homily: 1 Corinthians” on 15:8 )

The witness of the apostles and prophecy depend on each other. Long before they happen, prophecy foretells the events that the apostles will observe.  Conversely, the witness of the apostles to the events that are foretold fulfills the prophetic vision. Without prophecy, the events that the apostles witnessed would be happenstance.  What took place would not testify to the divine will at work behind them.  Without the witness of the events, prophecy would be just ephemeral dreams. .

But the  prophecy of Scripture and the witness of the apostles do not exhaust the many ways that the  truth of the resurrection may be confirmed.  For instance, to these proofs could be added: the witness of the empty tomb and the witness of the martyrdom of the Apostles and saints throughout the ages. All of these testimonies to the Risen Christ join together in making the conviction of our faith strong and secure.

For Reflection

St. Gregory the Great said, “The disbelief of Thomas has done more for our faith than the faith of the other disciples. As he touches Christ and is won over to belief, every doubt is cast aside, and our faith is strengthened. So the disciple who doubted, [but] then felt Christ’s wounds, becomes a witness to the reality of the resurrection (St. Gregory the Great. Orthodox Church Quotes. WordPress.)

Why is Thomas’ witness the most convincing? It was because it overcame disbelief and answered doubt. Thus, doubt and disbelief are only dangerous to our soul if they are not confronted.  But if they compel us to search the scriptures, to study the teachings of the church fathers, and to exam the evidence for the truth of the Gospel, then they are, in fact, helpful.  If, of course, our seeking the truth is done in prayer.

 

About Fr. Basil

Now retired, the Very Rev. Archpriest Basil Ross Aden has served as a parish priest, parish pastor, diocesan mission director, writer, and college teacher of New Testament and Religious Studies. He has a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago and has published daily devotional and stewardship materials as well as a college textbook on Religious Studies. He also has published papers and/or lectured on the Orthodox perspective on Luther and the Reformation. religious freedom, current issues of religion and society, and St. John Chrysostom. He is married to Sandra and has two sons and three grandchildren. He is still active as a priest as well as a writer of articles and materials on Orthodoxy and topics of faith and life today.

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