Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. So they ordered them to leave the council while they discussed the matter with one another. They said, "What will we do with them? For it is obvious to all who live in Jerusalem that a notable sign has been done through them; we cannot deny it. But to keep it from spreading further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name." So they called them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, "Whether it is right in God's sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard." After threatening them again, they let them go, finding no way to punish them because of the people, for all of them praised God for what had happened.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
My strength and my courage is the Lord,
and he has been my saviour.
The joyful shout of victory
in the tents of the just. (R./)
The right hand of the Lord is exalted;
the right hand of the Lord has struck with power.
I shall not die, but live,
and declare the works of the Lord.
Though the Lord has chastised me,
yet he has not delivered me to death. (R./)
Open to me the gates of justice;
I will enter them and give thanks to the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord;
the just shall enter it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my saviour. (R./)
After Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went out and told those who had been with him, while they were mourning and weeping. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.
After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.
The Sanhedrin, Judaism's ruling body, found it impossible that Jesus could be the Messiah, and that he had really risen from the dead. To believe this would demand major change in their whole belief-system; nothing less than a total reinterpretation of their Scripture and traditions. Like all institutions, they were bitterly opposed to change. Yet two Galilean fishermen, Peter and John, stood before the council insisting that the crucified Jesus was alive again, and now present for everyone as a living force for healing and renewal. They made this claim on peril of their lives, heedless of the Sanhedrin's prohibition ("ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.") The message was too important to be repressed by any human authority.
One might say, his resurrection rolled away more stones than the one blocking his tomb; it also flung wide the doors to the future and gives us a glimpse of what lies beyond. The Sanhedrin, the disciples and we ourselves are asked to accept, in God's most mysterious ways, that Jesus really is the Saviour, who throws light on all our lives and lets us reevaluate all that we previously thought we knew. Are we willing to allow the love of Jesus to cast its bright rays on our understanding, so that we shape our whole future in relation to him. If He has risen at the core of our existence, then our lives will be as transformed as were those of his disciples at the beginning.
The disciples refuse to believe that others had seen the risen Lord. Eventually Jesus himself appears to them and reproaches them for their failure to believe. It seems that nobody, not even his closest associates, was prepared to believe that he had risen from the dead unless they could see him for themselves. They struggled to bring themselves to believe such good news.
We too can be more prone to believing bad news than good news. We too can doubt the reports of others contained within the New Testament that the Lord has risen. We can be as incredulous and obstinate as the first disciples. Yet every Easter the Lord calls out to us to believe that he is risen, with all that this good news implies for us. Easter is the season when we let ourselves be touched by the almost unbelievable good news that the Lord is alive and that we are destined to share in his risen life, not only beyond this earthly life but already, by the power of faith.