Acts 2:32-[Peter said,] "God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses."
"April fools!" - or something like that - was surely what the astonished crowd on the day of Pentecost expected to hear from the apostles whose ruckus had attracted them. Surely this noisy babble had been a staged prank, where the punch line would be "Made ya look!" Instead, what the crowd heard was this line that comes from our appointed lesson for Easter Monday - "God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses." It was not a joke, not a conspiracy, not a gimmick to sell stuff to na´ve tourists. It was the experience that had absolutely consumed them like fire.
This passage is well-placed for Easter Monday, because our instinct is to relax after a busy weekend that probably included a food-laden Sunday. How easy it is to say, "now, where were we?" instead of following Peter's lead and simply asserting what has happened wherever we find ourselves - God has raised this Jesus!Yet as time goes on, the necessity of repeating that story, and doing so together - "of this we are all witnesses" - seems to be increasing and doing so seems increasingly difficult. What are we to do about that?
There is an instructive contrast between this verse and the appointed gospel passage for the Day - Matthew 28:11-15 - which does recount a conspiracy between the tomb guards and the religious leaders to fabricate an alternate explanation for the empty tomb. To be sure, the stories that discount the reality of the resurrection today are quite different and do not require as much conspiracy, yet the effective response might not differ much from what it was in Peter's day. In fact, we might wonder what we can possibly say to a world that will dismiss our 2,000-year-old claims as a collective deception on the part of a set of grieving disciples. At any moment those who sincerely believe that we are just deluded hope that we will either come to our senses or admit it was a joke - "April fools!" How much more then do we need to point to things that happen in our congregations all the time to young and old alike - people dramatically reorienting their lives toward charitable living, people turning from sin and self-destruction, people finding love and forgiveness when they thought there was none to be had anywhere. Recounting the event of Jesus' resurrection is one part of our story, but the part that keeps it from being an April Fools joke is this community of redeemed and restored people, who can point not only to Christ but to each other and say with Peter, "of this we are all witnesses"!
Gracious God, you gave the first followers of our Lord boldness and assurance in the face of the challenges that met them. Give us your Spirit also that we may be faithful and effective witnesses in our own day. Through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.