28 April OS 2016 – Wednesday of Thomas Week; Holy Nine Martyrs of Cyzicus
Christ is Risen!
In today’s reading from Acts, the Holy Apostles Peter and John tell the Sanhedrin that they will not remain silent about the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus in order to stay out of trouble:
In those days, [when the Sanhedrin] saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name. And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them, because of the people: for all men glorified God for that which was done. For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed. – Acts of the Apostles 4: 13-22
St. Theophan the Recluse comments on the reliability of their witness and its durability over two millennia:
“Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4:19-20).” Thus spoke the Holy Apostles Peter and John to the authorities when the latter forbade them to speak about the resurrected Lord Jesus, after they had healed a man lame from childhood by His name. They did not fear threats, for the obviousness of the truth did not allow them to be silent: “We have seen and heard,” they said, “and our hands have handled,” as St. John later added (see I John 1:1). They are eyewitnesses. According to the principle of human knowledge, eyewitnesses are the first reliable witnesses of the truth. In this regard, there is not a single field of human knowledge that has similar witnesses. Eighteen and a half centuries [the author is writing in 1881] have passed since that time, and the power of their testimony has not diminished at all, and consequently the obviousness of the truth testified by them has not diminished. If people fall away into faithlessness – and now there are very many who are falling away – they fall away for no reason other than a lack of good sense. They do not want to examine things and are carried away by phantoms, to which the delusion of a depraved heart willingly imparts some probability. Poor souls! They are perishing, fancying that they have landed at last on the right track, and they rejoice especially that they have entered this track first and become leaders for others. But it is no great joy to sit “in the seat of the pestilent (Ps. 1:).” – Thoughts for Each Day of the Year, pp. 90-91
When skeptics attack the credibility of the Resurrection, they do so only on the basis of the assumption that such things cannot happen. They cannot do so on the basis of the rules of evidence, for it is the most thoroughly attested event of all ancient history. As St. Theophan says, people who do not believe in it simply lack common sense, and they choose not to believe in it motivated by some kind of interior depravity. The idea that our faith is absurd but we choose to believe it anyway, as Kierkegaard and some “Christian existentialists” have taught, is simply not true.
The Sanhedrin knew that they did not have a leg to stand on. They lacked the only conclusive evidence against the Resurrection – the dead body of Jesus. They knew that the only witnesses in their corner, the Roman guard detachment at the Tomb, had been suborned (by them!) to perjure themselves. They lacked Scriptural arguments, because Jesus had obviously fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah. They faced men whose absolute certainty gave them moral fearlessness and who were working undeniable miracles whose power they insisted came exclusively from the Crucified and Resurrected One. So they either had to repent and believe the Apostles, or they had to resort to the line of moral persuasion employed by their type in every generation: might makes right, we are in charge here, and therefore you had better shut up if you know what’s good for you.
The Sanhedrin’s insurmountable problem was that the Apostles did know what was truly good for them, and that it was not the mere continuation of an untroubled biological existence. They believed in the Resurrection and the Life of the Age to Come, and the Risen Lord was with them every moment by His Spirit, confirming their belief. What ultimate threat, really, did the Sanhedrin have to frighten the Apostles with, except to send them off to where they, in fact, wanted to be – in Paradise, with Christ and the Good Thief? The “canonical” leaders of the people could either leave them alone, make their lives difficult, which would only add to their joy in being able to suffer for their Master, or kill them and give them the martyr’s crown of glory.
The reason why today’s global Sanhedrin does have power over us – financial, political, cultural, moral, and ultimately spiritual – is that the Christians of the latter times have lost their fiery zeal and love for the Lord, only care about a convenient biological existence, and therefore fear the Sanhedrin. The bad guys have used those two most powerful and always-linked tools of corruption, mammon and sexual license – the two heads of the Golden Calf – to corrupt, weaken, and destroy today’s Christian. Thus having become depraved in heart, the nominal Christian loses his common sense and denies the Resurrection, if not theoretically then at least practically, in the feelings of his heart, his priorities, and his behavior. The power of the Spirit, so active in the Apostles and in the saints, is not evident, and the true Faith becomes a rare commodity indeed. The Lord predicted these days: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find the Faith on the earth?”
Any serious Orthodox person today must surely be disgusted by the superficiality, boredom, idiocy, and confusion of semi-Orthodox confession and semi-Orthodox life. Even some poster-boy “World” Orthodox lapdog theologians are getting sick of the whole thing and are starting to reprove their own particular “canonical-hierarchical” errand boys of the global Sanhedrin for their mendacity and lack of faith (“Finally!” one might say. Well, better late than never). We “True” Orthodox (i.e., those who are still actually and not merely “officially” in the Church) certainly have little to lose, having neither wealth nor the respect of men. Why not just “go for it,” as they say, and be like the Apostles? We have nothing to lose, except sin, death, and hell.
O beloved and most sweet voice of Christ, call us to invincible and joyful Faith in Thy Resurrection! O Risen Lord, Crucified for our sake, glory be to Thee!