Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!
Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ – He is Lord of all – that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:34-43)
In St Peter’s sermon, he claims that what the Apostles were actually chosen for was to be witnesses to Christ and all the things He did, including his rising from the dead. The main apostolic ministry was to testify to others about what they had witnessed themselves. They were to testify to their own experience. They were to share their experience with others which is not quite the same as offering ‘proofs’ of their claims. They could not prove what Jesus had done, they could only claim to have witnessed these particular events and tell people what they believed the events meant. What was on the line was their own trustworthiness – they couldn’t prove their claims with evidence of the events, but others would have to judge whether they believed the apostles were in fact reliable witnesses who could be trusted. Did they live as if they believed what they were saying – did their lives conform to their teachings? Were they actually just interested in benefitting from their claims? Would they hold to their claims even if opposed or persecuted for their claims?
“From the Christian perspective the one who testifies is not merely an eyewitness. He does not simply retell events: he bears responsibility for the truth of this testimony. It is no coincidence that the Greek word martyrs, which literally means ‘witness,’ has become firmly established in the Christian tradition as meaning one who endures martyrdom. Bearing witness to Jesus Christ throughout the ages has meant the willingness not only to speak about him and live according to his commandments, but also to suffer and die for him. It is no coincidence either that most of the apostles, including those whose testimonies formed the basis of the Gospel narratives ended their lives as martyrs.
Bearing witness is similar not so much to a photograph, as to a portrait that reflects not only the model, but also the personality of the artist. The Gospel is the model by which the Church determines the authenticity of other portraits of Jesus written in subsequent centuries; some of these portraits are true to the original, while others are not.” (JESUS CHRIST: HIS LIFE AND TEACHING Vol 1, p 14).
Metropolitan Hilarion’s contrasting a portrait to a photograph is a good way to understand what it is for each of us to be a believer in and witness to Christ. We can’t prove the claim that Jesus is Lord, but can only share what we have learned, experienced and believed. We can think about the man born blind whom Jesus healed in John 9:. So they again said to the blind man, “What do you say about him, since he has opened your eyes?” He said, “He is a prophet.” The Jews did not believe that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of the man who had received his sight, and asked them, “Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then does he now see?” (vs 17-19)
What the Jewish religious leaders want to know is not the ‘facts’ of the blindman’s case, which they can’t dispute, but how did the healed blind man interpret what happened? They cannot argue against the facts, but can debate the interpretation of the facts. The healed blind man is a witness to what Christ did, and the authorities are dismissing his experience and understanding of the events. As for the Apostles, they could only say: for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.(Acts 4:20)
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)