A Silence and a Bright Hope
Here is a short story about silence. It is a true story from Acts chapter 12, told here from the point of view of one of the women among Jesus’ first friends. I hope this silence will speak to you.
“Exactly a year. It all came crashing down in just one year. Thousands had come to believe, in the days and weeks after the first Easter. Peter and James and John had led the work – preaching, arguing, caring, encouraging, praying for us. They were inspirational. Hundreds had been healed in Jesus’ name, many of whom we never saw again, of course. The poor had come and been fed by generosity shared. Some days I was exhausted with listening to people’s troubles and lifting baskets of bread. But it was such a beautiful life and our healthy community was growing. It felt as though the love of Jesus had turned the whole city around.
“But it made the authorities angry. Generosity makes the greedy look bad and they hate that. It started just as harassment, some mob violence. Now this. Oh, it is all so desperately sad. Most other people in the city just say nothing, and so the evil flourishes. That Silence kills.
“Oh, haven’t you heard. James is dead. They charged him last week with ‘plotting against the emperor’. We thought it was laughable until they put him to the sword, yesterday. It’s just one year after Jesus’ death. Peter went down and tried to stop it, he wasn’t running away like the last time. He managed to get himself arrested, silly man. He will probably be next.
“Is love a ‘plot’? Is eternal life ’subversive’? Is healing and helping ‘an act of rebellion’? Is prayer a political act? And worship of Jesus in the beauty of holiness – is that an act of corruption? Who would hate such things? King Herod and the rest of them, that’s who.
“We may all go down before long… I will die for Jesus if I have to. Sorry if I alarm you darling. What else could I do? I saw the light in his face that morning a year ago. I will go anywhere just to live in that light. I saw the empty tomb. I will risk everything twenty times to have that kind of new life. I hope James was able to hold on to that. I hope Peter under guard 24/7 can still sing.
“Is that a bit heavy, love? See it from our story. We had seen the brutal slaying of that beautiful teacher Jesus. We had seen his lifeless body speared and kicked around by the soldiers. We had taken his dead weight down onto our shoulders, and I don’t mind saying, there were bitter bitter tears. I hated them then.
“Confused are you, love? It’s not surprising really. No one knew what was going on that weekend, but let me straighten my story a second. We had gone to the grave early to compete the burial ceremonies, didn’t we Mary? As soon as we got near we felt it. It was the silence, wasn’t it Mary. You see, the grave was open and the guards had gone. Something had happened that had spooked them off. Two bright angels I saw, although Mary only saw one. They said Jesus was not there that he had risen, dead no more. I just couldn’t cope. Suddenly, silence. They were gone. My heart was pounding. The tomb was empty. He had just ..risen. I just ran away. We all did, didn’t we Mary. Then I saw him and he talked. Then he appeared to the others a few more times until we had stopped terrifying and started rejoicing. We have been rejoicing ever since. Even today.
“To tell the truth, if I have to die, so be it. I saw his face and I will see it again. I can live no other way. Even Saul, their top agent, has seen the risen Jesus and become one of us. God is doing all this.
“I have to go now, love. I need to get some food and take it to the gathering. We’re going to pray together for Peter. Perhaps we will be given a miracle this time.”
Friends of the blog, that’s all for that story. The history reads on (Acts 12) that the apostle Peter was miraculously delivered that night. It says he ran across town and knocked on the door and they were too busy praying for him to let him in! Embarassing really.
My point is not the persecution/ hard luck story here, but the bright hope that holds it up. Under harsh treatment, Christians then and now continue in generosity and forgiveness of their enemy. It is definitely not easy. They struggle. They are not perfect. But look into this story and I think you will see that it takes something as great as the empty tomb, the risen Jesus, to provide a hope that can take you through all struggle and death.
So, let me put it back to you. Have you ever wanted to find a hope worth living for? Do you ever wonder whether your life and your talents can really make a difference? The silence of the empty tomb shouts loudly a great ‘yes’. My prayer is that you hear that brilliant silence.