9 April 2021Acts 3:11-16
'To this we are witnesses.' (v. 15)
Peter’s passionate speech in Acts 3 is one of a number of public orations of sacred history that Luke the author includes in the companion book to his Gospel.
Peter and John are in Solomon’s Porch (or Portico), a part of the Jerusalem Temple where people often met for debate and to exchange ideas.
Addressing his fellow Israelites, the words in today's reading recollect the early preaching of Christ’s disciples, and will shortly land them in big trouble (4:1) with the authorities. In the hope of convincing his hearers, in verse 13 Peter places Jesus within the historic tradition of faith: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Then speaking about the death and resurrection, in verse 15 he claims personal engagement, "To this we are witnesses."
The first Australian settlers were amazed to discover the duck-billed platypus: it lays eggs like a bird, it's furry like a mole, it swims like an otter, it suckles its young like a mammal, it has a venomous bite like a reptile, a tail like a beaver and a bill like a duck’s. It is an extraordinary hybrid, and there was enormous scepticism in London’s learned circles when reports first reached them. "No such creature can exist- it’s impossible," they said. The settlers were not believed.
When at the British Museum the naturalist George Shaw saw a skeleton, he wrote, “It is impossible not to… surmise that there might have been practised some arts of deception in its structure." Again, the settlers were not believed.
But when London’s sharpest minds eventually encountered a living, egg-laying, furry, creature that swam an otter, suckled its young like a mammal, was venomous like a reptile and had a tail like a beaver they changed their minds. They believed there was such a creature as a duck-billed platypus. In the light of the living encounter they expanded the classification of the animal kingdom to accommodate a new reality based not on what was thought possible, but what they had witnessed. Unlikely, illogical, and extraordinary, the duck-billed platypus exists.
Perhaps many people in Solomon’s Porch were unconvinced by Peter’s extraordinary claims of the Resurrection. But others were convinced, and the number grew to 5,000 men (Acts 4:4).
- In your community, are there places like Solomon’s Porch where people meet for open discussion, debate and sharing of ideas?
- Do you sense your place in the long and rich history of the Church?
- At the time would you have believed the extraordinary characteristics of the duck-billed platypus?