The Testimony of the Scriptures
April 23, 2020
Thursday of the Second Week of Easter
“The one who comes from above is above all. The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things. But the one who comes from heaven [is above all]. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy. For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit. The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.”
Opening Prayer: Lord God, although it’s not clear whether these are the words of Jesus or of John the Baptist, I know your saving message is contained in them. Through this immersion in your word, let the Holy Spirit make his home in me. Let the Gospel become a living word, fount of Easter life, and joy.
1. John the Baptist: In the very last chapter of the Old Testament, we find this: “Now I am sending my messenger–he will prepare the way before me; and the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; the messenger of the covenant whom you desire–see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:1). These words of Malachi point to John the Baptist. He is the messenger, and also the new Elijah predicted in Malachi 3:23. This is very clear from the angel Gabriel’s words about John in Luke 1:17. “He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children and the disobedient to the understanding of the righteous, to prepare a people fit for the Lord.” John was thus the messenger full of spirit and power, who witnessed to Jesus Christ.
2. Peter and the Apostles: “For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God. He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.” In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the inimical Sanhedrin prohibited preaching, but Peter and the apostles boldly replied, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). They did not ration their gift of the Holy Spirit, but fearlessly proclaimed the Death and Resurrection of the Christ. “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree…We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit that God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:30-32). This is the power of the word of God; it makes us fearless witnesses—like the prophet Elijah, like St. John the Baptist, like St. Peter. If God sends us, we must speak the words of God.
3. The Wrath of God: The passage concludes with a dreadful phrase: “Whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” What is this wrath? Wrath is the name sinners give to God’s justice, and even his mercy. Returning to the messenger in Malachi, we read, “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand firm when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire, like fullers’ lye… I will draw near to you for judgment, and I will be swift to bear witness against sorcerers, adulterers, and perjurers…” (Malachi 3:2,5). To dross, the refiner’s fire is wrathful, while silver remains untouched. The truth makes the honest man rejoice, but enrages the perjurer—so much so that “When they [the Sanhedrin] heard this, they became infuriated and wanted to put them [the apostles] to death” (Acts 5:33). Do not fear God’s wrath; the very Scriptures themse lves bear testimony, “If we have died with him we shall also live with him” (2 Timothy 2:11).
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, your word is powerful! The more slowly I read it, and the more I pray on it, the more it says to me. Your word is truly a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Thanks be to God!
Resolution: Lord, today, by your grace, I will search the Scriptures for what God has to say about a particular problem weighing on my heart.
For Further Reflection: Read the very short Book of the Prophet Malachi. There we read of God’s exasperation (“wrath”) towards Israel’s misdeeds, as well as the remedy he provides.