This spell bindingly eloquent Baptist minister from the Deep South of the United States played a seminal role in the story of the advancement of civil rights in that country and during this 50th anniversary I’ve heard interviews with people who knew him and they have not only wanted to speak of the day he died but the life he lived. They have wanted to help us understand his message and passion. They have wanted to continue his work – of striving in a non-violent way – towards the goal of mutual respect and representation.
And that, it seems to me, is Luke’s agenda in the lectionary passage from Acts that is set for this coming Sunday – it’s the passage in which Peter and John healed a lame man at the temple and then went on to preach a sermon about Jesus and his death and resurrection.
This isn’t just plain reporting. This is interpretation.
Luke gives Peter’s sermon an edge and fills in the dots. And that was an accepted way of writing history in those days. You didn’t only tell the story of your hero, you gave them a speech that explained their passion and reasoning; that made them come alive.
I think there is no doubt that Peter isn’t just giving the crowd a history lesson about Jesus – he is proclaiming and then living out the message that the work of Jesus, his spirit and presence is still around. Indeed, he says of himself and John: We are witnesses to all that has happened.
The supporters of Martin Luther King passionately want his work to carry on; the disciples of Jesus Christ want nothing less for their Lord and Master.