Each year in the weeks following Easter we are reminded of our roots. Part of this annual sharing of our common heritage, traditions, and ancestors is an exploration into the process of how Jesus the proclaimer, became Jesus the proclaimed. How did a tiny and relatively obscure messianic association on the fringes of the Roman Empire displace classical pagan belief and become the prevailing faith of the western world?
Historians calculate that in the year 40 there were about 1000 Christians, compromising about 0.0017% of the Roman Empire’s population of about 60 million people. Even though Christianity wasn’t tolerated as a legal religion until the beginning of the 4th century; by then, about 10% of the world’s population claimed Christ as their Lord and Savior. By the year 350 those numbers grew dramatically to 56%.
In looking at this phenomenal growth, we need to look at the power of the Holy Spirit at work in missionaries as they preached the good news, and saw hundreds coming to believe on their spoken testimony. Luke the Evangelist, as he tells us in the Acts of the Apostles, credits the survival and spread of the Church to the Holy Spirit.
Empowered by the Spirit, both those who preached and those who listened were drawn to open their hearts and minds and lives to the possibility of conversion. Luke tells us that when Peter spoke, “his hearers were deeply shaken”. A more literal translation describes Peter’s listeners as being “cut” or “pierced to the heart.” Cut to the quick of who they were by the dual realization of God’s love for them and the awareness of their own sin, those who heard Peter were prompted to ask the question that set in motion a lifelong process of conversion to Christ, “What are we to do?”
We, too, these many years later must ask the same question. So, what are you to do as disciples? Jesus isn’t looking for followers, he is looking for disciples ~ people who proclaim by their lives that he is risen!