Peter offers the whole of humanity the answer to its condition through the free hope in Christ.
The great divine-human dynamic is unstoppable. From the time that it ‘coalesced’ perfectly in the man Jesus, and his followers experienced the conversation with God taking on a human face – one which was transformed by death into resurrection – they could not but describe the liberation into life which the incarnation then involved. Dialogue brings life. Philip must proclaim Jesus as the ‘Christ’. ‘Anointed’ was the word then used to describe – ‘God speaks in this man Jesus’. Human words now take on a different power. God’s love has a clear outlet, so long channelled through the universal Christ present in all creation and now made man. There are miracles: demonic possessions cease, paralytics and cripples are cured as signs of the power of God. This brings hope and joy to a whole town! Faith is passed on – it brings the Spirit of God to anyone (even those regarded formerly as aliens – Samaritans!) – God’s love is inclusive.
The new dynamic creates its human characteristics, which are God’s: a hope spoken with courtesy, and respect, a defence against slander, the realisation that suffering and death can now be ante-rooms to life in the spirit. These encounters and experiences reveal the divine depth of what it means to be human. Peter says all this with great clarity in addressing a situation where folk are asking: ‘Why are you so hopeful’? Hope, finally a hope which offers humanity the answer to its condition. All humanity is included. God chooses all to be partners in this enduring great liberation.
The vision presented by John is overwhelming, all-embracing and only understood with patience: ‘On that day you will understand that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you.’ The Divine-human dialogue has an inevitable but disturbing and category-shattering finale: God so loves humanity as, in the end and as the end of dialogue, to make it into Himself – betokened first in Christ but then offered to all humanity. How John could find the words to say this in any understandable way is what we call “inspiration”! What we mean by the Holy Spirit is precisely that Spirit of God which coaxes us into truth, which hovers over us as our legal expert, our Advocate, gently prompting us into acceptance of the greatest truth – we (all humanity) are ‘in’ God. Did Julian of Norwich really say: ‘We are made not just by God but ‘of God’?