You will not suffer your holy one to see corruption

Peter appeals to a Psalm of David as evidence that the resurrection is God’s activity


Occasion: Third Sunday of Easter

You can find the full readings here. This Lectio is based on the New Testament reading, Acts 2⋅14, 22-23.


Then Peter stood up with the Eleven,
raised his voice, and proclaimed:
“You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem.
Let this be known to you, and listen to my words.
You who are Israelites, hear these words.
Jesus the Nazarene was a man commended to you by God
with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs,
which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know.
This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God,
you killed, using lawless men to crucify him.
But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death,
because it was impossible for him to be held by it.
For David says of him:
I saw the Lord ever before me,
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted;
my flesh, too, will dwell in hope,
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.

“My brothers, one can confidently say to you
about the patriarch David that he died and was buried,
and his tomb is in our midst to this day.
But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him
that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne,
he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ,
that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld
nor did his flesh see corruption.
God raised this Jesus;
of this we are all witnesses.
Exalted at the right hand of God,
he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father
and poured him forth, as you see and hear.”

Standout words

lawless men, corruption, joy, prophet, poured him forth


Christians generally forget this, if they ever knew it, but for the ancients the Psalms were not just a collection of strange poetry; they were essentially about Christ:

  • the church’s prayer to God, either through or in Christ; and
  • Christ’s prayer to the Father, in both his divinity and his humanity.

We see this in Peter’s reference to Psalm 16 in his preaching to his fellow Jews. The Psalm is attributed to David, whom the Jews consider not merely a king but a prophet. And Peter elaborates on this, pointing out that David clearly could not have been referring to himself as the one God “will not suffer to see corruption,” because David himself had died. So, he argues, if you consider the scriptures to tell the truth, you must conclude that David referred to someone else, a descendant of his. This descendant Peter avers to be Jesus, pointing to his missing body as proof that God did not allow him to suffer corruption: God made the “paths of life” known to his Son’s human nature, and the divine Son then poured forth the Holy Spirit as proof that he had returned to the Father’s presence.

The book of Acts tells us this message was successful; many of Peter’s hearers came to believe this message and received baptism. This confirms several things that people often overlook today:

First, these Scriptures were indeed considered by the general population to have prophetic value regarding the Messiah; Peter’s interpretation was not repugnant to them, whereas some of Jesus’ teachings were so repugnant as to lose him followers (as in the gospel of John, chapter 6).

Second, that Jesus’ body had gone missing after his death. Had it been possible to find it easily, it would have been possible to refute Peter easily. Instead the authorities had to resort to further acts of violence on the apostles and, eventually, on the Church itself, through the hands of a man who should have had easy refutation — Saul — but who instead became the early Church’s great missionary to the Gentiles.

Surrexit Dominus vere — the Lord is truly risen!

Author: Jack Perry

Catholic. Mathematician. Square monomial diagram in a round avatar's circle.

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