We finish our weekday readings from the Acts of the Apostles and the Last Supper Discourse from John’s Gospel today, the last day of the Easter Season. St. Luke in Acts tells us of the preaching of Peter and the deacons Stephen and Philip after the resurrection of Jesus. Above all, he describes the ministry of Paul. Their witness and their preaching, I would suggest, is continued in the lives and preaching of the saints celebrated in our calendar for the rest of the year.
Readings from John’s Gospel these last days end with Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s death and John’s role as a witness to the gospel, and the important reminder “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” (John 25 )
In today’s reading Luke describes Paul’s two final years in Rome (Acts 28:16-20,30-31) as a time he preached to everyone who came to him “with complete assurance and without hindrance”, even though he’s under house arrest. The gospel is preached at the center of the world.
Strange, though, that Luke, who describes the death of Stephen the deacon in great detail, says nothing about the deaths of Peter and Paul. He certainly knew the circumstances of their martyrdom in 62 or 63 AD, some years before he wrote Acts. For one thing, it would have cleared up a lot of questions about their deaths that some modern historians have raised.
Is it because Luke did not want to draw attention to that tragic time when Nero’s persecution put so many innocent Christians to death? Not the time to open those wounds?
We have the graves and remains of Peter and Paul at the Vatican and outside Romes walls, but no account of their death as someone like Luke could give it. I wonder why he didn’t write about it.