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Worship Series: Connected
Worship Theme: Connected to Peace
- CW 148 The Strife Is O’er, the Battle Done
- Psalm 148
- CW 165 O Sons and Daughters of the King
- CW 160 This Joyful Eastertide
Message: Connected to Peace
Pastor Jake Schram
Easter is over. The celebration is done, the festivities are over, the pews aren’t as full, and there is no free food offered downstairs today. In the aftermath of Easter, we might be feeling this small sad empty feeling. I wonder if this is something the disciples felt. Jesus had risen and there was rejoicing and wonder. Then Jesus ascended 40 days later. He wasn’t physically with them anymore and the disciples might have felt a little let down. But they were actually emboldened and continued rejoicing. They knew Jesus didn’t rise again to die later. They knew he still lives. They knew the boomshakalaka lives on past Easter Sunday. Every day is a day to rejoice in the risen Savior. Today we see just how valuable that message is as Peter shares it with others. He proclaims the message and then invites people in. He reaches out to those around him.
So, Let’s do a quick summary of where we are at. We are in the Book of Acts. Old Testament Scriptures had always hinted at how God’s Word would be for all people. Before Jesus ascended into heaven, he tasked his disciples with sharing this Word, not just with the Jews, but with the Gentiles too. Jesus said, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:19-20).” Jesus wants his disciples to spread the good news of how Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world... and rose again as a guarantee of those things. The disciples are like a mini-church that is supposed to go out and grow the church and make more churches.
In Acts chapter 3, Peter and John, two of Jesus’ disciples, are going to the temple to pray. On the way, a lame man from birth looks to them for money. Peter looks at him and gives him something so much better. In the name of God, he commands this guy to walk. And his feet and ankles become strong. He’s jumping around and praising God all at the same time. The people recognized this guy as the lame man. He probably had been asking for money for years in the temple courts. So they want to know what happened. They gather around looking for an answer to this miracle. Peter gives it to them. He seizes the opportunity, but maybe not in the way you would expect.
This is where our text jumps in. Peter looks at the crowd and speaks, “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” In other words, “Dude, it wasn’t me!” Then Peter tells who really is responsible. It’s God, their God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is the God they’ve always known and He was glorified in Jesus. These Israelites knew what he was talking about. They knew God’s promises and were looking for a Savior. Peter makes the connection for them that Jesus is that Savior and by his power, the miracle of healing they just saw has happened.
Peter probably didn’t make any friends with his next statement. He blames the people for Jesus’ death. The people might have wanted to blame Pilate and he certainly wasn’t guilt-free, but he wanted to let Jesus go. It was the people’s choice to crucify him. They had even chosen the murderer Barabbas over the Holy and Righteous One. They killed the author of life. This isn’t just flowing poetry here in the text. In one sentence, Peter shows them Jesus is not just some random guy. He’s God! And everyone listening should be trembling in fear because they are responsible for killing God! Their God.
Peter quickly adds that God didn’t stay dead. I mean, come on! It’s God! Death isn’t going to be enough to put him away. Here, we see the most shameful of all human acts offset by a divine act which restores the hope of life and immortality to all. Where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:20-21).
Peter isn’t pulling any punches. Guess who is responsible for God’s death? You. We like to say it was all Pontius Pilate's fault, but Jesus wasn’t just crucified under Pontius Pilate, but also you and me. We all had a part in this miscarriage of justice. Ironic that the person we put to death is also our only hope of deliverance from sin, death and Satan “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (Romans 4:25). It’s like kicking someone in the face and then asking for help. Would you expect it? We’d probably expect a returned kick to the face. But that is not what happens.
I once read a book. Only once... just kidding. I think it was called From Dirty to Dancing by Mike Novotny, but can’t be sure cause I don’t have a copy right now. You may know Mike from Time of Grace. In this book, he tells the story of a married couple’s fight. This husband was just upset and bitter about everything and was letting it all lose. He was blaming her for everything. I imagine he was shouting at her for not caring enough, for not supporting him enough, for not being pretty enough, for not doing things the way he liked. How she was a terrible person and couldn’t show even an ounce of love. All the while, he was hiding a lot of his own shame. And this next part really stuck with me. Instead of lashing back and listing all the terrible deeds he’s ever done. Instead of one upping him with all his faults, she did something unexpected. She just came over and hugged him. And she said something along the lines of, “You are in so much pain and hurt and I am here for you.” That’s probably not what he deserved, but it’s what he graciously got. This is us with Jesus. We get angry and bitter at him. Yell curses at him and in his name. We sin directly in his face. And Jesus, does the opposite of what we deserve. He brings us into his loving embrace and promises never to leave us or forsake us.
The gospel message is so sweet because it comes after the law’s sting. It’s not what we would expect., but it’s what we definitely need. Jesus stands up for us and wipes away our sins. People need to hear this!
The Apostle Peter agreed. He continued preaching to the crowd, saying that he knew the people acted in ignorance. He is not excusing their actions in any way. He’s already determined all are guilty. In the verses we just went over. What the people are ignorant of is that Jesus is the Messiah. He is what they are missing. Peter is not chewing people out for the sake of chewing them out or for being right. He has something bigger in mind. He wanted them to see how much they needed this Savior and who he is. All the prophets pointed to Jesus as the promised Messiah. Jesus is the fulfillment.
Now Peter pleads with them, not to benefit himself, but them. He wants them to see that God even used their disobedience for his great plan. I always like to tell the Tuesday Morning Bible Class there were two different groups with the same plan. The elders and chief priests were aiming to put Jesus to death. God too, planned for Jesus to die for the sins of the world. Different motivations, but the same results. God brings good, even out of evil. Peter, desperately hoping to save souls, then pleads with the crowds to repent (have a change of mind) so they could receive the benefits of God’s gracious acts through faith in Christ. It meant an about face, a turning from works-righteousness to the righteousness of Christ, relying on Christ rather than on self, casting the burden of sin upon him so that he might sustain them. Peter gives the invitation of unconditional love through the gospel message. Christ is the only one who can bring about true refreshment. The whole world is invited.
“True refreshment.” That’s an interesting phrase. What does that make you think of? I think some people think of coming in from a hot summer day and drinking a cool glass of lemonade. Or maybe someone different who is different might be refreshing. The guy who opens the door for you instead of rushing through and leaving it to slam in your face. Maybe when you hear of a good deed on the news, someone who stopped and helped, even when they didn’t have to. You might find that refreshing. Here’s what I find the most refreshing, even above all of those things: someone who can take me as I am. I don’t mean someone that likes it when I sin and mess up. I don’t want that. But when someone accepts you and loves you in spite of knowing everything that could be held against you. A love that is deep and beyond measure. That’s what I find refreshing.
This is Jesus. He is true refreshment in every sense of the phrase. Just like Peter I plead to you, and me too, to repent and come to Jesus. Our sins have made us guilty, but then Christ proclaimed us innocent in him. His grace overrules the punishment we deserve. Jesus invites everyone to participate in his innocence. Just as he healed the beggar physically, he heals all of us spiritually. God bless us as we grow in this truth and experience the refreshment found only in him. Amen.