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Epistle Lesson: Acts 4:5-12
The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
Epistle Lesson: 1 John 3:16-24
We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.
“Christ is Risen!”
Christ is Risen Indeed!
Today we continue down this proverbial journey of looking at the Easter Resurrection of Jesus Christ and exploring where we see Jesus today. We talked about on Easter the confusion that must have taken place on that first Easter morn. Over the last two weeks, we have talked about being empowered over fear by seeing Christ resurrected and last week as we talked about the bodily resurrection and being witnesses of this resurrection. But today, I would like for us to shift gears a bit, and begin to really ask the question that I have placed before you all for a couple of weeks now in the bulletin as I ask, “Have you seen Jesus, my Lord?” This question speaks a lot to the witnessing that I alluded to last week, but I want to take this question that we have been pondering and ask a follow up question to it. Not only do I ask, “Have you seen Jesus my Lord, but Where do you see Jesus our Lord?” Over the next three Sundays, including this Sunday, this question will be the focus of our sermons. Where do we see Jesus, the resurrected Lord?
As we explore this question today, let us begin with our first lesson from Acts. Here it is that we have an account of the apostles being brought on trial for healing a man in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the one whom the rulers had crucified, and the one whom God raised through the Spirit. What we really have here is though is an account of the Elders, Rulers, and Scribes seeing the Risen Lord. Let me explain what I mean by backing up and sharing with you the events that took place to bring Peter and John on trial. I will read to you the account of what happened from the previous chapter in Acts to the beginning of the reading from today.
One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s Portico, utterly astonished. When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you. “And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah appointed for you, that is, Jesus, who must remain in heaven until the time of universal restoration that God announced long ago through his holy prophets. Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you from your own people a prophet like me. You must listen to whatever he tells you. And it will be that everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be utterly rooted out of the people.’ And all the prophets, as many as have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, also predicted these days. You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, “And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.” While Peter and John were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came to them, much annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead. So they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who heard the word believed; and they numbered about five thousand.
So you see, the Rulers, Elders and Scribes were frightened by what they saw the Apostles, Peter and John, do because they saw the same power that was in Christ Jesus in Peter and John….and also in the man who was healed. Earlier this week as I read this chapter of John and Peter healing this man, something dawned on me that had grabbed my attention…It says in verse 4, “Peter looked intently at him (the beggar), as did John, and said, “Look at us.”” I began to wonder to myself, what did Peter and John see in this man who was lame who had day after day been laid beside the gate that people passed through to enter the temple. They certainly noticed something in this man, for they looked intently at him…but why? As I wrestled with why the author wrote that both John and Peter looked at this man intently, or that they steadfastly looked upon him, or fixed their eyes on him, whatever translation you want to use I had decided to see if these words were used else where in scriptures. And it does, and in doing so, I came across something rather interesting. This “looking upon intently” is used only 14 times in all the scriptures. Twice in Luke, twice in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, and ten times it is used in the book of Acts. But here’s the really interesting part, in 7 out of the 10 times that this Greek word was used, it was people staring intently at the heavens, at angels, at God, and at Jesus. So as I look at how this word is used, As Peter and John stared intently into the eyes of the lame man, I wonder, could it be possible that what John and Peter saw in this lame man have been the Jesus that we see in others. Did they have to strain their eyes, and look beyond the ragged clothes, the smell of a man not bathed, look beyond the physical lameness of the man to see the Jesus within this man?
An Elder in the community of John questions, “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help?” and then the elder instructs, “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” When we come into mission and ministry with the “other” with those who are not like us, with the lame man lying outside the gate, or with the woman who is need of paying an electric bill, or the mother who needs to feed a child, we are according to scripture serving Christ. We, who are blessed with many worldly goods, are to use those goods to help those brothers and sisters of ours in need. We do this not by telling them God loves you, but first by the way we reach out to them, by as the scripture says to Love them. Not in the way we love to watch sports, or the way you may love to get on Facebook. But to really and truly love them like God loves you. You see, God is passionate about his relationship for you. He is so passionate that we call the act of Jesus’ love for us The Passion of Christ. The greatest act of love of Jesus giving over his life. And we are to love God with the same amount of enthusiasm and because we love God so much, we love his people the way we love God. I knew a wise pastor who once told me, “We cannot tell someone who is hungry God is good, and God loves you, and leave him or her feeling hungry. But rather we must first feed them and meet their needs, and then we have showed them that God loves them without needing to say a word.” With this in mind, I would like to share with you an idea that I have been throwing around in this head of mine for the last couple of months. I call it the “Mercy Wall”. The way this works is this:
(Explain the Mercy Wall)
As I close today, I leave you with this: a question and a video. So let us first view the video.
“Can you, like Peter and John, see the Resurrected Jesus in Others?”