Please click on link to listen to our podcast of the scripture and sermon. The video clip has been left out but would invite you to watch the clip in the sermon here on the blog below: 13-04-07 Resurrection Power – Rulers and Authorities
Epistle Lesson: Revelation 1:4-8
John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.
Epistle Lesson: Acts 5:27-32
When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Christ is Risen!
Last week, at Easter Service, we began talking about the power and authority that comes with that of the Resurrection and reflecting on what this Resurrection means to us in the 21st century. Today we are going to be talking about the Resurrection among Rulers and Authorities.
In our epistle lesson from the writings of Acts, we have heard that the apostles were brought before the council where the High Priest questioned them. This council, is the very same council, called the Sanhedrin that had condemned Jesus to death and brought Jesus before Pontious Pilate, the Roman Authority. So, the question that first comes to mind is what exactly did these apostles do to find themselves before the very same council Jesus had gone before. Well, let’s back up to verse 12 and read from verse 12 to 27.
Now many signs and wonders were done among the people through the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13 None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14 Yet more than ever believers were added to the Lord, great numbers of both men and women, 15 so that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on cots and mats, in order that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he came by. 16 A great number of people would also gather from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those tormented by unclean spirits, and they were all cured. 17 Then the high priest took action; he and all who were with him (that is, the sect of the Sadducees), being filled with jealousy, 18 arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, 20 “Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.” 21 When they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and went on with their teaching. When the high priest and those with him arrived, they called together the council and the whole body of the elders of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the temple police went there, they did not find them in the prison; so they returned and reported, 23 “We found the prison securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard these words, they were perplexed about them, wondering what might be going on. 25 Then someone arrived and announced, “Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!” 26 Then the captain went with the temple police and brought them, but without violence, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.
The very act that they did was teaching and curing in the name of Jesus. That powerful name in which we just heard me speak about to the children. So these apostles were brought before the council actually in our reading the second time. Apparently, the first time they had been brought before the council, they had been instructed to not teach in the name of Christ. And yet, they did so anyways because as Peter so very boldly professes, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” The underlying problem was not necessary the name that was used, but that the people were holding these apostles in high esteem. They were in fear of a revolution against Rome and all that Rome knew was that Jesus was a Jew. They themselves feared that the Jews would be the ones who would be targeted as the revolutionaries because at this time, so many of the follower’s of Jesus were still Jews. The tension that was being carried among these leaders was that the Christian Jews did not fear death for they have their faith and hope in the Resurrection, while the Sadducees and leaders of the Sanhedrin did not have that assurance. And anytime there is a threat to the powerful, the powerful often react in fear with strength and STRICT orders. Let me show you what I mean with this clip from the popular Disney movie “Lion King”.
Although rather a humorous example, it speaks truth to how those who in positions of power respond to threats to their power. And in today’s age, I believe the reason we have seen little resistance to Christianity is not because it is commonly accepted, but rather because we are not claiming the Resurrection in the boldness that it deserves. When the Resurrection, the Gospel is proclaimed in its most truest since, even our own nation will resist. Because you see, when we pledge allegiance to Christ, the Alpha and Omega, we also are declaring that even the US of A is not the alpha and omega, but will one day perish. Scripture from last week said, “Then comes the end, when Jesus hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:24-26). This authority in Christ Jesus makes any nation, any leader tremble because they are not Jesus. They are not the ones being revered above all else. And Peter is at the heart of this when he says, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”
I’d like to share one of my own stories of following God’s will above that of a human authority from when I was a 15 year old missionary to the closed country of China.
(Tell Story of Smuggling Bibles)
You may be saying to yourself Again, this is great and all, but I don’t plan to be going on any trips to China, or North Korea, or Saudia Arabia anytime soon, so what does that mean for me? It means that there is a shift in even the mindset to which you name yourself. What’s in a name? Who are you? More often than not, you say, my name is: __________ and I am an American. Rather than that being your identity, let us begin to say, I am a Christian and my name is _________. Let the very first thing that we commonly relate to be that of our faith. When we begin to let our faith be our identity, when the Resurrection becomes our sole purpose for living, you will begin to see where the challenge from the world around you will come. And when it does, not if, but when, may you be secure in your faith and without wavering may the Grace of God stand firm and say, I serve the Risen Savior Jesus Christ, the forgiver of sins, the ruler of the kings, the firstborn of the dead, the Alpha and Omega, who is and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty!