April 3, 2016
The text for my message today is that reading from Acts. Acts 5:12-20. In that text, we read of the apostles and early Christians gathering in a place called “Solomon’s Portico.” It was a colonnade… a long row of columns with a roof, providing shade, on the eastern side of the outer court of the temple. It was after Pentecost and the disciples, now by the power of the Holy Spirit, were doing what Jesus had told them to do: They were ministering to people, healing, teaching, baptizing in his name. The church in Jerusalem was growing in leaps and bounds.
Of course, the high priest and the party of the Sadducees who saw that Jesus was brought to the cross didn’t like this. They were jealous. So they had the apostles arrested and threw them in the city jail.
But The Lord had a different plan. During that night an angel, sent by God, miraculously opened the prison doors and brought them out. He then relayed this command to the disciples: “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the the people all the words of this life.”
THIS LIFE. What does he mean by that? When we speak of “this life” we often think of life in this world. Maybe he meant that the disciples should devote themselves to becoming some sort of news organization… where they gave daily reports about all the happenings in the region. That would certainly be about THIS life. Or perhaps they could be comedians offering funny but subtle and philosophical commentary on THIS life we live together, kind of like Seinfeld used to do. Or maybe he wanted them to be motivational speakers or life coaches, encouraging people to make the most out of THIS life with diet, exercise and positive thinking.
“This Life” could mean so many different things, but I doubt very seriously it meant any of those things that I suggested. THIS LIFE, was life that now was animating the apostles, the life they were willing to go to prison for, the life that caused them to speak with great boldness and joy; the life that would change their outlook, their demeanor, their view of the world and their purpose in it. THIS LIFE is none other than the life that is ours by the resurrection of Christ Jesus.
By his resurrection to which you are connected by your baptism and by your faith in him, You have become an eternal person. For remember Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life” The Life ,THIS LIFE and it’s all wrapped up in Jesus. “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25)
Whoever has Jesus is eternal. Eternal life therefore has already begun for you. You may think that you have to die like everybody else, but the moment you breath your last and close your eyelids for the last time, you will open again in the presence of the eternal God and all his angels. Death has lost it’s sting and is now not the end, but more of a transition; more like shifting gears.
The scale of your life has been increased. You’ve gone from 480i to 1080p. You’ve gone from a scratchy Edison style phonograph to surround sound. When the disciples saw Jesus risen the dead. They understood that they too would rise. They lost their fear. And they began to live their lives accordingly. Those who were at one time hiding in the upper room, with all the windows shuttered for fear of the High Priest now stood on the porch of his temple right under his nose proclaiming Jesus boldly to the masses. They did this because they did not fear death. They did this because they were commanded to do it. They did this because they wanted to Share THIS life with other people. They wanted to help others to experience it.
What’s the number one thing that prevents us from meaningful moments with others. What do we always say? I don’t have any time. That’s kind of ridiculous. We have all the time. Form the eternal councils of heaven we must look rather gnarled up as we get all fussy with our watches and cellphones and calendars… all hunched over them. “Don’t got time!” “Don’t got time!”
Truth in THIS life we have an eternity. Of course, God is pleased when we are responsible and dutiful with our time, however he is not pleased when we are selfish with our time. The Angel sent the disciples out to the people. That’s because God considers people the most important thing. The whole sum of his work and the top reason that he sent his son to die, was for people. And we should get on board with that… be willing to offer our time to people. And maybe even also speak to them About This life. The most important thing we can do for another person is Speak to them about this Life.
The Angel said, “Speak to the people all the words of THIS Life.” Words are the medium through which THIS Life is given. As it says in romans “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17) This is why the angel who opened the prison doors sent them out to speak the words. This also why jesus said “Go therefore and teach all nations.” Again with the Words! God created humanity by his word, and he creates faith in us that gives us new life through his word. The reason the word does this is because it is permeated with Christ Jesus who is our life. Jesus once said to the Pharisees “You search the scriptures because in them you think you have life, but the scriptures testify of me!” You hear the Words of scripture you meet Jesus; you hear Jesus.
But notice the angel said “Speak to the people ALL the words.” We dare not try to edit what our Lord has given us to hear and to speak. If we do, we edit Jesus and we have no authority to do that. When I was in college, my fellow college students would always ask a rather strange question. It would go something like this. “What parts of the Bible can I disregard and still be a Christian”. In other words, what parts of the Bible am I free to no believe. But if you understand that The scripture testifies of Christ…. it’s not really a question that even should be asked. It’s like saying “what basic principles of Mathematics can I forget about and still be a mathematician?”
Here’s an example: A lot of people think that they can believe in evolution rather than creation and still be a follower of Christ. But do you remember what John said in his Gospel: “all things were created by Christ.” (John 1:3) And Paul who says “whoever is in Christ is a new creation.” (2Cor. 5:17) And Jesus who will say on the last day “behold, I’m making everything new. (Rev. 21:5)/ Clearly, scripture teaches our salvation in terms of creation. But if you deny that Christ the force behind creation how can you possibly believe that the will create you anew in the resurrection. For the Resurrection is just as far away from man’s scientific understanding as creation is. Both events involve a God who is above this realm. Both events have a a personal God reaching in and doing things that are beyond our ken with his Son.
Another example. A number of Christians today feel free to violate their bodies in sexually perverse ways. They deny that scripture which says “Do you not know the your body is the temple.” In their denial they are constantly profaning Christ by what they do. Probably not a good idea to be constantly profaning your savior.
This generation may think that we can edit scripture in order to arrive at some sort of artisanal Jesus who fits into the life we choose to live….but that is not worshiping Jesus, that’s constructing an idol after your own image.
That angel said a lot didn’t he? “Speak to the people—- All the Words—-About this life.” I think I will. I think you should too. AMEN