Today we will look at Acts 5:17-42
5:17 Now the high priest rose up, and all those with him (that is, the religious party of the Sadducees ), and they were filled with jealousy. 18They laid hands on the apostles and put them in a public jail. 19But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said, 20“Go and stand in the temple courts and proclaim to the people all the words of this life.” 21When they heard this, they entered the temple courts at daybreak and began teaching.
Now when the high priest and those who were with him arrived, they summoned the Sanhedrin – that is, the whole high council of the Israelites – and sent to the jail to have the apostles brought before them. 22But the officers who came for them did not find them in the prison, so they returned and reported, 23“We found the jail locked securely and the guards standing at the doors, but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24Now when the commander of the temple guard and the chief priests heard this report, they were greatly puzzled concerning it, wondering what this could be. 25But someone came and reported to them, “Look! The men you put in prison are standing in the temple courts and teaching the people!” 26Then the commander of the temple guard went with the officers and brought the apostles without the use of force (for they were afraid of being stoned by the people).
27When they had brought them, they stood them before the council, and the high priest questioned them, 28saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name. Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood on us!” 29But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than people. 30The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, whom you seized and killed by hanging him on a tree. 31God exalted him to his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are witnesses of these events, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
33Now when they heard this, they became furious and wanted to execute them. 34But a Pharisee whose name was Gamaliel, a teacher of the law who was respected by all the people, stood up in the council and ordered the men to be put outside for a short time. 35Then he said to the council, “Men of Israel, pay close attention to what you are about to do to these men. 36For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and nothing came of it. 37After him Judas the Galilean arose in the days of the census, and incited people to follow him in revolt. He too was killed, and all who followed him were scattered. 38So in this case I say to you, stay away from these men and leave them alone, because if this plan or this undertaking originates with people, it will come to nothing, 39but if it is from God, you will not be able to stop them, or you may even be found fighting against God.” He convinced them, 40and they summoned the apostles and had them beaten. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. 41So they left the council rejoicing because they had been considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. 42And every day both in the temple courts and from house to house, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus was the Christ.
“But if it comes from God, you will not be able to stop them”
I heard a story while growing up about some of the trouble my parents got into. The last time I heard it, my dad was claiming to have been there and his brother was vehemently denying that my father was there at all. Everyone was laughing, but it was fascinating to see the desire to be included in the historical record of the event. I strongly suspect that a number of the details became embellished over the years before I heard it, but this is the general story line:
A number of teenagers living in a small mountain town wanted to have some fun. There was some roadwork happening at the entrance to the town and they went to explore the area. After a good long climb up the hill they found the construction site and at that site they discovered some pieces of concrete pipe, large pipe as my memory serves me, perhaps in the neighborhood of 4’ diameter. It would be exciting to get it rolling! They managed to lever it out onto the road and turn it to role it along the road. This is the road that is at the top of the hill and enters the town. Once some things start, they are unstoppable.
The good news of Jesus is unstoppable. Once the word gets out, it will spread. What is amazing about it is that it is all true, no embellishments. The force of the gospel is fueled by the power of the Spirit. It will go out and accomplish everything that the Spirit wishes it to accomplish. The disciples were part of the story. The good news couldn’t be held back. Some tried, but failed.
The way I see it, we can passively sit by and watch the gospel spread or we can enter the story and be a part of it. And being part of this story is the most important thing we can do because this story goes on. It goes on and never ends. When you are part of this story, your life goes on in it and we live forever.
So, do you want to be a part of the story? Tell others about the great love of God for his creation. Show them that love in how you live and love them. Be a part of this story and live forever. Be a part of this story and help others to join you.
The story with the concrete pipe ends with only the concrete steps of the library getting hurt. This living story of following Christ never ends and people get saved.
Today we will look at Acts 5:1-16
5:1 Now a man named Ananias, together with Sapphira his wife, sold a piece of property. 2He kept back for himself part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge; he brought only part of it and placed it at the apostles’ feet. 3But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back for yourself part of the proceeds from the sale of the land? 4Before it was sold, did it not belong to you? And when it was sold, was the money not at your disposal? How have you thought up this deed in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God!”
5When Ananias heard these words he collapsed and died, and great fear gripped all who heard about it. 6So the young men came, wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. 7After an interval of about three hours, his wife came in, but she did not know what had happened. 8Peter said to her, “Tell me, were the two of you paid this amount for the land?” Sapphira said, “Yes, that much.” 9Peter then told her, “Why have you agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out!” 10At once she collapsed at his feet and died. So when the young men came in, they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11Great fear gripped the whole church and all who heard about these things.
12Now many miraculous signs and wonders came about among the people through the hands of the apostles. By common consent they were all meeting together in Solomon’s Portico. 13None of the rest dared to join them, but the people held them in high honor. 14More and more believers in the Lord were added to their number, crowds of both men and women. 15Thus they even carried the sick out into the streets, and put them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow would fall on some of them. 16A crowd of people from the towns around Jerusalem also came together, bringing the sick and those troubled by unclean spirits. They were all being healed.
Well, that is a roller coaster of a reading! Judgment and death, healing and deliverance. Ananias and Sapphira were condemned for lying to God. When we think of God, we do well to remember who he is and his call for holiness in our lives. His grace does not give us licence to sin.
Then we have the account of the apostle’s early ministry where people were all being healed of their various afflictions simply by having the apostle’s shadow falling on them. The love, grace and power of the Spirit is not something to be treated lightly either. It changes people in amazing ways.
We follow the God that created life. He knows what it takes to live and what it means. We were bent on a path of destruction and, by his grace has made a way back to life, but it is a narrow path. We forget that some times and need to be reminded that there are consequences to going off the path. We need to be reminded that we can’t just choose our own path because there is only one that gets us to where we want to go.
Jesus told us that he is the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through him. There is a path that leads to eternal life and that path is Jesus. Let’s keep our eyes focussed on him.
Today we will look at Acts 4:32-37
4:32 The group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but everything was held in common. 33With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on them all. 34For there was no one needy among them, because those who were owners of land or houses were selling them and bringing the proceeds from the sales 35and placing them at the apostles’ feet. The proceeds were distributed to each, as anyone had need. 36So Joseph, a Levite who was a native of Cyprus, called by the apostles Barnabas (which is translated “son of encouragement”), 37sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and placed it at the apostles’ feet.
“which is translated “’son of encouragement’”
What is in a name? My full first name is Malcolm and I recently discovered things about my name and what it means. I met a man who shared my name and he explained it to me. He told me that my name meant a follower of Columba. Columba was an Irish missionary to Scotland and who established a monastery on Iona. As I understand it, Columba was not a bad person to follow, to learn from or emulate. Columba’s name meant dove. In a way, you could say then, that my name means follower of the dove, or Spirit. A beautiful thought, and I hope it has some truth to it. I am heartened to think that I might be considered a follower of the Spirit, or at least that my parents hoped that for me.
Joseph, whom the apostles named Barnabas, had a name that meant “may God add or give the increase”, from that he is given a name that means “son of encouragement”. Joseph so embodied a needed and special characteristic that others began calling him by that name. And don’t we all need people like that in our lives right now? We all need a bit of encouragement. May God bring an increase of encouragement to us all.
Each of us share a name, a name that means something. In Baptism we were called by that new name, Christian which means follower of Christ. The name, or title of Christ means “anointed one”. We are followers of the anointed one, the one set apart for the redemption of the world. As his followers we are to follow, learn from and emulate him.
May God so bless us with his Spirit that we become noticed and described by a common characteristic, that we would all model and exemplify the love of Christ in our lives and by doing so, lift up the name of Jesus the Christ.
Today we will look at Acts 4:23-31
4:23 When they were released, Peter and John went to their fellow believers and reported everything the high priests and the elders had said to them. 24When they heard this, they raised their voices to God with one mind and said, “Master of all, you who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them, 25who said by the Holy Spirit through your servant David our forefather,
‘Why do the nations rage,
and the peoples plot foolish things?
26 The kings of the earth stood together,
and the rulers assembled together,
against the Lord and against his Christ.’
27 “For indeed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, assembled together in this city against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, 28to do as much as your power and your plan had decided beforehand would happen. 29And now, Lord, pay attention to their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your message with great courage, 30while you extend your hand to heal, and to bring about miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God courageously.
Peter and John had just been beaten for proclaiming the gospel. People outside the faith are getting angry because they felt threatened by this new understanding of God. In their angst over the gospel, the leaders of the church responded with anger and violence. Peter and John presented the gospel with courage and zeal, but without anger or violence. They presented the gospel in love.
With love, care and concern is the right frame of mind and heart to present the gospel. It is the right way because the message is one of love, care and concern. The method matches the message.
People are getting angry with all the restrictions in place in our lives. It only takes a spark to set the anger to violence. We can be upset that our liberties for worship are being impinged upon, but that was no different than what Peter and John experienced. Let’s join them in our response. Let’s continue to share the gospel with hearts that are peaceful, grateful, loving and caring. Share the gospel with grace because it is a message of grace.
Today we will look at Acts 2:42-3:10
2:42 They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles. 44All who believed were together and held everything in common, 45and they began selling their property and possessions and distributing the proceeds to everyone, as anyone had need. 46Every day they continued to gather together by common consent in the temple courts, breaking bread from house to house, sharing their food with glad and humble hearts, 47praising God and having the good will of all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number every day those who were being saved.
3:1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time for prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. 2And a man lame from birth was being carried up, who was placed at the temple gate called “the Beautiful Gate” every day so he could beg for money from those going into the temple courts. 3When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple courts, he asked them for money. 4Peter looked directly at him (as did John) and said, “Look at us!” 5So the lame man paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. 6But Peter said, “I have no silver or gold, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, stand up and walk!” 7Then Peter took hold of him by the right hand and raised him up, and at once the man’s feet and ankles were made strong. 8He jumped up, stood and began walking around, and he entered the temple courts with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9All the people saw him walking and praising God, 10and they recognized him as the man who used to sit and ask for donations at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, and they were filled with astonishment and amazement at what had happened to him.
I was looking on Kijiji yesterday for something to do with our house build. I noticed a sentiment that seemed to be repeating fairly often. “I started my project with the best of intentions…, I intended to use but changed my mind, bought for a project that I was going to start years ago but now reality has settled in. Many times, we start a project intending it to be a glorious thing when we are done but run out of steam for the project long before it is done. I think I had one piece of baseboard left to put on in our basement in Medicine Hat that didn’t get finished until we set out to sell it.
Or perhaps we make a new year’s resolution to get fit, lose weight, exercise and we start very well. The next thing you know, you haven’t been to the gym in two months. 10,000 steps becomes 2500 and we are pulling out the larger pants again.
As we are going through the early chapters in the book of Acts, we get glimpses of the early church in its golden era. They were of one mind, they held all things in common, they focused on the teachings of the apostles…. Life seems idyllic and perhaps it was, for a while. Come chapter 5 and things will dramatically change. They started very well and we can give thanks for that, but as life carried on, we discover all kinds of problems entering the church. The problem is that, while we are redeemed by Jesus, we soon discover we are still sinners. We look to these images of the early church and think that this is the way it can always be, but it can’t because we can’t. We struggle with ourselves as old habits and desires come back to haunt us. We need a lot of “resets” before any changes take root. Martin Luther expressed it this way: “the old Adam in us, together with all sins and evil desires, should be drowned by daily repentance and sorrow for sin, and be put to death, and that the new person should come forth every day and rise before God in righteousness and purity forever.”
There is a way forward and changes can be made to the way we live, but we need to regularly come forward to the throne of grace and be renewed in the grace of Jesus. This constant cycle of sin, repentance, grace and renewal does serve us well. It keeps us focussed on Jesus and keeps us from thinking that we can make and real or lasting change for the good in our lives without the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
Come Holy Spirit and sanctify us in your power, sustain us and encourage us for Jesus’ sake.
Today we will look at Acts 2:14-41
2:14 But Peter stood up with the eleven, raised his voice, and addressed them: “You men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, know this and listen carefully to what I say. 15In spite of what you think, these men are not drunk, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. 16But this is what was spoken about through the prophet Joel:
17 ‘And in the last days it will be,’ God says,
‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all people,
and your sons and your daughters will prophesy,
and your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
19 And I will perform wonders in the sky above
and miraculous signs on the earth below,
blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
20 The sun will be changed to darkness
and the moon to blood
before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes.
21 And then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’
22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know – 23this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles. 24But God raised him up, having released him from the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held in its power. 25For David says about him,
‘I saw the Lord always in front of me,
for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue rejoiced;
my body also will live in hope,
27 because you will not leave my soul in Hades,
nor permit your Holy One to experience decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of joy with your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I can speak confidently to you about our forefather David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30So then, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, 31David by foreseeing this spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did his body experience decay. 32This Jesus God raised up, and we are all witnesses of it. 33So then, exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he has poured out what you both see and hear. 34For David did not ascend into heaven, but he himself says,
‘The Lord said to my lord,
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’
36Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.”
37Now when they heard this, they were acutely distressed and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “What should we do, brothers?” 38Peter said to them, “Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far away, as many as the Lord our God will call to himself.” 40With many other words he testified and exhorted them saying, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation!” 41So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand people were added.
“and that day about three thousand people were added.”
Now that is an intimidating text. A 3-minute sermon and 3000 are added to the church. The must have spent the rest of the day doing the baptisms. Lutheran sermons in the western world are usually 10-20 minutes and we don’t get responses like that!
That is the point to today’s lesson though. Peter’s message probably wouldn’t even get a passing grade in a preaching class. He is a fisherman and not a gifted speaker. He didn’t spend days pouring over the texts to find its deepest, truest meaning and agonize over finding it relevance in the context of his projected listeners. No, it wasn’t his preparations that made him so effective.
And it wasn’t his education, charm, notoriety or fame. His reputation had nothing to do with it. Peter was just, well, Peter. People weren’t especially drawn to him because of anything about himself. They heard in his speech, something else, something bigger than he was. Something more pressing, more urgent, more convicting. They heard something that cut to the core of who they were and it left them “acutely distressed”. They heard the Spirit.
God has called us to be witnesses of the life, death, resurrection and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Being intimidated by that task is natural and appropriate. You can’t do it! Yet even so you are not excused from doing it. The only wat to get it done is to step out in faith, faith that the Spirit gives you and use the words that the Spirit will give.
So, I will be preaching again on Sunday, trusting that the Spirit who has called me, will also equip me with what I need. Always an act of faith and that is the best state of mind to be in for all of us.
Today we will look at Luke 24:1-12
24:1 Now on the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women went to the tomb, taking the aromatic spices they had prepared. 2They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood beside them in dazzling attire. 5The women were terribly frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here, but has been raised! Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8Then the women remembered his words, 9and when they returned from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 11But these words seemed like pure nonsense to them, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb. He bent down and saw only the strips of linen cloth; then he went home, wondering what had happened.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
What does it take to follow Jesus? What does it cost? I was talking to a wonderful pastor this morning about the nature of the law, those guidelines and demands that God places on us. Think of the ten commandments, there are more, but that is a good start. God demands that we live in a certain way. There are rules to guide us so that we live the way God wants us to. These same rules condemn us when we don’t follow them. They condemn us to separation from God forever when we break even the smallest bit of one. That is one of their main purposes, to show us that we are condemned. We haven’t and can’t make it. People don’t like the law because of this. It points out their flaws. It shows us that we are condemned and as such, we are the walking dead. Doomed now to be separated from God forever. Who could love something that does that to us?
The psalmists do. They declare love for the law of God. Some how they are able to take this thing that aims to kill us and celebrate it as pure joy from God. How does that happen? Think of it this way…
God doesn’t need anything from us. Nothing at all. God can make anything he might want himself and he certainly does not us to make or give him anything. Let’s face it, everything we have is a gift from him anyway. So why does God bother giving us the law? Just to make us feel bad? No. Everything God gives us is for our own benefit. The law, through eyes of faith, is pure gift to us. Remember he doesn’t need anything he simply loves us and wants to give to us the things we need. God gives us a law so that, in obedience, we will begin to experience the life he wants to give us. The law makes sense as a guide to living the gift of eternal life with him.
Jesus died to give us an abundant life. If we have faith to see it, the law simply shows us what that abundant life looks like. When we fail to obey it, that is death. It is walking away from life. The law condemns because apart from it there is no life. Jesus died so that we could have the grace to be forgiven and set back on the path of life. Not only that but he gives us the Holy Spirit to enable and equip us to a new life of obedience so that we learn to live and even enjoy the new life he won for us.
Looking at the law then, can be like looking for the living among the dead. There are those who only find death when living under the law and there are those who are freed to new life because of what Jesus has done. Putting our trust and faith in Jesus frees us to live according to the law and not under it. It becomes life and joy in Christ. We become the living among the dead. Let’s learn to obey Christ and live.
Today we will look at Luke 22:39-53
22:39 Then Jesus went out and made his way, as he customarily did, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. 40When he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41He went away from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed, 42“Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Yet not my will but yours be done.” 43Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44And in his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping, exhausted from grief. 46So he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you will not fall into temptation!”
47While he was still speaking, suddenly a crowd appeared, and the man named Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He walked up to Jesus to kiss him. 48But Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” 49When those who were around him saw what was about to happen, they said, “Lord, should we use our swords?” 50Then one of them struck the high priest’s slave, cutting off his right ear. 51But Jesus said, “Enough of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. 52Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders who had come out to get him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs like you would against an outlaw? 53Day after day when I was with you in the temple courts, you did not arrest me. But this is your hour, and that of the power of darkness!”
“Day after day when I was with you in the courts, you did not arrest me.”
We know whom we don’t get along with, but we feel insecure and so we do not approach the person directly. Instead we talk behind their back and gather support from friendly ears and then, when we thing we have enough support we attack, preferably letting a different member of the team we have assembled do the dirty work. We do it all the time. The chief priests didn’t feel up to the task and so they did it secretly. They had no real strength of argument for a public trial, so they gathered in the night and approached him while he was out of the public eye. They knew they were wrong in the way they were acting because the trial and how it took place was all against their own law.
When we feel guilty about the way we are behaving, it is natural to hide our actions away. When we don’t really want to change, we try to gather sympathy or support, so we can feel a bit more justified in what we are doing. It does us no good. It heals no broken relationships and it hurts those around us.
If we have a disagreement with someone and feel insecure about approaching them, then perhaps it is an invitation to understand the issue on a deeper level. We may discover that we are wrong or that we are right and now have the understanding we need to approach the person directly with love and understanding. Far more effective at bringing about a healthy change and a real opportunity to heal strained or broken relationships.