Hundreds gathered around five wooden caskets— in a public place, in plain sight, as a Pastor led service. Just two days earlier the Islamic State (also known as ‘ISIS’) detonated eight bombs. Five blew up hotels as families gathered for Easter brunch. Three exploded in churches while Christians worshipped their Risen Lord. Over 350 people died and another 500 lay wounded. (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/23/world/asia/sri-lanka-bombing.html)
The bombings deliberately targeted the Christian celebration of Easter. ISIS made clear: Easter is not welcome. The resurrection is not tolerated. Jesus is not wanted. The explosive statement hopes to stifle the Easter message and scare Christians into silence.
Attacking Easter does not diminish the Christian’s hope, nor does it scare Christians into fleeing the faith. In fact, the opposite happens: Christians cling ever more tightly to Jesus because of Easter. Yes, You will face opposition because of your connection to Jesus. You will be targeted. Yet, God remains determined to exalt his Prince--and no one can stop him. Because of Easter, you can Let Loose the Words of Life.
The book of Acts details the life of Jesus’ disciples after his victorious resurrection and triumphant ascension into heaven. Our selection this morning says. The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade… First, the Twelve disciples are the Twelve apostles. ‘Disciple’ means ‘follower’— and these twelve men shape their lives around Jesus’ teachings; they ‘follow’ what he says. ‘Apostle’ means ‘one sent out.’ Those twelve men who ‘followed’ Jesus’ teachings are now ‘sent out’ to share those teachings.
They stand in the entryway of the temple, tapping shoulders, grabbing attentions, probing hearts, preaching. These are the same men who, just a few months earlier, huddled behind locked doors terrified they might die for their connection to Jesus (John 20:19-31). Now, they stand in a public place, in plain sight, not worried what bystanders might think— and people do notice them.
[T]he high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They had killed Jesus once, hoping to kill his memory forever. Now, these men bring up Jesus again— and people are listening! As the Jews come to worship, they see supernatural miracles like those Jesus once performed. It draws them to the apostles, who then proclaim a living and triumphant Jesus. The Jews pay attention to Jesus once again! The high priest wants attention!
So, [t]hey arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail… If you watch your leaders punish the apostles, then maybe you would consider the apostles untrustworthy scoundrels. You could forget the Christian teaching. You could keep waiting for a better Messiah. You realize this is what you witnessed last Sunday. This arrest clearly says: ‘Stop talking about Jesus.’
The Bible makes clear: You will face opposition as you Let Loose the Words of Life. Sometimes that opposition comes from outside. Those entangled in what is wrong do not want to hear God’s instruction. You encourage a friend to worship, but he avoids you, she does not answer the phone, they do not respond to letters and cards. Your child responds to a gentle invite with a list of everything wrong with what you believe. That stings. You approach people with a heartfelt desire to share words for life and your kindness is repaid with sharp, vicious words. It leaves you feeling ashamed. Sometimes opposition to God’s Word comes from within. Your faith— what you believe— may not feel like a source of joy. It may feel more like a burden or a target. You almost feel embarrassed to say that Jesus came back to life; it sounds childish. You may feel crazy for saying the death of one person fixes you. You may wonder if you are stupid for talking about a six-day creation or a worldwide flood or unexplainable miracles. Your faith can cause tension within.
The devil uses opposition to shame you. He wants you (and me) to rank popularity as more important than the Word. He wants you to twist Bible teachings to sound more acceptable. He wants you to omit commands that the world considers offensive. He wants you to condone lifestyles God clearly calls ‘wrong.’ He wants you ashamed of what you believe so that (1) God’s truth does not get out and so that (2) you believe something false. This way, he destroys others and you.
You will face opposition as you Let Loose the Words of Life. Think about that. You will face opposition-- why? Because you Let Loose the Words of Life. You stand with the living Lord! That automatically pits you against his enemies!
God has raised you from spiritual death and has given you spiritual life. You are not entitled to this. It cost a very high price; it cost the life of God’s blameless Son. Jesus is stripped naked, stretched out, and hung publicly for all to gawk at. As he groans, people mock him. When taunted: ‘Come down from there!’ he chooses to remain on the cross. He endures lies, name-calling, and shame because his life is the only life that can save you. God strips away his life in order to raise you (and me) from the hell we deserve. He uses that life to pry out of our hearts any love we may have for this world. He uses that life to lift you out of eternal shame and into a spot next to him.
You have life because of Jesus. He has conquered opposition from unbelieving rulers. He has conquered opposition from our hearts. That is tremendous news. Let Loose the Words of Life! You will face opposition, but God remains determined to exalt his Prince
The disciples stand in prison, but not for long. [D]uring the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.”
At daybreak they entered the temple courts, as they had been told, and began to teach the people.
When the high priest and his associates arrived, they called together the Sanhedrin—the full assembly of the elders of Israel—and sent to the jail for the apostles. But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were puzzled, wondering what would come of this
Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” You wonder if those leaders ever stop to think how this escape happened. No earthquake happened. No cell-doors clang open. No frenzied escape plan. The last sight of the apostles is in jail. Now, they stand outside (free!) in the temple, preaching and teaching. God did not (and would not) allow his message silenced.
The high priest tried. [T]he captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them. Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.”
That is the point! Peter says: “The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree… Yes! You killed God and you did that because you rejected his teaching. You rejected God!” They need to hear this!. They need to be confronted with the fact that they are waging war against the Almighty and they will lose!. The need to see God exalt his Prince as the triumphant Savior he is. So that they repent; so that they turn from rejecting Jesus to listening to Jesus. So that they have life. Opposition to God is a losing battle. God exalted [Jesus] to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Dear friends, you are witnesses of these things. You know answers a nonbelieving world will never unlock. Ever notice that? When you gather in this church with other Christians, you do not stand out so much. Because you all cling to the same faith! You hold to the same promise! You stand united in Jesus. That’s great! You encourage each other to keep standing on the promise of forgiveness and eternal life, to never let go! You may not see spectacular results. You may not feel different, but be sure, even your presence encourages me to cling to God’s exalted Prince.
When you step out of here, you will stand out. You have the Words of Life; you know what life is all about. Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again. That is the mantra for your Christian living. A nonbelieving does not have this hope. The world’s solution to death is to cope. Cope by (1) telling jokes, (2) seeing grief counselors, (3) speaking of a generic ‘good place.’ Understand, people may need counsel to rise out of grief. Yet, you know life does not end with death. Because Jesus lives, believers who die on earth live in heaven (John 11:25-26). The world’s solution to regret is to cope. Guilty parents attempt to buy the love of their neglected children. Others think alcohol will help them forget. Still others give money to churches in the hope of scrubbing away the past. Yet, you know Easter preaches sins forgiven. The world’s solution to evil is to cope. Ignore troubles. Call evil bad names on television or Twitter. Yet, you know the Risen Lord has delivered us from life in an evil hell. He still leads us through this evil world to that perfect life above.
Let Loose the Words of Life! Let Easter’s empty tomb only strengthen you in your fight against doubt and temptation. Let Easter’s empty tomb be seen in the way you live and in the words you speak. God remains determined to exalt his Prince—in you and through you.
Hundreds gathered around five wooden caskets— in a public place, in plain sight, as a Pastor led service. The Islamic State (also known as ‘ISIS’) deliberately targeted Easter. They made clear: Easter is not welcome. The resurrection is not tolerated. Jesus is not wanted. The explosive statement hopes scare Christians into silence. It failed. Those Christians gathered around the Easter truth that the dead in Christ will rise.
Easter has transformed your life. You may not notice. You may not feel it. Yet, because of Easter you live confident of a triumphant Jesus who reigns for your good. You will face opposition because of your connection to Jesus. The world may hate that, but the Almighty God remains determined to exalt his Prince— and no one can stop him. Christ lives—and lives for you! Let Loose the Words of Life.