Skip to comments."All the Words of This Life" (Sermon for the Second Sunday of Easter, on Acts 5:12-20)
Posted on 04/27/2019 12:12:06 PM PDT by Charles Henrickson
All the Words of This Life (Acts 5:12-20)
In our reading today from the Book of Acts, we find the apostles in Jerusalem, ministering in the name of the Lord and finding favor with the people. But the high priest and the Sadducees dont like this. Theyre jealous, and so they have the apostles arrested and thrown in jail. The Lord has other ideas, though. That night an angel comes and opens the prison doors and brings the apostles out and instructs them to carry on, saying, Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.
Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life. The angels instructions back then still apply today. Go and stand in the temple. OK, check, Im standing right here. And speak to the people. Got it, check. All the words of this Life. Alright, thats what Im about to do. Yes, the same assignment given to the apostles is what Ive been sent here today to do for you. Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.
All the Words of This Life. What an interesting way to put it! What is the angel referring to? What does he mean by all the words of this Life? And why is it so important for Christs ministers to speak these words, whether then or now? Lets find out.
Speak to the people all the words of this Life. Which life? I guess thats our first question. This Life. What is the this referring to? You know, sometimes we use the phrase this life to refer to our life here in this world, and maybe not even as Christians living in this world, but just this life as any person might live it. If so, if thats what the angel meant by speak to the people all the words of this life, what words would we speak? I suppose we would speak words of happiness, perhaps, but also mixed with sorrow. We would speak words of family and friends, near ones and dear ones, but also words of conflict, hard feelings, animosity, and anger. Words of sickness, sadness, aging, depression, loneliness. The words of this life, that is, of life in this world, would include words like sin--sins against God, sins against one another. Words like pain and stress and feelings of guilt. And finally, death. Death all around us. Death looming in front of us, and sometimes not that far away. Those are words that would describe this life as we live it in this world as people of the world.
But that is certainly not what the angel meant by Go and speak to the people all the words of this life. What would be the point of that? To tell people what they already know? To bring them down with just a stark retelling of life as we know it? No, there is another life the angel would have Christs ministers bring with words. And this life is truly new and different.
This life, the life that animated the apostles, the life they were willing to go to prison for, the life they were instructed to speak, and which they spoke with great boldness and gladness--this life is the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. This is it, and none other. The life of the risen Lord, the life Jesus opens up for us--it is this life that his ministers speak to you, even as they spoke to the people back in the Book of Acts.
This is the life that Peter had spoken of on the Day of Pentecost. He told the crowds: This Jesus God raised up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are his witnesses.
This is the life that Peter spoke of again when he healed the lame man at the temple. He called Jesus the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. Peter and John were speaking in the temple, teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. This is the real life, the resurrection life, the Jesus life, that the apostles were proclaiming.
When persecuted and told to speak no more in this name, the apostles prayed--the whole church prayed--that the Lord would grant them to continue to speak his word with all boldness. And thats what happened. They continued to speak the word of God with boldness. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
This life is the life of the risen Christ. The apostles were witnesses of this living Lord. They had heard and seen and touched their risen Master. Peace be with you, Christ had told them, as he stood among them in those days of his resurrection. They heard his words of pardon and peace. They touched the nail marks in his hands and the spear wound in his side, those wounds by which he won their pardon and their peace.
Dear friends, Christ Jesus did that for you, also. His death on the cross won pardon and peace for you. Your sins are forgiven by the death of the Son of God. And by his death, and with that forgiveness, comes life and peace for you. Peace be with you, Jesus says. Those are the words of this life that Jesus is speaking to you today, as he stands here among us.
The apostles knew the resurrection life of Jesus. John the apostle even had a revelation of the risen Christ many years later. Clothed in brilliant glory, speaking with a voice like the roar of many waters, the risen and ascended Lord Jesus spoke words of assurance and life to John: Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I hold the keys of Death and Hades.
These also are the words of this life that Jesus speaks to our frightened hearts today. His death and resurrection guarantee our resurrection from the dead and our eternal salvation. His victory becomes our victory. That Jesus holds the keys of Death and Hades means that he has authority over them. He sets us free from their chains. The big Death has no power over us. Hades, that is, eternal condemnation and separation from God--hells fierce power is broken. Jesus holds the keys of Death and Hades. And he opens up Life and Heaven for us to enter in.
This life--this is the life that lasts forever, new and qualitatively different. And the difference is that this is Jesus life, which he shares with us. Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life. This is the life that is meant.
And the words do it. What I mean is, the words deliver this life to us. They not only describe this life, they deliver it, too. This is why its so important for the apostles--and now, for pastors--to stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life. Because that is how you get this life. And this is why its so important for you to be here to hear these words. For the words themselves are life-giving. The word of God is alive and active. His words actually do what they say. The Holy Spirit works through these gospel words to create and nurture faith in your heart, so that you, a dead sinner, come to life and take hold of this life for your own.
Words of life. This life, the Jesus life, the raised-with-Jesus life. You heard these words when you were baptized: I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Words of life, newness of life. You hear these words in Holy Absolution: In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins. Words of life, life cleansed and forgiven. You hear these words of our Lord Jesus in the Holy Supper he gives us: This is my body, this is my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Yes, words of life--forgiveness, life, and salvation. Here in this temple, Christs minister stands and speaks to you these wonderful words of life.
This life is a new life even now. It is life lived in community, in fellowship, in the loving circle of Gods family called the church. This life, because it is the life of Jesus that we all share in, binds our lives together. Like the early church, where the apostles spoke the words of this life, and those words bore fruit in the way the Christians lived. They looked after one another and cared for one another and helped each other out. And that is your life too, brothers and sisters, here in the church. The words of the resurrection life of Jesus do not go in one ear and out the other. We do not go out these doors unchanged, off into our own little isolation booths. By no means! Rather, the words of this life go into our ears and down into our hearts, and they change our lives. This new life flows out of our mouths in words of love and kindness and forgiveness. This new life flows out of our hands in works of care and help and mercy. This is the life that Gods people live together.
Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life. Well, today I havent spoken to you all the words of this life, but at least this is a start. It should be enough to get you through this week. Youll have to come back here to Gods temple for more. But for all the words--well, thatll take you the rest of your life. And when your short life in this world is ended, then all the words of this Life that have been spoken to you all these years will carry you into the life to come. And so the resurrection life of Jesus will be ours to share and to enjoy forevermore.
Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomons Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.
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