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Sunday, April 1, 2018

Lord and Christ (Acts 2.22-36)

Sermon by: Robert Austell; April 1, 2018 (EASTER SUNDAY) - Acts 2:22-36

:: Sermon Audio (link) :: Click link to open and play in browser; right-click to save. Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes. Search for "Good Shepherd Sermons" or "Robert Austell." 

::: Scripture and Music ::
CHOIR/CONG: Christ is Alive (arr. Hopson)
Christ the Lord is Risen Today (EASTER HYMN)
Resurrection Hymn/See What a Morning (Townend Getty)
CHOIR: Glorious Day (arr. McDonald) - feat. Melissa Katibah, Eric VanderHeide
Let God Arise (Tomlin, Cash, Reeves)
Thine is the Glory (MACCABEUS)
**And some awesome jazz for prelude/postlude by Rick Bean!

:: Sermon Manuscript (pdf) ::
This "manuscript" represents an early draft of the sermon. Some weeks the spoken version varies more than others from the early manuscript. Nevertheless, if you'd prefer to read than to listen, this is provided  for that purpose.

This morning our scripture text comes from a sermon by Peter, the disciple and follower of Jesus. In that sermon, Peter tells the story of Jesus. This morning I’m going to tell you the story of Jesus as clearly as I know how to do. People are here for different reasons. Maybe it’s your first time back to church in a long time. Maybe you are here visiting a relative or friend. Maybe you are a long-time church member and you are here like any other Sunday. Whoever you are, in some form or fashion, you are here because of Jesus Christ. It is Easter because of Jesus; we’re in church because of Jesus. So, if you’ve heard it before, listen again, you might hear something new. If you haven’t heard it or it’s been a long time, listen, this is the story that is at the heart of it all.

Listen: Jesus the Man (vv. 22-23)

“Listen to these words.” That’s how our text begins. Listen to these words:

Jesus died on a cross.
Jesus… the Nazarene… the miracle-worker… crucified at the hands of the Romans.

The starting place is the historical Jesus. He’s a figure in history, mentioned not only in the Bible, but also in other histories of the times. If you could time-travel, you’d find him there… a first-century Palestinian Jew, a wandering Rabbi-Teacher, a man with a following. While you might question the miracles, you’d find a trail of people who would tell you they’d been healed, freed of demons, and confronted with a man like no other.

Whatever else he is, Jesus is not a figment of our religious imagination. He is not a Zeus or Apollo, created by human minds to explain the unexplainable. He is at the least a man who lived and died, with a life documented by eye-witnesses who were his followers and some who were not. To claim that he was less than that is not being honest or, at least, is being deceived.

Listen, Jesus was a real person… and even two thousand years later, that cannot be convincingly denied.

Listen and Look: God at Work (v. 32)

Listen and look – now Peter calls witnesses for what he says next. Jesus the crucified Nazarene wasn’t the end of the story. Nor was that the end of his life. THIS JESUS, Peter says, God raised up again. And Peter doesn’t just claim it on pure faith, sight unseen. He is surrounded by others who witnessed a living Jesus themselves. He says that in v. 32 – “…we are all witnesses.” Twice he says it (vv. 24 and 32): “God raised him up again.” Peter witnessed God at work and he claims the legal and practical support of an eye-witness.

We, unfortunately, are removed from the eye-witnesses of the Jesus raised from the dead. And yet, there are eyewitnesses of God at work, even today. Jesus is in Heaven with God the Father, ascended back to his Heavenly home. But he left the Holy Spirit to remain with us. The Spirit, says Jesus, is invisible, but like the wind blowing the leaves of the trees, it can be seen when it is working among us.

The Christian witness to the world is that God is still at work – both in the world and in our lives. Are you a witness of God at work? Have you seen or heard God? Think – your first answer might be, “No.” But consider how you “see” God. You who are Christians are the eyewitnesses that God answers prayer, that the Holy Spirit is living and active in your life, and that God has indeed rescued you from death into life. God speaks through His written Word, the Bible. God acts through the Holy Spirit. God meets us in worship and goes before us in His mission to the world.

How will someone who has not trusted in God hear news of THIS JESUS God raised up again? It will be because you who are Christians are witnesses to God’s presence and power.

Know This: Lord and Christ (v. 36)

Finally, Peter says in vs. 36:

…know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ…

First, what is it we should know for certain? It is that Jesus was not just a man, even if he was a documented man in history with profound influence on the world around him. Jesus is more than that. Jesus was also raised from death by the power of God. That makes him much more than a man; it indicates that he is God working in the world. Believing that is a stretch of faith, but there are still eyewitnesses… that God is at work in the world and in our lives. There is more than the routine of our daily lives; there is an active God.

But Peter asserts the real truth that we should know for certain. God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ. Jesus is not just a Nazarene, a man; he is the demonstration of God’s power, anointed by God as “Christ,” chosen one, Messiah. He is also Lord; God Himself at work among us. What we should know for certain is that Jesus is Lord and Christ – both the way that God chose to restore us to Himself and give us life, but also the one we believe, worship, and follow. THIS JESUS is Lord and Christ – the way we look to, trust, and obey the God of the universe.

Second, how can we know this for certain? It is by faith, to be sure. For one cannot trust, obey, worship, and follow except from the spirit and by faith. We might trust a teacher, and even obey and follow, but we dare not worship anything less than God. If we could document, bottle, examine, and describe God, then our worship would be misplaced. Only a God who reaches out to us and whom we trust in faith is worth worshiping in the first place.

Yet, faith is not as blind or “mindless” as some would imagine. It is grounded in our experience. We have, after all, the historical record of Jesus the Nazarene. We have the testimony of eye witnesses, whether first century followers like Peter and Paul or contemporary followers among our family or friends. And we have the declaration of scripture – purporting to be God’s self-revelation and describing an infinite God who has acted in history and the world to make a way for us to return home to Him. If you read it with an open heart and open mind, you will find a God worth worshiping. Yes, faith is required to really “get it” – but faith isn’t as elusive as it’s made out to be. Peter gives us a road map to faith and grounds us in a clear description of God’s mission to the world.

Where are You?

Having said all that, the big question that remains is to ask, “Where are you?” Where are you in relation to THIS JESUS? Maybe you know him and trust him and follow him. If so, consider what kind of witness you are. It may be that your words and actions become part of another person’s journey to faith.

If you don’t think you get it, begin where Peter began. Start with Jesus the Nazarene, Jesus the man. Read everything the Bible has to say about him. Read Josephus, a Roman Jewish historian who wrote about him from an outside perspective. As you read, also consider the testimony of the witnesses. The New Testament was written by eye-witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Talk to some modern witnesses – people you know trust Jesus Christ and try to follow him. Consider the core story about Jesus – that he was God’s Son, sent to die and be raised so that we might be restored to a relationship with God. And talk to God – ask for help and ask for faith.

If you are here today, it is because of Jesus in some way. It is worth asking the question, “What is Jesus to me?” Consider what it means that THIS JESUS is Lord and Christ. Is he that to you? If not, what stands in your way? It may be less than you thought.

May God give us ears to hear and hearts to respond to His Word this morning. Amen.

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