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This Jesus, Whom You Crucified May 22, 2016

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Acts 2:14a, 22-36
Trinity Sunday
May 22, 2016

Focus: God delivers salvation in and through His Son.
Function: That the hearers confess their faith in the Messiah.
Structure: Recap/Sequel.

This Jesus, Whom You Crucified

As we celebrated Pentecost last weekend, we looked at Acts chapter 2, the events of that day, and the sermon Peter preached to the Jews. I told you then that our text was a two-parter, that we would have to wait until this week to cover the second half of Peter’s sermon. So let’s do a quick review of last week.
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

We talked about what Pentecost was and what it wasn’t. Pentecost isn’t about the disciples or the things they did or whether or not they were drunk. It wasn’t about mass conversions of people or something we need to try to reproduce. Pentecost wasn’t even about the miracle of speaking in tongues. Rather, it was all about the sermon Peter preached, the words he shared with the Jews. God shared the gospel message with His Old Testament people. This Jewish remnant was still clinging to the promise of a Messiah, and Peter delivered on that promise.
Then we also took the time to unpack Joel’s prophesy, seeing how it had multiple meanings. A last day referring to Good Friday, to Christ upon the cross, and also the last day we are waiting for, when Christ returns for us. And Joel proclaims that there is a name by which we will be saved.
So as we transition to our text today, to the rest of the sermon, we will see that name. The name of Christ. Because all of Joel’s prophecy, the sun, the moon, your sons and daughters prophesying, according to Peter, all of that points to Jesus in His death and in His resurrection.
You’re those sons and daughters. You’re the ones prophesying of a Savior. That’s what we do in speaking the Creed together. Flip back there. Look at it. “Conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day He rose again from the dead.” Prophesies, prophesies fulfilled by Christ. You’re proclaiming them. Sure, it’s not speaking in tongues, you don’t have a flame resting on your head. It’s plain, and it’s simple. And it’s true.
This is what Peter preached. The gospel. The good news of who Jesus Christ is and what He’s done for us. The very power of God for salvation to all who believe. It’s nothing fancy, it doesn’t depend on our culture. And while you can think it’s optional if you want, it is real. It’s not optional to reality.
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

This is the meaning of Joel. Jesus died and rose again. Look at how Peter talks, and remember who he’s talking to. These are the Jews, who believe in God the Father. These are the very same Jews who’ve heard of this Jesus, many of them have seen this Jesus. They know the stories, they’ve seen the miracles, they know what happened in Jerusalem during Holy Week. The man they killed during Holy Week.
But now Peter is making a bold claim. That death couldn’t hold Him. That Jesus is alive. That He’s risen from the grave and conquered death. That’s a mighty bold statement to make to the Jews. But Peter backs it up. He goes to their beloved king, King David.
25 For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

And Peter catches a key phrase. “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades.” You won’t let death win. David may not have had an exact blueprint as clearly as we do now, but he knew, he trusted in God’s promise of salvation. That there would be a resurrection. So Peter continues:
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.

We can go just over there and see the tomb of David. He’s still in there. We have proof. So what was David talking about? What was he looking forward to? The promise. David counted on the promise of God that one of David’s descendants would sit on the throne forever. Jesus is that descendant. He was not abandoned to Hades. His flesh didn’t see corruption. Your Holy One will not see decay.
David trusted that a Savior would come to defeat death once and for all. And Peter and the other disciples are eyewitnesses that it’s happened. That “this Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” And so he continues with his sermon:
33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Let the word out, let the good news be known, let the world hear of its Savior! And the Jews listening to Peter that day, they believed. Even though our text ends, here’s what happened next:
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Again, there’s way too much here for us to go in depth on it all. But what a day! The Jews were cut to the heart, they repented of their sin, they believed, they were baptized. Three thousand men.
The gift of baptism, that the Spirit is poured out, faith is created, promises and gifts given and received. For you, for your children. For all who are far off. This promise is for everyone. Baptism matters. It actually does stuff.
And so together they became the church. The New Testament church, the church militant. This is the Christian church, 2000 years ago, today, it is the same. The family of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And so we follow their lead, their example.
That in the very midst of a culture of chaos that is seeking to rip apart your faith, what do we do? We devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching, not our own understanding, but to the Word of God. And from that teaching flows forth a fellowship, a people, gathered together in a community, in a family, around Word and sacrament.
Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, every Sunday, every day of the year, it’s all about who God is, and what He’s done in Jesus for you. And then by the grace of God all that He has done is then confessed aloud by you for others to hear too.

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Why Aren’t They Burning? May 15, 2016

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Acts 2:1-21

Pentecost

May 15th, 2016

 

Focus:  God gives salvation to all who call upon the name of Jesus.

Function:  That the hearers call upon the name of the Lord.

Structure:  Not this…or this…or this…or this…but this.  (with thanks to Rev. Fisk for the outline via Worldview Everlasting)

 

Why Aren’t They Burning?

 

This morning we face an interesting challenge.  We face the task of figuring out what Pentecost is actually all about.  And it’s indeed a challenge, as so many Christians today focus on it all wrong.

Pentecost was such a great day.  Peter preached and people just rushed to be baptized.  If only we could have more days like this.  If only the church could be better, if only we could just live more lovingly, if only we could just do more good for our neighbors, if only we could just preach like Peter, then we would have more Pentecosts!  People would come to church, they’d believe.

Well, at least that’s what our brothers say who think we earn our own salvation.  They think Pentecost is about us, what great works we can do before the Lord.  How it’s about our preaching, our teaching, our connections, our reason and logic.  Our courage to go out into the midst of the unknown. But in reality, Pentecost isn’t about what the disciples did, not at all really.

Pentecost is a one-time event.  One and done.  God did something completely miraculous and He probably won’t ever work this way again.  And that’s alright.  It was for a purpose.  Here we have God the Father calling out to His children of the old covenant.  He’s calling out to the Jews in miraculous way.

And this brings us to another thing Pentecost isn’t about.  It’s not about that (points to pictures of people with burning flames on their heads).  This isn’t the burning bush.  We don’t have a random Jew saying “Hey, look, those guys are on fire, but they’re not burning up.  Let’s go see why.”  That also was a one-time event when God called Moses.  If the disciple literally were on fire, the Jews would have noticed, they’d have said something.

See, again, it has nothing to do with the disciples.  And while Jesus promised that the disciples would be baptized by the Holy Spirit and with fire, that’s a one-time deal, and it’s not what Pentecost is about.

The Jews don’t come up astounded at the disciples being on fire, because they weren’t.  They’re astounded by what they’re hearing.  And it’s more than the miracle.  It’s more than the fact that all these foreigners are hearing the disciples preach in different tongues. It’s like me going before a group of people from every nation under heaven and preaching this sermon and they can all understand.

That’s another one-time miracle of God.  And yet we have entire denominations built on it.  Who insist that if you can’t speak in tongues, you’re not a Christian.  Hogwash.  That’s just absurd, and it’s completely contrary to Scripture.  The apostle Paul realized that when he told Corinth, “in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue,” (14:19).  Tongues had a purpose, and they were a spiritual gift, but even in Paul’s day, not everyone had them.

But it’s not the preaching style of Peter and the eleven that matters either.  Tongues isn’t what Pentecost is about.

Nor is this day about mass conversion, and something we need to figure out how to do again.  This isn’t a Billy Graham revival.  These aren’t hordes of atheists.  These aren’t your coworkers at the annual meeting.  This isn’t the Muslims coming to POBLO for aid.  This is a special, one-time event.

Pentecost is a one-time event in the history of the church.  If you were here last year for Pentecost, you might even remember me preaching about how this is essentially the day the church is born.  On this day, God works through His disciples to convert the remnant of God’s people, the Jews.  To call them out of the old covenant and its ways, and to call them into the new covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ, who He is, and what He’s done for them.

The whole point of all of this, what Pentecost actually is, is the what of Peter’s preaching.  It’s the words he actually shares with the Jews, as he proclaims to them the cross of Christ and His resurrection along with a baptism by water that puts an end to the covenant that God made with Abraham and with Moses.

And this sermon of Peter is so long that we will spend the next two weeks covering it.  Okay, it’s not really that long, but we do have two weeks to unpack all the Peter said to the Jews that day.  And it comes from a man the crowd thought was drunk.  When we think about it, we can understand why.  These guys are proclaiming that some guy named Jesus died fifty days ago, but three days later rose from the dead and has just recently ascended into the skies.  It sounds like something crazy a drunk might dream up.

But Peter connects to the Jews right away, quoting to them from the Old Testament prophet Joel.  And it’s something we’ll see him unpack in full next week, but for now, let’s look at the text he quotes ourselves.

We’ve spent so much time recently on the apocalyptic writings of John in the book of Revelation.  This piece from Joel is also apocalyptic, it’s considered to be end of the world stuff. But, as many good prophecies are, this “last days” language doesn’t just mean the Last Day, the end of the world.

The last days of Joel’s prophecy are first fulfilled on Good Friday, as the needs of sinners, the need of a hopeless people, is met upon the cross.  Sins forgiven.  Nailed to the cross; no more.  Christ has set you free.  On this first last day, God judges the world through Jesus on the cross.

This is the blood moon reference.  Not that the moon turns into blood, although I suppose on the last day it could, but in apocalyptic Scripture, this is a phrase used to mark a major historical transition.  Here, the blood moon marks a transition from the old covenant to the new.  The old covenant has ended, been put to death.  There’s a seismic shift on the cross.

There’s still more blood and more death to come in this prophecy.  Because on the second last day, the one we normally think of, God will judge the world apart from Christ according to their works.  For those who are in Christ, this is a day full of hope, of salvation, of life, of joy.  But for those who think they’ve earned it, from those who think they are gods themselves to those who simply think they can do enough good to make it heaven, that they can be their own Savior, it will be a day of great sorrow.  A day of death, a day of everlasting damnation.

This is the true meaning of Pentecost, the true importance of that day.  It’s what Peter preached, the death and resurrection of Christ, a baptism by water that saves in Christ.  And it’s ironic, because those congregations who are all about speaking in tongues don’t preach Christ resurrected and a baptism in which God comes to you to forgive your sins.  They’ve missed the whole point.

The covenant made on Mount Sinai has ended.  Jesus has done this.  “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Peter names the name, he proclaims the goods, but for that, you’ll have to come back again next week.

 

 

Up, Up, and Away! May 5, 2016

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Acts 1:1-11

Ascension Thursday

May 5, 2016

 

Focus:  God is expanding His kingdom.

Function:  That the hearers serve their neighbors in love while awaiting Christ’s Second Coming.

Structure:  Walkthrough the text.

 

Up, Up, and Away

 

For the last month or so now, we’ve really dug into the Scripture texts during the sermon.  It’s fun, it’s a good way to pour through God’s Word.  And as summer approaches, it’s just nice to have this chance for extra Bible study, to continue to drum up your interest in God’s Word.  It’s not an all the time preaching style, but it’s helpful.

So we continue that way tonight, as we celebrate the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ into heaven.  If you’d like to follow along either in the Bible or in your bulletin, we’ll be walking straight through our reading from Acts chapter one.

  1. In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach

 

What other book of the New Testament was written to Theophilus?  The book of Luke, the gospel according to Luke.  For our purposes, it really doesn’t matter who Theophilus is.  Many simply think it’s the patron of Luke’s writing, the man perhaps funding Luke to do this research and compose these works.  Others, however, have simply thought it was a play on words in Greek, as the name means “lover of God.”  So Luke might be writing this to all people who love God.  I lean toward it being an actual person, but really it’s just something neat to think about.

Either way, this is a sequel.  Officially titled, “Acts of the Apostles,” this is Luke 2.  Or 2 Luke, or whatever you want to call it.  It’s a continuation.  Luke is about the ministry of Christ for the church.  Acts is about the Holy Spirit at work through the church.  And they fit right together.  It’s like when you watch your favorite TV show, it ends on cliffhanger, and then the next week’s episode starts by recapping last week.

Luke ends with the ascension.  Acts begins with the ascension.  Unfortunately, our English publishers like to put John in between.  Luke and Acts, take them together.

  1. until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

 

So again, Luke was about all Christ did, and that included the instructions for what the disciples were to keep doing after Christ left them.  And so that’s where we’re picking up, going back to those instructions.

  1. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

 

Sometimes we get the idea that faith is just separate from reality.  Like we can compartmentalize it.  It’s spiritual, we can’t really know, so you just gotta have faith.  I can’t answer your questions, but just believe in Jesus.  The New Testament doesn’t really talk that way.  Here we have concrete proof to the disciples.  Christ rose from the dead, appeared to them, did miracles before them, and continued to teach them.  This matters.  And it’s the same way the disciples will turn around and share the gospel.  They will give proofs of the resurrection as they witness to others about Christ.

And while we can’t say we are eyewitnesses of the risen Christ, well, we actually kind of can in the Lord’s Supper, but that’s not as convincing to a non-believer.  We do still have evidence, and some pretty good ones at that.  We can prove Jesus lived.  We can prove that the things the New Testament records are actually what He said.  We can’t prove correct, that’s where faith will come in, but there’s a lot of good, and helpful, stuff available.  That’s what Sunday Bible class downstairs has talked about, and if you ever want to know more, just ask.

Jesus appears to them over 40 days and continues to teach.

  1. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.

 

We can only imagine what the disciples might have been thinking when Jesus started to say this.  But, why is this odd?  Why would Jesus have to tell the disciples not to leave Jerusalem?  Well, they had just crucified Jesus.  They had just killed the Christ.  The disciples are now locking themselves away in a house hiding for fear that the Jews will kill them, too.  We can only imagine that they were thinking, plotting how they might escape, where they might go next.  Where on earth might be safe for them.

But Jesus tells them to stay.  Remain here.  Remain in Jerusalem in the very midst of the people who seek to take your life.  This is another spot where we misinterpret our New Testament.  Much of American Christianity today is about happiness and comfort.  We think of God’s blessings to us as material things, that if we just are faithful enough, if we just give enough, God will pour out material blessings on us.  And bad things won’t happen to you.

We live in a culture that’s about being comfortable, enjoying life.  And I’ve had to warn the confirmation students about this.  If you’re comfortable in life, if there’s nothing causing you trouble in any way, you’re probably not doing what God has called you to do.  Because the New Testament promises that “all who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12).

That’s what Jesus is calling the disciples to do, to give up their concern about themselves and this worldly life, to forsake this life for the sake of the kingdom.  Remain in Jerusalem, remain here until the Father gives you the gift you’ve been promised.

  1. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

 

This is the gift, the Holy Spirit being poured out from heaven onto these disciples.  It’s the day we call Pentecost, it’s the day the Church on earth is truly born.  And we’ll talk more about that in a week and a half when we celebrate Pentecost.

  1. So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

 

As pastors, we teach.  And Jesus’ patience with His disciples is truly incredible.  I run out of patience every week in confirmation.  But not here.  I need to learn from this.  For three years, Jesus has been teaching the disciples about the kingdom of God, and they still don’t get it.  They just don’t.  They still think He’s the conquering king, that He’s going to overthrow Rome and give power back to the Jews.  This after Good Friday and Easter.  They still don’t understand.

  1. He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.

 

And so the resurrected Lord continues to teach.  This is still the same Christ who said even He doesn’t know the day or the hour, but only the Father in heaven.  The Second Coming of Christ is coming, but that’s not for you to worry over.  I have something for you to do.

  1. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

 

Again, Pentecost here.  You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.  And they do, and then they witness.  They go out, they leave the locked house and they share the good news of Christ with the world around them.

And while not everything Jesus says to His disciples applies directly to us, this one doesn’t, this is one we can still learn from.  Jesus isn’t commanding you to go to Jerusalem and Samaria.  That was their task, but we could still see it as formula in a sense.  Think about it.  Jerusalem is their immediate location.  That’s where they are.  For you, discipleship starts with your immediate location, your immediate family, it starts at home.  Train up your children in the way they should go.  As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.

What’s next?  Judea?  What’s Judea in relation to Jerusalem?  Jerusalem is the capital, Judea is the surrounding country.  Those closest to you.  Look at your vocations, think of your neighbors, your friends, your subdivision.  And after Judea, Samaria.  What’s Samaria?  It’s the capital city of the old rivaling nation.  This is why Jews hate Samaritans.  It’s a further distance traveled for certain, so your whole community perhaps.  Your enemies, maybe?  And then to the ends of the earth.  The good news is for all people.

  1. After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

 

There really isn’t much about the ascension.  It just happens.  Jesus is teaching, and then He just lifts up to heaven.  He’s going up, up, and away.  He’s gone, He’s left, and you can see the reaction:

  1. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.

 

 

You can imagine that.  You’re just talking with someone, having a good conversation, and they just start floating off to heaven.  Strange stuff.  They were staring.  Jaws might have been hanging open.

And who are the men dressed in white here?  We have a couple of angels that appear and speak to the disciples.

  1. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

 

He’s gone, but He’s coming back.  It’s almost like the angels just came down to tell the disciples to snap out of it.  It’s reassurance, certainly, comfort.  Don’t worry.  He’s with you.  He’s promised.  That’s great stuff.

The whole of the ascension is great stuff.  Jesus doesn’t float off to nowhere.  Don’t get the image of Jesus drifting around in space on an inflatable pool toy.  That’s not what this is.  He’s made promises to us.  First, that He would return to His Father in heaven.  This is His reign.  This is the 1,000 years of Revelation stuff as Christ reigns as King over His kingdom, over the whole earth.  He’s doing that as He’s sitting in His throne at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  In the midst of political chaos, that’s comforting.  He’s King, He’s in charge.  Everything is going to be alright.

Then He also promised that if He left, He would send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to us.  This is the same Spirit who comes on the disciples at Pentecost.  This is the pouring out of the same Spirit in the waters of baptism that proclaims you to be a forgiven child of God, heir of the everlasting Kingdom of Christ.  Christ left so He could send the Spirit who would then work faith in you.

And then He also promised that He was preparing a place for us.  We talked about that a couple weekends ago.  A new heaven, a new earth.  Our final home, whatever it may look like.  Jesus ascended to prepare that home for you.  And it is finished.  And you’re going to love it.  Because you’ll be in Paradise with God forever.

This is a great text.  There’s teaching here, Jesus gave His disciples things to do.  But there’s also sweet gospel, as the ascension of Christ into heaven fulfills God’s plan.  Christ is King of creation as originally intended.  He is caring for us.  He sent His Spirit into our midst to create and sustain faith in us.  And as the angels promised, He’s coming again to reclaim what is His.  And that includes the children of God.  That includes us.  And so we await the Second Coming of Christ.  Praying indeed, “Amen, Come Lord Jesus.”