Repost Your Risen Lord: With Peace of Heart
Pastor Russell Scoggins
Sermon Date: 4/28/2019
Bible Reference: Acts 5:12, 17-32
Topics: Evangelism, Confidence, Peace, Sharing Christ’s Love
Summary: Evangelism can be a scary topic. It doesn’t need to be. Our risen Lord gives us peace as we go out and share the news of him.
Bible Reference: Acts 5:12, 17-32
12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade.
17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people all about this new life.”
21 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. 22 But on arriving at the jail, the officers did not find them there. So they went back and reported, 23 “We found the jail securely locked, with the guards standing at the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside.” 24 On hearing this report, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were at a loss, wondering what this might lead to.
25 Then someone came and said, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple courts teaching the people.” 26 At that, the captain went with his officers and brought the apostles. They did not use force, because they feared that the people would stone them.
27 The apostles were brought in and made to appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest. 28 “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.”
29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
For the next several weeks, we will have readings from the life of Jesus, from the book of Acts, and from the book of Revelation. All of the readings over the next several weeks will have a common thread running through them, namely, what it means for us that our Lord has risen. Especially as we think about the readings from Acts, we’re going to see from the lives of the apostles, that the fact that our Lord has risen can only mean one thing… WE’VE GOT TO SHARE THIS MESSAGE!
Thus our sermon series will be called “Repost Your Risen Lord!” Online, when you repost something, it means that you read an article (for example) and then share it so others can read it. Repost Your Risen Lord—It’s a modern way of saying, share the message of Jesus! As we go through this sermon series, we’re going to look at where our confidence to share Jesus comes from. Today our focus will be, Repost Your Risen Lord: With Peace of Heart.
When it comes to preaching, I generally try to avoid the shock factor for illustrations unless there’s a worthwhile purpose behind it. But...I just want to prepare you, today, as we open things, there’s going to be a little bit of shock factor; however, there is a worthwhile purpose behind it. We’re going to start things off with the first couple minutes of a video clip today. In order to keep things age appropriate, I will actually be cutting the video clip off about half way through. This video retells the story of two young Nigerian Christians, their families, and their church. As we watch this video, I want you to try and place yourself in the church that day, and imagine what it would have felt like to be there.
That day, 18 people were shot, and 12 died. The young girl in the video—Victoria—lost her father and her 10 year old brother. Stories like this are not uncommon in other parts of the world. Even just trying to mentally place ourselves in a situation like that can cause a sick, gut-wrenching fear. However, the gut-wrenching feeling caused by witnessing an event like that hardly even scratches the surface of what it would have felt like to live through a situation like that.
I wanted us to experience just a taste of that gut-wrenching feeling this morning, because I want us to do the best we can to empathize with the disciples. The first half of verse 19 from our Gospel reading, “19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders.” After Jesus died, the disciples were terrified.
Let’s just imagine how they were feeling as they sat behind locked doors. For 3 years, they has been following a man named Jesus around. This man Jesus had performed miracles. He had claimed to be the Son of God. He had claimed to be the promised Messiah. And it seemed that just as this man had started to gain some national attention, something somewhere, had gone horribly wrong. They had killed the Messiah. In the minds of the disciples, that wasn’t supposed to be part of the plan. Just look at how Peter had tried to stop Jesus when Jesus suggested that he would die at the hands of men. It would seem that they didn’t take Jesus’ words about his coming death seriously. Everything happened just as he said it would, but here they were behind locked doors, scared for their lives.
The religious leaders had banded together, manipulated the hearts of the people, and convinced them that Jesus needed to die. The disciples had been with Jesus every step of the way over the last 3 years. Certainly, there were many people who knew their faces as well. If the religious leaders were looking to finish the job, they would be out searching for the disciples so that they could kill the followers of Jesus and thereby put this whole “Jesus” nonsense to rest entirely. In John 20, the disciples sat behind locked doors, wrestling with that gut-wrenching fear…. They were afraid for their very lives.
BUT…. in Acts, we see some very different disciples. In today’s reading, the disciples aren’t hiding behind locked doors out of fear for the religious leaders. In fact, their fear of the religious leaders seems to be gone entirely. In Acts, the Apostles seem to have done a complete 180. They’re completely different people than those that sat behind locked doors in terror. Let’s start in Acts 3. In Acts 3 Peter heals a man who was lame from birth. He says to the man, “In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” and the man gets up and starts walking. This obviously causes a pretty big stir, and so Peter uses the opportunity to preach a sermon. He tells everyone there about Christ’s death and resurrection. He tells them that in Christ’s death and resurrection, there is forgiveness of sins.
While he is doing that…. Some religious leaders approach them and they arrest Peter and John. They throw them into prison. The next day, they bring them out to give an account of their actions in front of numerous religious leaders. Guess what Peter does? He seizes the opportunity to try and speak about Jesus with them! He preaches another sermon! He tries to tell them about salvation in Jesus. They respond by threatening him and telling him not to speak of Jesus in public anymore. Here’s how Peter responds in chapter 4, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
So, they do exactly what he said they would do. They keep on speaking about Jesus in public. People are listening to them. People are coming to faith in Jesus because of their public preaching. So, in chapter 5, the religious leaders see all that is happening and they arrest a number of the apostles. They throw them in jail. That evening, while they’re in jail, an angel of the Lord comes and breaks them out of jail and tells them to keep preaching….and they do! And of course, the religious leaders find out, they have the apostles brought in, and once again, threaten them and tell them to knock it off. Once again, Peter and the apostles reply, “29 Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. 32 We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” They say, no….we won’t stop preaching. And then yet again, as you can see, they use the opportunity to preach another mini-sermon in case anyone gathered there is willing to listen to them speak about Jesus!
In John 20, we see a group of disciples that are terror stricken and hiding behind a locked door. In Acts 3-5, we see a group of disciples that will stop at nothing—not even death itself—to spread the news of Jesus. How did the disciples get from point A to point B?
Well, the simple answer is this: That’s the effect that the risen Lord has on a person. Once again here’s the resolution of that scene with the disciples sitting behind locked doors in John 20, “19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
You can go out and speak of your risen Lord with that same peace of heart and that same confidence that we see the disciples display in Acts. Last week, on Easter Sunday, we talked about how through his death and resurrection, Jesus defeated sin and death. So when Jesus appears to the disciples as that sat terrified behind locked doors, that first phrase he said to them was a loaded phrase. “Peace be with you.” That phrase, coming from Jesus, has a lot of depth and meaning. When it comes to our relationship with God, without Jesus, peace is not a word that comes to mind. Without Jesus, our sins have not been paid for, so without Jesus, there is not peace between us and God. But because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, we do have peace with God. Our sin is gone and our relationship with God is right once again.
Not only that, but we can have peace in this life as we go out and speak with others about him. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, the worst possible scenario has become the best possible scenario for a Christian. Death itself has been defeated. Should your proclamation of Jesus Christ ever land you in a situation in which you are killed because of the message you preach…. You can approach the situation fearlessly because of Christ. Along with Paul in Philippians 1, we can confidently say, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” If we no longer have death to fear, ultimately, what is there for us to fear?
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will continue to look at what gives us confidence as we go our to share this message of our risen Lord. As we go through this series, I would like to ask you to put a specific prayer on your prayer list. This is a prayer that we occasionally pray in church, but I know that I personally forget to pray it quite often. Here’s the prayer, “Lord, present me with an opportunity to tell someone about you today, and help me to seize that opportunity with peace and confidence.”
Pray that prayer regularly, and trust that God WILL send you opportunities to share the news of your Risen Lord. And when those opportunities start to come, take a deep breath, collect yourself, and remember Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you.” You have nothing to fear in this life or the next….and the reason you have nothing to fear in this life or the next, is because you know the good news about what Jesus has done for you through his death and resurrection. Now it’s time to pass that message on, so that others can have that same peace and confidence that you have. Amen? Amen