2nd Sunday of Easter
He is risen! He is risen indeed! Grace and peace to you from Him who is and who was and who is to come, our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, Have you changed? In 1923 he was a visionary, he had big dreams, but he was a flop. He started the animation company Laugh-o-grams, embarked on a big animation project, which flopped, soon found himself homeless, sleeping in his office where he befriended a tame mouse, and took showers at the train station. One year after he started his business he had to file for bankruptcy. End of story? Nope, he bought a train ticket went to Hollywood and started a company named after him, the Walt Disney company, which today is a multi-billion dollar company. In the early 1990s, with all the makings of becoming a drug dealer, but was arrested with 650 grams of cocaine, and locked in prison for 28 months, and admitted he hit bottom. Upon his release a friend dared him to do an open mic at a Detroit area comedy club and he was an instant hit and son the actor Tim Allen became a star on the hit show Home Improvement and even the voice of Buzz Lightyear on the movie Toy Story. We could probably go on and on about stories of people who have changed. People going down the wrong path, but their lives are turned around. Are you one of them? Have you changed? The reality is that there is something that changes us for the better every single day.
The first thing that Jesus told the fear-filled disciples when he appeared to them that Easter Sunday evening was, “Peace be with you.” He didn’t only wish it for them, He gave it to them. And this peace from Jesus has a way of changing our lives. And there’s one thing that no one can honestly deny: Jesus’ resurrection changes people. It was true in the 1st Century and it’s still just as true in the 21st Century. So, the question is, “Has Jesus’ resurrection changed… you?”
In our text we see the disciple Peter. This is weeks after Jesus rose from the dead. Peter and John went to the temple in Jerusalem to worship and pray. It was 3 pm. At 3 pm in the temple there was a daily evening sacrifice, so it was a time of great activity at the temple. As Peter and John are walking into the temple area there was a man who was crippled being carried to sit at a gate and beg from those people going into the temple. He saw Peter and John and asked them for money. Peter looked at him and said, “Look at us!” (If you’ve ever noticed, people who beg have a difficult time looking you in the eye, perhaps because of shame). And this beggar, who had been lame from birth and was now over 40 years old, was no doubt without hope for a cure, and had no idea what was about to happen to him.
But Peter told the man, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth (in other words, by the power and authority of Jesus) walk.” And he took his hand, the man’s feet and ankles became strong, he jumped to his feet and walked! Then he went into the temple walking, jumping, and praising God. Now, if he had spent every day that the temple, it’s certainly reasonable for him to have heard of this Jesus of Nazareth and possibly to have heard him teach too. And now, because of this Jesus of Nazareth, the man who was crucified as a criminal, he could walk! This HAS to be something from God. So what does he do? He walks into the temple praising and worshipping God.
And, if he had come to the temple to beg every day, certainly most everyone knew about this man. When they see him walking, they’re awestruck. The man kept holding on to Peter and John and when more people saw the man, they came running and gathered around Peter and John, providing Peter with an excellent opportunity to deliver a message. So Peter began, “Why are you so surprised at this? Why are you looking at us like it was our own power or our own piety that made this man walk? The fact is, God, our God, you know, the God of the Old Testament, the God whom you think you are coming here to this temple to worship, that God, glorified his servant Jesus.”
“But guess what, YOU handed him over to be killed, YOU disowned him before Pilate- even though pagan Pilate had decided to let him go, YOU disowned the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be released to you, YOU killed the author of life.” Wow! He’s not pulling any punches here, is he? Imagine if you were there, you were one of these people, maybe you stood idly by allowing this great injustice, maybe you were one of the ones who shouted with the crowds, “Away with him! Crucify him! Release Barabbas to us!” You thought you had just gone to worship God in the temple, but the reality is, YOU killed God! You killed the Author of life Himself! Talk about hitting rock bottom!
Hard to imagine? But think about this. Jesus wasn’t a helpless victim at the hands of unruly, hateful people. Jesus had to die. But it wasn’t because people shouted, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” He had to die because the penalty and punishment of sin, all sin, is death. The Bible says, “He was delivered over to death because of our sins.” The reality is, YOU did kill the author of life, and I did too. Every bit of selfishness, every bit of arrogance, every bit of bitterness, every bit of anger, every bit of hurtful words, every greedy and mean thought, with each sin you pinned Jesus to the cross, and so did I, just as much as those who shouted “Crucify him!”. If you think God is such a lucky guy to have you as part of His church, think again. You don’t deserve a lick of it, neither do I. You don’t deserve to be here worshipping God, neither do I. As soon as we begin to think that we deserve to be part of God’s church, to worship God in His temple, then we’re on a fast track of losing everything. Without a heart change, you and I deserve just as much as these people to hit the real rock bottom: hell.
But wait a minute, isn’t this the same Peter who in fear deserted Jesus, in fear disowned knowing Jesus, the Holy, Righteous One, himself? Isn’t this the same Peter who hid away behind locked doors for fear of the Jews? What gives? What changed him? What brought about this transformation? It was also Peter’s sins that nailed Jesus to the cross, that killed the Author of life. But what did God do? God raised him from the dead. Peter and John were witnesses of that fact. The reality is, Jesus is alive and well. Jesus is still active in His power. You see, it’s through faith in Jesus that this man crippled from birth has complete healing. Yes, you didn’t know what you were doing when you crucified Jesus – that doesn’t excuse your sin in the least bit- but look, God used it, in fact, it was no surprise to God, he had foretold it in the OT that the Savior had to suffer and die, God used that act to punish your sins, not on you, but on Jesus. And God raised Jesus to life to assure you that your sins, every one of them, have been wiped out. And since Jesus is alive and well today, it is by HIS power and HIS grace that He sends refreshing to your heart, peace with God – NOT based on what you deserve or don’t deserve, but based entirely on Jesus’ undeserved love for you by dying and rising from the dead.
You see, every day Jesus’ resurrection does change you. It forces us to come to grips with who we really are: sinners, wretched, condemned, miserable sinners, deserving of hitting rock bottom in death, destruction, and hell. With our sins we killed the author of life! But God used that to pay for our sins. And He rose! Jesus rose from the dead proving that our sins are forgiven. That crippled guy, yea it was sure nice he could walk now, but one day he would die, and what changed his life was the fact that Jesus is alive and powerful to do this miracle, that means when he dies because of Jesus he’s going to heaven, which is better than walking by far! The people listening to Peter weren’t in God’s good graces because they went to the temple every day at 3 pm, they were forgiven because Jesus rose from the dead. We’re told later that many of them who heard the message were brought to faith. And Peter, the denier, the disowner, scared, nervous, the man formerly most concerned with saving his own skin is now boldly, confidently, courageously telling people about Jesus! This day was going to end with Peter and John in jail. But it didn’t matter! They had the peace of knowing Jesus is alive and that changed them.
And it’s the same with you. Jesus’ resurrection changes you. Real peace isn’t found in being able to walk, or having a lot of money, or making sure that life is going well for me, real peace is knowing that Jesus is alive and well today and always and since Jesus is alive my future is secure, heaven is my home. Real confidence in life isn’t because I’m doing all the right things, like going to them temple at 3 pm to pray, or God must like me because of what I do, real confidence comes from knowing that because Jesus is alive and so I know that my sins are forgiven. Real courage in life comes not from trying to save my own skin like Peter tried and failed, but real courage comes from that fact that Jesus is alive, He rose, and like Peter that’s a message you and I don’t have to be afraid to share…with anyone. Yes, Jesus’ resurrection has changed you, it’s given you real peace, real confidence, and real courage. Amen.