By Rev. Brian Wilkie
Pastor of St. Andrew's Christian Community
Welcome to Good News Christian Ministries’ ‘Good News in the Morning’ Radio Program. Today’s program is sponsored an anonymous listener, and by Good News Christian Ministries. We are so thankful for the listener support that enables us to continue to broadcast this Good News! If you would like to contribute to the support of this ministry, please write to Good News Christian Ministries, 96 Pheasant Run Drive, Ottawa, ON K2J 2R5, Canada, (new address). Thank you to the listeners and supporters who came out last week to our ‘Meet the Pastors’ Event, where we as hosts of the show got to meet with you, our listeners, and answer some of your questions about the ministry. Thank you for your support.
Today’s scripture is taken from the book of Acts, chapter 2 v 29-40, and it is part of Peter’s sermon, Peter’s message to the people gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost.
This is a familiar piece of Scripture for Christians. We consider the birth of the church to be the day of Pentecost, which is coming up on the calendar soon. With this day the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and Peter who preached a message that brought 3000 people to faith in Jesus Christ. We are going to speak about this Scripture and about the whole theme of whether the resurrection is good news for you are not, but let's first listen to this beautiful song about the presence of God. It's a hymn called Still, Still with Thee. It's sung by the King’s Heralds.
When speaking to a Christian audience it's probably pretty clear that the resurrection is good news: but did you ever think about the people for whom the resurrection would be bad news? Imagine yourself, if you were one of the temple guards who was assigned to watch the tomb that Jesus lay in. There you are, passing the night, not too concerned because you've been told to guard this tomb from a motley band of disciples. There's really nothing to worry about. Even if they should come to try to steal the body of Jesus you and your colleagues are plenty to handle that. They probably won't even show – they turned out to be a pretty fearful bunch.
But there you sit through the night and all of a sudden you are stunned by something happening at the tomb. The stone of the tomb is rolled open and a great light is within the cave and you know this is not the work of the disciples. You've been watching. You have a tingling in your in your spine, you have goose bumps all over your skin, you are coming to realize that something beyond this world is at work in that tomb. Wouldn’t you be suddenly struck by the realization that you’d crucified the wrong man? Would the resurrection seem like good news at that point?
When Jesus himself died upon the cross, some people were rejoicing in his death. But then the sun had gone dark and then there was a rumbling in the earth and then perhaps if you happened to be a priest in the temple you would have seen or heard that the veil in the holy of holiness was ripped from top to bottom. Something was going on, something very odd, something that you might consider terrible: that you'd been part of a plot to get rid of Jesus Christ and his death was marked with these amazing signs. What if you are the high priest and the rumor got to you from the guards and from other sources that Jesus Christ had been raised from the dead. You’d probably be trying to convince yourself it was a trick, try to find some way to avoid the realization that you backed the wrong team – that you'd been the wrong team. The resurrection wouldn’t strike you as particularly good news.
In the Scripture that we read today we have people of Israel, people of Jerusalem gathered around on the day of Pentecost just 50 days after the crucifixion of Jesus. For 40 days Jesus has been visiting his disciples. As a risen Lord he's been empowering them and giving them courage to speak about the good news. They been praying in the temple, sorry, praying in the upper room for 10 days now since he's left. There is still a strong sense throughout the country that something amazing is happen, something unprecedented. Then you hear the sound of what sounds like a violent wind, or if it was us today we might think it sound like some kind of explosion. Something was happening down the street and you rush down with crowds of other people to see what was going on. You start to hear the message that Peter and the other apostles were preaching. Perhaps you'd been one of those people who would been in the crowd in front of Pilate yelling, “Release Barabbas! Crucify Jesus.” Maybe you’d been one of those people who'd kind of muttered about it afterwards and said, “Well, you know, he didn’t turn out to be the guy we hoped he’d be, so good riddance to him!”
Maybe you’d been a person who had been part of the conspiracy against Jesus. That you had tried very hard to get this guy crucified, because your superiors were telling you he was a bad that influence, and you just followed orders.
Whatever your state, the word that Jesus Christ had been right, had been raised from the dead, and the fact that his resurrection was God's exaltation of the one who had been crucified - you might very well be cut to the heart when Peter concludes his message by saying, Therefore that all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.”
Wow. Is it good news that Jesus Christ is Lord and Christ, if you had crucified him, if you called for his death, if you celebrated that he was gone, is that good news?
The death of Jesus Christ was terrible, but the resurrection of Jesus Christ not only erased the terror of his death but something more - that God himself had raised Jesus, and Jesus had overcome death and sin on the cross so that not only was Jesus death turned back but death was turned back for all who believed in him.
Those who were crucified with Christ in faith were raised with Christ in all eternity! That's good news!
Now the wonderful thing about the good news of Jesus Christ is that it is good news for sinners. Not just some sinners, but all sinners. When you came to put your trust in Christ you came to understand that they were things wrong in your life. There were things that you weren't doing right, things you’d done wrong, things that had hurt others and offended God. You had lived a life in your own direction and hadn't paid any attention to the calling that God had on your life you had to repent. You had to turn from your sin, and had to decide you'd rather follow Jesus than follow sin. You believed in him and repented and followed. Jesus Christ’s Death and resurrection was for sinners like you. Was it also for sinners like those who stood in the crowd and cried out, “Crucify him!”? Absolutely! Was it also for soldiers who stood watch over the tomb hoping that nothing would happen? Absolutely! Was it also for the centurions and Roman soldiers that crucified him and stuck be a spear in his side? Yes! In fact one of the centurions, seeing how Jesus died said, “This surely was the son of God.” Jesus Christ - his death and his resurrection were for all these people, All these people who might have been struck at the point of resurrection with fear and trembling that they had done wrong. Jesus Christ was willing to accept that centurion who was there at the crucifixion. Jesus Christ was willing to accept that thief on the cross who was dying justly for his sins. And Jesus Christ was able to turn hearts of many people in Jerusalem back to himself even though they were in implicated in his death.
Now, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is it good news for you? Let's take a look at that after we listen to this next song, which is song of consecration. ‘Take My Life and Let It Be,’ this is from the band This Hope from their album “Edges.”
I spoke earlier about the great difference the resurrection made the lives of the disciples. That is the response of people who receive the resurrection as good news, who grasp what has happened and what's been done. This is the response of people who repent of their fear and insecurity, not only their outward sins of anger, fighting and immorality but the inward sin of having a life that is hardly lived, a life that is afraid to step out, afraid to do what God wants. The disciples were transformed by joy. I want to ask you the question: Have you considered the power of the resurrection sufficiently that you are being transformed by joy? Are you a person who just kind of takes the resurrection as ‘sort of a nice thing,’ that gives you a little bit of a boost on a bad day? Or has the resurrection transformed your life so that you are living entirely for God, so that his purposes and his will are unstoppable within you.
If it's become old news in your life I'd encourage you to read the Acts of the Apostles. Take that section of Scripture and read through and find what a difference this gospel made when it touched each person's life, from the apostles to the Jews of Jerusalem, to the Samaritans and on, even to the Gentiles, as the gospel spread through the earth. People were just overjoyed to find this new life at work in them.
I kind of want to stir up a little bit of dissatisfaction in you, our listeners today, so you might pursue God with a little bit more vigour. Now some are already feeling a great deal of guilt in their lives, and I do believe that pursuing God will relieve you of that guilt, but I am not trying to make you feel guilty by talking about this transformation.
I'm trying to make you understand the opportunity that lies before you to pursue the knowledge of the resurrection, the faith that you can place in Jesus Christ raised from the dead, and the difference that it can make in your life. If you, yourself, have never accepted Jesus Christ, never received this good news into your life, there still is that opportunity to turn away from a self-directed life, from a selfish life, even from a life that in your mind is already a pretty good life, and turn to the life that is in God – the life that is holy and perfect in love, the life in which you will continue to be transformed until God has set everything right, until the work that he's begun in you is completed. You will join a group of people, none of whom are perfect, but who are on the same journey as you, as you receive Jesus Christ and become part of his body here on earth.
Well I'd like to bring all of our hearts together in prayer as we consider the good news of the resurrection. Let's pray to God:
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Now be sure to worship in a church where the gospel is soundly proclaimed and lived out with compassion integrity and resolve. To conclude our program I'd like to have you listen to another song of praise of our glorious God. This song is titled ‘Immortal, Invisible, God only Wise’ and sung by the a cappella group, Glad.
I do pray that the Lord will hold your heart and you would know Jesus personally and profoundly. May the Holy Spirit reside deep within your heart, may the heavenly Father surround you with his constant and abiding and accompanying love.
- Rev. Brian Wilkie