April 9, 2018

Easter Sunday - Acts 2:29-32

Theme: Through the Resurrection: A Puzzling Question becomes Faith’s Answer

Acts 2:29-32 "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 "Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, 31 "he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. 32 “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses.”

We know what the world says about today. It’s the same thing they’ve said about our faith from the very beginning. They refuse to accept that Christ is alive – literally they refuse to believe it. They act like it doesn’t matter either. “So what?” the world says. To them it’s more than ironic that today is also April fool’s day. Peter tells us the rallying cry of unbelievers is that there’s nothing new under the sun – which is actually a Christian concept to describe human sinfulness. The skeptics apply it to God, though. They say nothing has changed since the beginning of time. They say there’s nothing special about Christ, or God, or the faith which we confess and believe. And especially, the resurrection.

Today, it’s popular to lump Christianity in with the other religions of the world. People say that religion can serve a purpose culturally, but only in so far as we deem it worthy – and that worthiness obviously changes from culture to culture. Some Christians even say this. They strip the Bible of its historical accuracy and say that it’s only a collection of cultural myths that serve as metaphors to the modern man. If you want to make it part of your culture, you can, but it’s not a big deal either way. Ultimately, it’s no different than the Egyptian religion, or the Greek and Roman gods, or any other deity that has ever existed. Sadly, for many, even many Christians, the Resurrection is nothing more than a child-like fairy tale with a moral lesson. Christ didn’t actually rise from the dead, they say; rather it’s the story that teaches us we can become new people and create a better world. What a sad, limping gospel that truly is.

It’s well-nigh impossible to believe that how the world sees religion today is even remotely connected to the gospel that Peter boldly spoke in our text on Pentecost Sunday. It’s impossible to believe that a mere fairy tale is what caused countless numbers of Christians to risk their very lives to establish the New Testament church; to be willing to be killed instead of denying the faith. There was something more to the resurrection of Christ than a wish-fulfillment myth. For Peter and the others, as for us, the resurrection of Christ is irrefutable proof that death is conquered. It was not fulfillment of a mere wish that early Christians had, which differed in no way from other religions. No, it was absolute proof that Jesus backed up His promise to be the resurrection and the life, that all who believed in Him would have eternal life too. The resurrection of Jesus was not a wishy-washy concept. It had teeth and voracity. It struck people in the heart. It left them with a feeling that could not be explained away or sidetracked.

Anytime we stray away from the simple words of God about His Son’s death and resurrection, the message loses force. Skeptics today say that Christians are just dreamers because they think we avoid the tough questions. But being a Christian does not grant a free pass on mental wrestling. You and I know well that confessing Christ’s name is not an easy pass from spiritual conflicts. If anything, being a Christian brings with it an even greater awareness of the tough questions. We’re not just academically discussing the Word of God. We’re claiming to stake everything – even our entire eternal existence – on what that Word says. How can we escape the questions about the very things we trust? We, too, like the rest of the world, must give an answer.

Peter was answering a puzzling question in our text. It was a question that had long hounded the Jews of Jesus’ day – one that He even posed to them. And it’s a question every person must eventually answer. Who is Jesus?

Jesus obviously addressed this question a lot. Even His very presence begged it. However, it was in one particular section that He connected it to David; which is where Peter found the impetus for his own treatment of it on Pentecost. We read from Matthew 22, where Jesus says, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?" They said to Him, "The Son of David." 43 He said to them, "How then does David in the Spirit call Him`Lord,' saying: 44 `The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool "'? 45 "If David then calls Him`Lord,' how is He his Son?" 46 And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore (Matthew 22).

This was the puzzling question. How could Jesus be David’s descendent and also David’s Lord? What it ultimately comes back to is the person of Jesus. He was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. Completely God and completely human. Clearly, just the bare logic of the question astounds us. No one can scientifically explain how God could become human. Furthermore, how could a person even measure God? It takes faith to answer this question.

This is why the Pharisees were left speechless before Jesus. This is why the world continues to reject what Jesus came to do. It takes trust in God to accept the answer. Jesus was David’s descendent and His God because He was able to be both. More importantly for our lives, Jesus had to be both. He had to be perfect – to plan and execute the task of salvation from eternity. He had to be like us in order to carry our sin. If He wasn’t, the blessings would not have applied to our lives. Jesus certainly could have atoned for sin on His own, but without being human it would not have translated to our lives.

It takes trust in God to answer this puzzling question, but not because faith blindly follows anything it chooses. Here’s where the world thinks that Christians have an easy pass. To say that something must be accepted by faith sounds like a cop-out. The world tells us that we are avoiding the tough question. Eventually, the world pities that Christian who makes such a confession, as if they are some lunatic who doesn’t know right from left. To the world, there’s a noble courage involved with confronting the spiritual questions of life head on and bringing them in to submission to the human will. It’s considered weak and naïve to trust.

Understanding the two natures of Jesus is a lot like understanding His resurrection. They both defy reason. But the connection runs even deeper. They are also inseparably linked in spiritual importance. It is through His divine power that Christ conquered death. But, it was also with His human body that He died and came back to life. You can’t have a resurrection without a fully divine and human Savior. This is why Jesus asked people about Himself as He was approaching the cross. To see Jesus was to see eternal life. To know Him was to know that death would be destroyed. The Pharisee’s missed the boat because they didn’t want to trust. Many in the world continue on the same path because they don’t want to trust.

Trust seems like an easy way out of the puzzling questions because it involves obedience. Obedience is despised in our culture. In fact, obedience is despised by all people who are hungry for power and control. Therefore, we are often told that obedience, and the trust in God from which it flows, is only for simple-minded people who want to keep their head in the sand. We’re told that you can only get to a position of faith by ignoring the puzzling questions.

What do you think about these accusations? Do they apply to Christians? Well, they certainly could. There are plenty who believe to avoid strife and difficulty – even Jesus admitted as much when He taught that hypocrisy is real. But, to make that determination, you have to go back to the basis of one’s trust. If your faith has no backing then it truly is blind. However, listening to Peter, that’s not the impression with which we’re left. Peter speaks with the confidence of someone who has found the answer to a question. Peter, being a Jew himself, certainly wrestled with the person of Christ; even more so with the resurrection of Christ. When Jesus foretold His death and resurrection, it was Peter who stood up and said it would never happen. When Jesus was on trial, it was Peter who denied the Lord. Peter knew the tough questions and he didn’t skirt around them. His hope abounded because he found the answer from God – not because he avoided the struggle. w

How did Peter get to this position of confidence and hope? It was through the Word of God. Led by the Holy Spirit as he studied the Word, Peter saw what David prophesied about Jesus. In his own moment in the spotlight, it was this Word that Peter fell back on to defend his faith in Jesus. It was only once Peter let go of his own will and submitted to His Savior’s that he found the answers he was looking for. That’s what faith in Jesus does. It sheds light on tough questions but it also changes the human heart to trust God above all others.

Countless numbers of believers have been through the same process as Peter. Paul would use the same defense of his faith in Acts 13, again going back to David. Even David himself used it as Peter described, how David had to wait on the Lord to fulfill the Messianic promise of which he was aware. Believers don’t avoid the tough questions – we answer them in Christ. There is no greater example of faith’s power in this way than Christ Himself – who didn’t avoid the fate of death but rather conquered in it. He didn’t skirt around the grave. He was consumed by it. He didn’t run from Satan’s temptations – He stood up to them. He didn’t hide from the taunts and jeers, not just on Good Friday but during His entire life – rather He responded in truth and love. You simply can’t be a follower of Christ by avoiding the tough questions – because He didn’t.

And more importantly, you don’t have to avoid the tough questions – because He didn’t. Through Christ’s resurrection, you have been brought to the cross and even past it. You have been carried in to the grave. You have been raised. You stand victorious against Satan and hell today. That’s the power of faith. It may be called weak. It may be deemed foolish and naïve. But, there is nothing more powerful than a believer who trusts their Savior and leaves everything to Him. Today, God tells you that not even death can stand in your way. If that is the case, why worry what the world says? God has answered every question.

To close, listen to what Peter would go on to write to the Christians he was called to serve, again, not dodging the tough questions, but answering them in Jesus and through His resurrection:   

1 Peter 1:3-4, 6-7 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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