Were You There?

Easter 3B, April 15, 2018
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street
San Diego, CA 92114

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“…and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.” [Acts 3:15b]

We are all called to be witnesses to God’s forgiving love in our own lives.  Each one of us is to always be prepared to give our own testimony to why and how Jesus saved us from sin and delivered us into heaven.  We are His ambassadors.  But before we can give a witness we must have a testimony—that then will be the focus of our message this morning…honing our testimony, and we will begin and end our message with this question: Were you there when they crucified your Lord?

In our reading from Acts, Peter confronts a crowd of people in Jerusalem who have gathered in amazement because of a crippled man who is healed.  

They try to acknowledge Peter and John as the source of healing, but Peter will have none of that.  He immediately gives all glory to God and begins one of the most convicting sermons ever preached.  The most intense portion of his message was this: “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead.” [Acts 3:13-15]  

In essence, Peter was saying that they denied Jesus by delivering Him to be crucified, but Barabbas the murderer they chose to give life to instead of the author of life!

Now it is doubtful that there were many people present, if any, listening to Peter’s sermon who were actually there when Jesus was sentenced to death.  Most likely, many of those people knew nothing about Barabbas being granted clemency in exchange for the death of Jesus, and yet Peter insists that they were the ones who delivered Him over to Pilate and asked for the death of the Author of life!  How can this be?  Because it was their sins that Jesus took upon Himself that compelled Him to go to the cross.  While they may not have been physically present the day Jesus was sentenced and executed they knew that the man they once called Messiah was about to be put to death, and they said nothing.  They knew that an innocent man was about to die, and they offered no testimony on His behalf.    They killed the Author of life!

How many times have you turned away from doing what you know is right because it was inconvenient to be a person of faith?  For some here this morning, it may be easier to be politically correct than being faithful to God’s will.  Go along to get along!  Maybe you‘ve learned to follow society’s moral idea of right and wrong rather than what God’s Word says is good and evil?  Or perhaps you’ve chosen a political party or leader over God’s clear will as communicated in His Word? If so, you killed the Author of life!  For others, maybe you know that Jesus suffered, died, and rose for you, but you have never really taken the time to know Him.  You know that His entire gift of grace is for you, but you have never really found the time to live in it!  If so, you killed the author of life!  Maybe you are one of the many that finds yourself vacillating between claiming Him and forgetting Him.  Some days you are thankful for all that He has done for you and on other days, well…you live as if He never did a thing for you.  If so, you killed the author of life!  Or maybe you are one who has truly discovered what it means to be saved by grace, through faith in Christ alone just as the Bible says, but you are terrified to tell others how your relationship with Jesus has saved you.  If so, then you also must realize that you too killed the Author of life!

Dear friends, Peter was painting a bleak picture to the people around him that day and he paints a bleak one for each of us as well—bleak, but not hopeless!  Listen to what he says next: “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” [vs. 17-20a].

Dear friends, if you have been convicted by God’s Word this morning then listen to what Peter says… “I know that you acted in ignorance.”  

Confess your sin and turn to Him who was crucified for you, so that all of your sins may be wiped clean!  Instead of carrying your guilt with you, come to your Savior, the author of life so that times of refreshing, goodness and peace with God can be yours!

It was not by accident that Jesus suffered and died.  We may be ignorant that our sins took Jesus to the cross, but God knew what He was doing.  God knew that He must give Jesus as a lamb for the slaughter, as the sacrifice for the sins of the world.  We act out of ignorance, but God acts in full knowledge with an intent centered in nothing but love for us.  We may be ignorant, lost in our own sins, but thank God that His wisdom and undeserved love for us makes us wise through faith and brings us to salvation.  Through our own wicked sinfulness God brought us His salvation; He gave His Son Jesus to you who took away your own guilt as He took away the sins of the world!  

Is this good news?  If so, then repent!  Turn away from your sinfulness so that “times of refreshing may come from God!  The suffering, worry, and fear are over the battle is won!  Alleluia!  Turn from sins that so easily trap you and turn to your redeemer, your savior, the Author of life, Jesus Christ.  This is what St. John meant when he wrote in our Epistle lesson that, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” [1 Jn. 3:6]  How do you keep from falling into sin?  Only by turning away from a sinful life and turning to Jesus!  How do you know that you are walking with Jesus and not following the ways of the devil and the world?  Because you practice what is right.  You look to Jesus alone as your way to please God and you hold on to the very things He’s given to you so that you will not lose hope!  You claim your baptism as His promise that He will never leave you or forsake you, and when you do sin, His Holy Spirit pains your heart to confess your sin to Him and then by the very same Spirit He gives you faith to know that you are forgiven.  How long will God put up with your sinfulness?  As long as you continue to turn to Him and be saved and recreated into His image and will for you. 

This dear friends is exactly the relationship that God desires and it is exactly the relationship He creates and sustains within us as we abide in Him.  It is the relationship of a Father and His children.  Now there are other types of relationships that this world likes to show off.  They are relationships where one gives as much as another; relationships like husband and wife, friend and friend.  But in our relationship with God it is entirely one sided…He gives and we only receive in gratitude.  And what does He give?  He gives forgiveness, He gives new life… new birth from the darkest death!  And what is our response?  Gratitude!  How do we show our gratitude?  

We show our gratitude by witnessing. 

A. In our gospel lesson, Jesus teaches His disciples and He teaches us how we are to live our lives because of what He has done for us and because of who we now are.  Listen: “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.” [Luke 24:45-48]  Friends, Jesus has opened your mind through the gift of faith.  You too can understand scripture.  You too now understand that Christ suffered, died, and rose for you.  If you are living out this truth then you are a good witness.  You too have a testimony to give.

There’s a Christian guy who prayed every morning: “Lord, if you want me to witness to someone today, please give me a sign to show me who it is.” One day he found himself on a bus when a big, burly man sat next to him. The bus was nearly empty but this guy sat next to our praying friend. The timid Christian anxiously waited for his stop so he could get off the bus. But before he could get very nervous about the man next to him, the big guy burst into tears and started weeping. He sobbed with a loud voice, “I need to be saved. I’m a lost sinner and I need the Lord. Can’t somebody tell me how to be saved?” He turned to the Christian and pleaded, “Can you tell me how to be saved?” The believer immediately bowed his head and prayed, “Lord, is this a sign?” 

Are you looking for a “sign” to start witnessing?  Well you have one…the sign of the cross; the cross that saved you and the world.  Who should you tell?  Whoever you know needs to hear the good news.  How should you tell them?  By demonstrating love for God in your own life, and then by explaining why you love Him.  Have you experienced repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus name?  Remember, you can’t witness to something you haven’t experienced!  Were you there when they crucified your Lord?  If you can answer yes, then tell your story!

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