04282019 Easter 2 Sunday Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

“We bear witness to Christ!”

04282019 Easter 2 Sunday Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

April 28, 2019
“We bear witness to Christ!”
Sermon Audio

This morning we gather basking in the glow of the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ!  We proclaimed on Easter that ‘Jesus Christ is Risen’, ‘The Strife is O’er, the Battle Done’. This was because Jesus Christ overcame the devil and we are now victorious in, through and by our baptism into His life, death and especially His Resurrection.  With this gift of grace He offers us, God enables us as His followers in our remembrance and celebration of Easter to proclaim today, “We bear witness to Christ”!

During the Easter Season this year, we will hear the beautiful story of the Acts of the Apostles as our First Reading.  Just as our Wednesday Bible Study has been following Paul’s journey of the spread of the Gospel, we will as well use Luke, the human divinely inspired author of Acts as the basis of our sermon texts for our Easter season.  What is so profound is that from the Book of Acts and our text, it is clear that Peter and the Apostles had conversations with one another so that the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ would be clearly proclaimed to and for all.  Peter and later Paul and the other Apostle’s who had seen the risen Christ joined together and in unity proclaimed the message, “We bear witness to Christ!”

The salvation the disciples proclaimed had other manifestations, like miracles of healing even the mere shadow of Peter being cast on someone who was sick that would heal them.  Yet, the ‘high priest’ and the ‘Sadducees’, were ‘filled with jealousy’ against the message and witness of the Apostles.  This resulted in their imprisonment for their preaching, but God through His Holy Angels released them.  Instead of escaping from the town or region, they returned to the temple where the Jews would gather, including the priests and Sadducees and boldly taught.  They did this because the message of salvation they had personally experienced, weighed on their hearts and they were emboldened to share with others, by their willingness in the face of imprisonment to stand and proclaim, “We bear witness to Christ!”

Did the Apostle’s fear the Council?  By no means, their calling was greater than earthly man.  It was from God. They were responsible for their actions and as Peter responded when questioned by the Council said, “We must obey God rather than men”.  Clearly death by the hands of the council was not the card of fear to bargain or coerce the Apostles.  They did not fear death, because, the Holy Spirit was upon them and the message of salvation of Jesus Christ rising from the dead, was the promise that they held high.  Hence why their mantra became, “We bear witness to Christ!”

That mantra, Peter clearly proclaimed in response to the council who convened to not only question them, but try and ‘shut them up’.  Peter’s response is clear. “We are witnesses to these things”.  And here we are two thousand years later hearing this true history of the spread of Christianity one week after Easter.

Today, we have no council that has convened to ‘judge us’, but we have our culture that speaks against our Lord, His teachings and the history of the church.  As we gather today, we stand in a tension and at a crossroads in our journey in life. Our culture has successfully removed Holy Scripture from our schools, caused churches to doubt the Word of God as the divinely inspired testimony that tells of our salvation through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on Calvary.  The history of the church is relegated to books and not taught to our children. Churches and people are targets in our own country and across the World, whether Notre Dame Cathedral, Sri Lanka and the attacks on Easter or even the lesser known churches in the deep South or even in California yesterday. Christianity and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is on the front lines of discrimination in our day and time.  Yet, what has not changed is the message Peter and the Apostle’s shared two thousand years ago that the Book of Acts records and we heard read today in our lessons and believe and are called to proclaim in our current culture, “We bear witness to Christ!”

The question we need to ask ourselves today, in light of the message of salvation Jesus Christ hung from the Cross of Calvary to offer us and all of mankind is, how can “We bear witness to Christ”?

Let’s return to Peter’s own words for what we are called to do.  First, Peter says as followers of Jesus Christ, “We must obey God rather than man”.  This means we need to dive deeper into the Word of God, pray for God to open the Holy Scriptures so we can understand God’s Word and search out people and places where we can learn how to obey and apply God’s Word to our lives, in worship, bible study and hearing the Word of God in season and out of season.  In our daily reading of Holy Scripture, ask the Holy Spirit to fan our small ember into a flame for us and for our church, community and our world, so God will use and enable us as “We bear witness to Christ!”

Second, Peter also says of Jesus Christ, God “raised Jesus...God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”  This is what Jesus Christ offers us today as well.  We can repent for what we have done or left undone and start anew each and every day of our lives.  For if we cannot forgive one another, how can we expect God to forgive us? We cannot, because each of our sins weigh us down and God wants us to be free from them and not bind each other, but release each other, since God has forgiven us through Jesus Christ.  This is so we then can show the power of what Jesus Christ offers us and we can forgive and release each other and ultimately show that “We bear witness to Christ!”

And finally, Peter lays claim to the truth that “we are witnesses to these things”.  “We are witnesses” with Peter and the truth of the Gospel given unto him and unto each and every one of us in the “the Holy Spirit, Whom God has given to those who obey him”.  For by our humble obedience of God, by our daily ‘repentance’ we lay claim to the ‘forgiveness of sins’ and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit from God out of His great love for us.  This is how we can demonstrate our obeying God and His presence in our lives and show others that though we may have not seen Jesus that by our believing we ‘may have life’ in Jesus name as “We bear witness to Christ!”  AMEN!