(A summary of the Sunday morning teaching on 27-Mar-16, in AFT Church, English service.)
WHAT IS THE MESSAGE OF RESURRECTION?
HEALING OF A LAME MAN
The book of Acts records many marvelous new beginnings in the Christian world. Some of them include Jesus’ ascension into Heaven, outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the first time on the followers of Jesus and thousands of people believing in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The Gospel message of Jesus exploded into the weary and searching world of 2000 years ago.
In this setting, one day Peter and John went to the temple. There by the Gate called Beautiful sat a lame man begging for alms. Peter and John looked at him and said, ‘Silver and gold have we none. But such as we have, we give unto you. Rise up and walk in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth’. As soon as he heard these words, the man leaps up. Excitedly he started jumping, shouting and praising God for healing Him. Within no time, a large crowd gathered around them. Peter seized the opportunity and began to preach the Gospel to the people that had assembled.
But the storm was about to come crashing in on them.
‘Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand’.
Suddenly, temple guards arrived on the scene and arrested Peter and John!
Nevertheless, the Bible says that about 5000 men came to believe in Jesus as a result of Peter’s preaching. Of course the number of women, children and slaves who believed in the Word hasn’t been recorded. This is because the society during those days accorded no value to them. They were considered insignificant and unimportant. Christianity is the thing that changed even that situation, where women, children and slaves began to have honor and respect.
Now let’s go back to Peter and John’s arrest. It seemed pretty abrupt and senseless. The reason for their arrest was that the authorities were ‘disturbed’ by the preaching of the resurrection of the dead in Jesus. But that was a fact though. Jesus had died and risen from the dead. Why would that be an issue? In fact, their preaching had no other controversies.
WHAT DIDN’T THEY PREACH?
In fact it is pertinent to note that on that day, Peter and John did not preach:-
- Against the Roman government. The Jews resented the Roman reign. Despite that, they did not preach anything revolutionary or treasonous.
- Against the Jewish system and religion. Even though the Jews had departed from God’s Word and convoluted their own Pharisaical teachings, the apostles did not condemn them.
- Against the social evils of the day. Slavery was rampant and widespread. Men who were created in the image and likeness of God were bought and sold like commodities. Peter and John did not speak out against this injustice in that sermon. Of course later on wherever Christianity spread, they taught against slavery.
- Against the outrageous taxation system. The people were burdened with outlandish amounts of taxes. But the apostles did not preach against it either.
SO WHY THE ARBITRARY ARREST?
There didn’t seem to be any clear reason for arresting the two apostles. The only reason was that they were disturbed by the message of resurrection. Ironically, even today the message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ disturbs many people. Let us look at the key elements of the Resurrection message that upsets people.
1. EYE WITNESSES TO THE RESURRECTION
The apostles preached that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that they were eye witnesses to it. It was only a few weeks ago that Jesus was dragged through the streets, ridiculed, beaten, nailed to a Cross and killed. It was not a secret.
But then word started spreading that His body had disappeared from the grave. Rumors flew saying that His followers had stolen His body. But the fact was that He had risen. This fact was corroborated by numerous people (almost 500 people) who saw Him.
But what this statement also meant was that it brought them face to face with death. Death is one thing that made them helpless and weak. It was inevitable. All the money and power in this world cannot overcome death. Many years ago an American declared that he would give $10000 per day to anybody who could extend his life. The thing is that nobody can guarantee us an extra second. Death is a mean, powerful enemy.
So when the disciples said that Jesus had risen, it meant that He had conquered the invincible death! The biggest enemy of mankind had been defeated. Physical death continues to occur. But a Christian now has hope. He does not die spiritually. He shuts his eyes on earth and opens them in heaven. One day when Jesus return, their bodies will also be resurrected. The grave has no power and claim over him. This was too much to digest for the Jews.
2. THEY WILL BE RECIPIENTS OF RESURRECTION
Not only did the disciples state that Jesus had risen, they now also claimed that one day they would also rise from the dead when Jesus returned. Jesus had said that He is the Resurrection and Life and anyone who believed in Him would never die but live. The disciples taught this new hope to others. The grave was only a temporary testing place. That’s why Paul says that we don’t have to grieve uncontrollably and wildly when our loved ones die. We have the hope of resurrection because Jesus rose from the dead.
3. REALITY OF SPIRITUAL DEATH
Death is not limited to cessation of physical life. Ephesians 2:1 says that, ‘you were dead in sins and trespasses and God has quickened you’. Spiritual death is very real in our lives. It began when Adam and Even sinned in the Garden of Eden. They died spiritually.
Let us look at the ways man died spiritually in the Garden of Eden.
- Man began to rule and dominate over women negatively. Instead of jointly ruling the world as God had intended, man began to subjugate the woman. Their marriage was broken.
- Woman was cursed with painful child birth that would even bring her to the brink of death. In God’s plan, childbirth would have been easy and blessed. But now the woman had to deliver the child in much pain.
- Hitherto work was pleasant. But now man had to work hard and eat food by the sweat of his brow. He had to toil hard and suffer.
- Ultimately man would die physically.
But Jesus’ resurrection implied that He raises us spiritually when we believe in Him. Peace will replace restlessness, acceptance instead of guilt, love instead of lust and hatred, joy instead of mourning, beauty instead of ashes, power instead of weakness, courage instead of cowardice, and hope instead of despair. This message that Peter and John preached must have reached into the recesses of people’s broken and weary hearts. The blazing light of hope that the Resurrection of Jesus offered emboldened them to place their belief in Him as the Messiah.
OFFENSE OF THE CROSS
‘And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Peter and John were brought before the temple authorities comprising of Annas, the High Priest, his sons – Caiaphas, John and Alexander, and some Sadducees.
Now let me quickly give a background to the temple business of the day. There were money changers, dove sellers and lamb sellers that monopolized the temple market. People came from all over to sacrifice, and these businessmen charged exorbitant and unreasonable prices for their services. Of course the High Priest and his clan got a portion of the profits.
Now here were two pesky men who preached ‘Good news’ about the resurrection of a man called Jesus Christ (whom they had managed to do away with only a few weeks ago). Their business and lifestyle were suddenly threatened.
And facing them stood Peter. Boldly he told them that God had raised the Jesus that they had crucified!
Ironically this Peter had only a few days ago disowned Jesus. So how did he become so bold now? Here’s how.
BOLDNESS OF PETER
- He saw Jesus physically after His resurrection.
- Jesus met him when he returned to fishing, had breakfast with him, questioned his love for Him and commissioned him back into the ministry. Jesus forgave Peter’s betrayal and affirmed his faith.
- The Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost and filled him and the other disciples. The Holy Spirit poured into them the power that overcomes death and imparted them with extraordinary life, boldness, confidence and courage.
Filled with this power and boldness, Peter confronts the priests and tells them that they had rejected Jesus Christ who is the chief cornerstone of the temple. Now what is a cornerstone?
According to Jewish tradition, the temple was built in complete silence. Thousands of people worked together. They would go underneath the mountain, quarry the stones, shape them and bring the finished stone up. Only the fitting of the stones were done up in the temple building. One day a large stone was found that they couldn’t find a place for. So they rolled it down a cliff thinking it was useless. A short while later, when the time came to lay the cornerstone that was very crucial to the structure, they couldn’t find it. On searching they located it at the bottom of the cliff. They pulled it back up and fitted it.
Similarly, Psalm 118 that Peter quotes above is also speaking of a cornerstone. That was Jesus Christ. God sent Him into the world but He was rejected by mankind. The truth is that without Jesus as the chief cornerstone, we can have nothing firmly in place. Our education, spouse, children, marriage, and job will make sense only if they are built on Jesus.
Well, let me conclude by saying that the Christian message is unique because it teaches that Jesus Christ is the only Way. No amount of good teachings, ethics, philosophies mean anything to us unless we have Jesus Christ, the Resurrected Savior living in us. He gives us a new nature and transforms us to be like Him. He alone can save us from the evil, sinful selves that are lurking inside us. Like Peter let us also say thanks be to our God through Jesus Christ who saves us from our sins. That, my dear friends, is the message of Resurrection.