Second Sunday of Easter
April 11, 2010
“All the Words of This Life” (Acts 5:12-20)
In our reading today from the Book of Acts, we find the apostles in Jerusalem, ministering in the name of the Lord and finding favor with the people. But the high priest and the Sadducees don’t like this, they’re jealous, and so they have the apostles arrested and thrown in jail. The Lord has other ideas, though, and that night an angel comes and opens the prison doors and brings them out and instructs them to carry on, saying, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”
“Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” The angel’s instructions back then still apply today. “Go and stand in the temple.” OK, check. “And speak to the people.” Got it, check. “All the words of this Life.” Alright, that’s what I’m about to do. Yes, the same assignment given to the apostles is what I’ve been sent here today to do for you. “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.”
“All the Words of This Life.” What an interesting way to put it! What is the angel referring to? What does he mean by “all the words of this Life”? And why is it so important for Christ’s ministers to speak these words, whether then or now? Let’s find out.
“Speak to the people all the words of this Life.” Which life? I guess that’s our first question. “This Life.” What is the “this” referring to? You know, sometimes we use the phrase “this life” to refer to our life here in this world, and maybe not so much even as Christians living in this world, but just “this life” as any person might live it. If so, if that’s what the angel meant by “speak to the people all the words of this life,” what words would we speak? I suppose we would speak words of happiness, perhaps, but also mixed with sorrow. We would speak words of family and friends, near ones and dear ones, but also words of conflict, hard feelings, animosity, and anger. Words of sickness, sadness, aging, depression, loneliness. The words of this life, that is, of life in this world, would include words like sin–yes, sins against God, sins against one another. Words like pain and stress and feelings of guilt. And finally, death. Death all around us. Death looming out in front of us, and sometimes not that far away. Those are words that describe this life that we live in this world as people of the world.
Certainly that is not what the angel meant when he said, “Go and speak to the people all the words of this life.” What would be the point of that? To tell people what they already know? To bring them down with just a stark retelling of life as we know it? No, there is another life the angel would have Christ’s ministers bring with words. And this life is truly new and different.
This life, the life that animated the apostles, the life they were willing to go to prison for, the life they were instructed to speak, and which they spoke with great boldness and gladness–this life is the resurrection life of Jesus Christ. This is it, and none other. The life of the risen Christ, the life he opens up for us–it is this life his ministers speak to you, even as they spoke to the people back in the Book of Acts.
This is the life that Peter spoke of on the Day of Pentecost: “This Jesus God raised up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are his witnesses.”
This is the life that Peter spoke of again when he healed the lame man at the temple: “Jesus, the Author of life, God raised from the dead.” Peter and John were speaking to the people in the temple, “teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.” This is the real life, the resurrection life, the Jesus life, that the apostles were proclaiming.
When persecuted and told to speak no more in this name, the apostles prayed–the whole church prayed–that the Lord would grant them to continue to speak his word with all boldness. And that’s exactly what happened. They “continued to speak the word of God with boldness.” “And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.”
This life is the life of the risen Christ. The apostles were witnesses of this living Lord. They had heard and seen and touched their risen Master. “Peace be with you,” Christ had told them, as he stood among them in those days of his resurrection. They heard his words of pardon and peace. They touched the nail marks in his hands and the spear wound in his side, those wounds by which he won their pardon and their peace.
Dear friends, Christ Jesus did that for you, also. His death on the cross won pardon and peace for you. Your sins are forgiven by the death of the Son of God. And by his death, and with that forgiveness, comes life and peace for you. “Peace be with you,” Jesus says. Those are words of this life that Jesus is speaking to you today, as this morning he stands here among us.
The apostles knew the resurrection life of Jesus. John the apostle even had a revelation of the risen Christ years later. Clothed in brilliant glory, speaking with a voice like the roar of many waters, the risen and ascended Lord Jesus spoke words of assurance and life to John: “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I hold the keys of Death and Hades.”
These are words of life that Jesus speaks to our frightened hearts here today. His death and resurrection guarantee our resurrection from the dead and our eternal salvation. His victory becomes our victory. That he holds the keys of Death and Hades means that he has authority over them. He sets us free from their chains. The big Death has no power over us. Hades, that is, eternal condemnation and separation from God–hell’s fierce power is broken. Jesus holds the keys of Death and Hades. And he opens up Life and Heaven for us to enter in.
This life–this is life that lasts forever, new and qualitatively different. And the difference is that this is Jesus’ life, which he shares with us. “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” And this is the life that is meant.
And the words do it. What I mean is, the words deliver this life to us. They not only describe this life, they deliver it, too. This is why it’s so important for the apostles–and now, for pastors–to go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life. Because that is how you get this life. And so it is important for you to be here to hear these words. For the words themselves are life-giving. The word of God is alive and active. His words actually do what they say. The Holy Spirit works through these words to create and nurture faith in your heart, so that you, a dead sinner, come to life and take hold of this life for your own.
Words of life. This life, the Jesus life, the raised-with-Jesus life. You heard these words when you were baptized: “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Words of life, newness of life. You hear these words in Holy Absolution: “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins.” Words of life, life cleansed and forgiven. You hear these words, the words of our Lord, in the Holy Supper he gives us: “This is my body, this is my blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Yes, words of life–forgiveness, life, and salvation. Here is this temple, Christ’s minister stands and speaks to you these wonderful words of life.
This life is a new life even now. It is life lived in community, in fellowship, in the loving circle of this family called the church. This life, because it is the life of Jesus that we all share in–it binds our lives together. Like the early church, where the apostles were speaking the words of this life, and those words bore fruit in the way the Christians looked after one another and cared for one another and helped each other out–that is our life too, brothers and sisters, here in this church. The words of the resurrection life of Jesus do not go in one ear and out the other, and we go out these doors unchanged, off into our own little isolation booths. No, by no means. Rather, the words of this life go into our ears and down into our hearts, and they change our hearts. This new life then flows out of our mouths in words of love and forgiveness. This life flows out of our hands in practical works of care and help. This is the life that we live together.
“Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” Well, this morning I haven’t spoken to you “all” the words of this life, but at least this is a start. It should be enough to get you through this week. And you’ll have to come back again next week for more. But for “all” the words–well, that’ll take you all the rest of your life. And when this life is over–and by that I mean, this life that we live for a short while here in this world–when this short life is ended, then this Life–the new life, the resurrection life, the Jesus life–then the words of this Life that have been spoken to you all these years will be enough to carry you into the life to come, in the resurrection and the life of Jesus that will be ours to share and to enjoy forevermore.