A Time to be Refreshed and Restored
Text: Acts 3:11-21
Easter 3, B
From the thrilling announcement of victory to a stale presentation of sin and grace; from a sumptuous banquet to reheated TV dinners. Been there, heard that, and it was better the first time. Yet the salvation message, as Easter continues, is no less compelling for being three weeks in. And if we are open to really hearing about this sin and grace again it will bring us times of refreshment and restoration. For while never-ending lock downs are punishingly boring the preaching of sin and grace is never dull. The great Easter banquet we celebrate once again this day is one of precious fruit, never leftovers.
Just ask the people of Jerusalem crowding around Peter and John in our first reading today. The resurrection of Jesus changes lives, long after the fact. A beggar who once was lame now leapt for joy because of the name of the risen Christ. He now strode purposefully behind the apostles with a new life and mission. His life was restored and his spirit refreshed in a way no one could ever have expected. And all the people who saw him wanted to know How! How did it happen? How can such a thing be? How can I get a bit of that action?
12And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 16And [Jesus’] name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
Often we sell our god-given Christian faith woefully short. We treat it like a sign of our own paltry commitment instead of a boundless heavenly gift from God Himself. Faith has the power to heal broken lives and broken hearts. Faith has the ability to make us stronger in the Lord than we could ever imagine. Faith does not always take away the hurts of this world, but it does allow us to overcome them in joy and peace that only Jesus can bring. But then, that’s the problem too, isn’t it? It does not and cannot go back to us. That power, that healing, that strength and joy and peace they are not ours but His. They are Jesus’ gifts. Faith only overcomes when it is vulnerable enough to fall back completely on Christ. And most of us still assume we can be in control. The Jews of Jesus’ day certainly did.
13The 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. 14But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.
The message Jesus was proclaiming was not something many people were buying. He had come to suffer and die. Morbid enough to be unpopular under normal circumstances, but when you add to it that this suffering and dying was in payment of our sin and lawlessness ... well ... that is something no one wants to hear. The world refused to know Him, because it does not want to really and truly look at itself. In order to make sense of Jesus we must first understand our need for Jesus. It is telling that in their desire to keep their sin they felt they had more in common with a murderer than with their saviour.
And we are really no different. Time and again this world has shown not only that it doesn’t know God, but that it does not want to know God. When Pot shops and Liquor stores have more freedoms than churches you can no longer pretend otherwise. And yet we would still deny Jesus to appease Ceasar. Like our unbelieving neighbours we cower in fear of the one thing that Easter tells us has been definitively and permanently defeated. Rather than speaking out against one another in fear and frustration we should be speaking out against the fear of death and dying. We should be living as if living (and not dying) is what really matters! We should be using this unprecedented opportunity to declare by our every word and action that Christ Is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
But we don’t. Not really. Instead, we have relegated that remarkable god-given faith to something of secondary importance and by our apathy symbolically killed once again the Author of life. By so many measures we have shown that we fail to trust that because He lives death is now meaningless for us. We will all die one day. Only Jesus can change that by coming sooner rather than later. Nothing we do, nowhere we hide, not one thing we avoid can change that. The real question is not when or how we will die ... it is how did you live? What did you do with the time you were given? Who did you trust with your years and your days whatever number they might be?
17“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, 20that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
After administering the bitterest of pills, Peter comforted those crowds with the sweetest and most soothing words you can imagine. It does not and cannot go back to us. And that is the sweetest of news! Not even our abject failure can undo what God has wrought in the Life, Death and Resurrection of His Son. The cross, which is our terrible shame, is also His greatest glory. It is the very heart of the promise that changes our lives forever. That power, that healing, that strength and joy and peace they are now ours because of Him!
This life of ours, lived under the love and grace of God, is our time of refreshment. Let the world cower in fear, lash out in frustration and still yet refuse to see ... we see it all very differently now. We know that Christ Is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! When we gather together there is no more fear. In the preaching of the Word of Life, in our Baptisms remembered with its gift of eternal life freely given, in the Body and Blood of our Lord, our every sin is forgiven and our timid souls are refreshed. In the preaching of sin and grace, in the joy and comfort of the resurrection we go from victory unto victory and from joy to celebration.
You see, it really doesn’t matter what is going on around us. Here, you have heaven on earth. The cares of the world mean nothing because the Love of God changes everything. In the Means of Grace and the fellowship of the Saints we are brought before the throne of God – not virtually, but truly. Right here, unafraid, we are lifted high upon His promise that in the blood of Christ all things have been restored and the Kingdom is ours forever! And that is refreshing indeed! We are no longer lame. We are not to be pitied. We have cast off all fear. The Lord has given us healing and forgiveness, restoration and refreshment. He has given us legs to stand on and the greatest of news to go out and share. So let us finally get up and at it!