The Plans of God and Man
Text: Acts 5:29-42
2 Easter, A
“I love it when a plan comes together!” was the catch phrase of John “Hannibal” Smith in the 80’s TV show The A-team. He would say it around a large cigar usually while standing in the smoking wreckage of whatever action-packed sequence highlighted that week’s episode. And that was the point, until just that moment you didn’t know if the plan would come together or not. Could BA Baracus get past all his gold chains to build the needed armament for their van? Could Templeton Faceman Peck overcome his ego long enough to sweet-talk the pretty county clerk as a distraction? Could everyone keep Howling Mad Murdock’s crazy antics in check long enough to spring the trap and catch the bad guys? Or would it all go off the rails and end in disaster? There might be a little bump or two, but the heroes always won. The A-team was always on their A-game, and their plans always came together to save the day.
But that is 1980’s TV ... not real life. Case in point ... how are your plans shaping up so far this year? I’ve thrown out so many plans and back up plans and back up of back up contingency plans that I’ve just about quit trying to plan anything anymore. What’s the point? The best laid plans and all that. Who can plan for anything these days? But in the days before the coronavirus it wasn’t really any different was it? Anyone who has ever tried to keep a to-do list knows how quickly even little plans can get derailed. All it takes is one unexpected phone call, one little distraction, or one unkind word for the whole day’s plan to fall apart. And it just serves to remind us that we are not usually on our “A” game. We are not the masters of our own destiny. And while no one want a pandemic and its consequences, it serves as a powerful reminder that we are not the heroes we think we are and we are really in control of precious little in our lives.
The members of the Sanhedrin had to learn that lesson the hard way. That rabbi Jesus had been messing up their very carefully crafted plans for years and they had finally dealt with Him in what they thought was a most decisive way. They had Him framed and killed. And in a masterful stroke they could even blame the Romans for His death! You know that more than one of them was ready for a congratulatory cigar while standing at the foot of His cross. This plan had come together very nicely indeed!
But then someone had to go and spoil it! On the third day a rumour begins to spread that this trouble-making Jesus had risen from the dead. Worse yet, the tomb is empty. Not great, for sure, but there is a plan “B” Pay off the guards, start a rumour and watch it all collapse under the shear absurdity of what was being said. I mean, who could believe such a thing! Only people do. And the disciples once leaderless and frightened into hiding start preaching in the streets and in the temple courts. And people say they are doing miracles like Jesus used to do. So it was time for plan “C” bring down the hammer! Some of the leaders are brought in and threatened. “It’s a nice life you have there ... be a shame if it ended up like your master’s” A knowing glance, a well placed soldier or two. Subtle, but effective.
And then it all falls apart again! Almost immediately. Those pesky disciples go right back to the temple courts and begin telling people that their lives can end up just like this Jesus’ ... resurrected and with the promise of eternal life! What could they do but haul them back in ready to double down on every plan that has not worked so far. 33When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.
And then one of their own steps up, worried that they might not be the heroes anymore, and tells them the truth about plans and who is in control of them. 34But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. 35And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men … 38So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; 39but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”
That is a powerful truth we all need to hear. The plans of men fail, but the plans of God cannot be overthrown! So what do you do with such a truth? Well the Sanhedrin decided to hedge their bets and plan for both. So they took his advice,40and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. It’s one thing to say that God is in control, but it is an altogether different thing to actually give up your plans and cede control over to Him!
But God is in control whether you cede Him that control or not. God’s plans, as a wise man once said, cannot be overthrown. Not even by trying to kill His one and only Son! As Peter said to these same fellows: 30The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
And that was God’s plan all along. To save us from ourselves. To save us from sin, and from death, and from the devil. Jesus died on the cross according to HIS plan not theirs. It was a plan set in motion before the beginning of anything. A plan that led from the sin in the garden of Eden to this pulpit and altar today. A plan centered on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and through Him all who are granted repentance and forgiveness of sins. You are a child of God now, according to HIS choice not yours. Your life is going exactly according to plan – His plan!
And that is why the apostles were no longer afraid of what plans this world might have for them. 29But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 32And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”… 41Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. 42And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
That is why they did not hesitate to go right back out there and preach the better way – God’s way. That is why they could offer a hope to people who’s plans have fallen apart. God’s plan for you in Christ is stronger even than death. God’s love for you in Jesus cannot be derailed. You are a beloved part of His “A” Team, and His plan for you is coming together! Don’t you love it?