The Resurrection Testimony
Text: Acts 4:32-35
2 Easter, B
(32, 34-35) Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common …There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Luke gives us an amazing glimpse into what life can look like when you actually believe in the “resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” A preview and a foretaste of the restoration to come in the paradise of Heaven and a striking picture of fellowship and community here on earth - “... one heart and soul, … everything in common, ... not a needy person among them.”
But lest we get caught up in utopian visions, consider that this passage comes on the heels of violent threats and impending persecution. The rulers and elders of Israel, who, alongside the “Gentiles,” had “raged against the Lord and His Anointed,” were now turning their wrath against those who testified to the resurrection of Jesus. Peter and John had already been dragged in before the Sanhedrin. Persecution and threats were not only open, but increasing.
What is one to do in the face of such danger, and in the face of death? Go into hiding again? Wall yourself off from all those who would seek to belittle you or injure you? No. Oddly enough they share! They give to those in need. They sell their property and offer the money to those among them who are hungry and poor. But aren’t' they paying any attention? Don't they know what could happen? Shouldn't they be stocking up for the storm? Preparing from the onslaught, bracing themselves against the bloodthirsty?
But they don't do any of these things. Over five thousand men, plus women and children. Young and old, rich and poor, from many occupations, with many gifts, temperaments and, inclinations yet what holds them all together is one common faith. One common testimony. Their actions are not governed by fear of death, but by freedom. The freedom of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Sure there's a lot of strife – but Christ is risen!
Luke tells us that they were of “one heart and soul” The heart was the seat of a person's affection, emotion understanding and thought. The soul, that was the seat of your life. TO be of one heart and soul was to acknowledge that in this one true faith, in this one common testimony, the whole of the Christian church, with all its diverse members, were as one living personality and one active life.
Notice dear friends, how, contrary to popular opinion, belief in the resurrection does not require retreat from this life, but actually propels us into it. Putting to death the uncertainty of tomorrow, the resurrection frees us to love lavishly, even recklessly, TODAY!
As C.S. Lewis once stated: “The Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.” You see, Christ's Easter Resurrection teaches us this one life-changing secret … Everything God promised in Jesus is now ours. Life, Forgiveness, Salvation, an eternal Home with Him, and a place saved for us at the Lord's own heavenly Banquet Table. There is nothing we need that we do not already have – that and so much more! And because of this, nothing that we do have here and now is really ours. It is all given to us for our neighbour's benefit. We don't really need it!
Those who love the Lord and His Bride will show it by freely giving of themselves. We lavish love on one another, just as Jesus lavished His love on us, by giving Himself into death for us. We give to others in their need, just as Jesus continues to come to us in our need, through Word and Sacrament, with gifts of love and forgiveness, strength and courage. Not one of those early Christians was forced by compulsion to share, just as not one of you will ever be. But they loved the one who lived and died and rose again for them ... and that love could only truly show itself in generosity.
33And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. The resurrection is the crowning work of God in accomplishing our redemption. It is the final proof of the deity and the Messiahship of Jesus. The resurrection attests the efficacy of His life, His suffering, and His death in removing the barrier that separated us from God. It shows that the glorified Saviour lives and rules as the Head of the church to keep her and to bless her to eternity.
Such testimony to the resurrection was the duty to which the apostles were pledged. But they could not have kept silent about it even if they had wanted to! (1 John 1:3) that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. Love and Joy compelled them! When you have experienced something like that, nothing will ever be the same again.
It is around this resurrection testimony that the believers had gathered, and that new believers would be drawn. From this testimony of Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead, sprang all their faith and their love. And it is the same among us today. It is the testimony of Christ's resurrection that continues to grow the church in love and service, in Faith and witness, in works and compassion. It is the Testimony of Jesus Christ risen from the dead that brings great grace.
Great grace was the early church's in the high esteem given them from the average person, this was after all, a selfless giving, and a compassionate generosity never seen before, and rarely since. Great grace was the early church's by way of the resurrected Christ still in her midst by Word and Sacrament, to grant the forgiveness of sins, and courage to proclaim Christ's resurrection to one and all. And that same grace is here for you and me, for this congregation, our District and Synod. It is all here in the Resurrection Testimony, richly given in Christ, recklessly shared by you and me. A foretaste of the restoration to come in the paradise of Heaven and a striking picture of what true fellowship and community here on earth can be.
(John 20:21-22) Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.