The Signs and Wonders of Easter Part 1: Healing and Release!
The Signs and Wonders of Easter Part 1: Healing and Release!
Text: Acts 5:12-32
2 Easter, C
12Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. In the season of Easter our first reading each week comes from the book of Acts. And one of the reasons why we spend time doing this each year is that in these readings from Acts we are presented with a picture of a time when signs and wonders were a common occurrence. These miracles were happening frequently enough for people to come to expect them. The question this raises for us is, “Why don’t these things happen today?” More pointedly, perhaps, Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison in today’s passage raises the question of whether we, too, should expect this same kind of deliverance. If you will forgive me for spoiling what is about to come, these signs and wonders of Easter DO sill happen today, and Yes, God’s people are being delivered all the time. We see this especially in all the forms of healing and release God grants even today.
14And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed.
There is no doubt that miracles abounded in the Christian Church in the few short years after the resurrection. Why even Peter’s shadow could bring healing to people! This was in part God’s way of vindicating the message of ultimate healing that the apostles proclaimed. The healing of heart and mind and soul in the redemption and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And that same ultimate healing still goes on to this day. There is not a life here this morning that hasn’t been battered and beaten up by sin and its effects. Not even little Amy is free of that curse of sin and its consequences. You, yourself know what sin can do to your body, your family, your relationships, your heart. But as you saw today in the gift of Holy Baptism, there is healing in the forgiveness of sins, the washing of rebirth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit. An ultimate healing for every life, no matter how sin has hurt it.
And it was for this message of healing and hope, for the vindication shown in the miracles that followed the sermons, that the sinful world fought back. 17But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy 18they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.
Jealousy. Indignation? The truth is that those who are still trapped by the ravages of sin hate the thought of others being free and happy in the face of the same. These religious leaders were angry, passionate so, at the audacity of the disciples to disregard their direct command to stop preaching the gospel and no longer give glory to Jesus. There are rules you see. Everyone else must be miserable like us. Do you think you are better me?
Better? No. But blessed? Yes. Just look at the signs and wonders of this Easter reality. 19But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20“Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” 21And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach. Wonder of wonders, sin does not win. Misery cannot hold the believer. Death is defeated by Life and sinners are set free in Christ. As it was for the master, so too will it be for the servants. Much like Jesus himself was released from the tomb, where the seal of death was broken, the guards thwarted, and all while angels were in attendance … So too does God do for the apostles. They are given release, the locks are opened, the guards thwarted, and angels attend. In Christ we are free of all that would hold us back from what God has promised us. The signs and wonders are that this message of new life cannot be contained or buried. It will be proclaimed. Jesus will be given the glory and honour He deserves, no matter what this miserable world may say.
27And when they had ... set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 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. 32And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
The truth is, dear friends, that we are all guilty of His blood, it is the payment for our sin. But the first and most glorious wonder of Easter is that all this sin and guilt has been washed away in that blood. You saw it happen before your very eyes this morning! We are forgiven and free. The sentence of death has been carried out, we are no longer under its curse! This is the first of the signs and wonders we will consider this Easter season. And it all begins with a beautiful and hard-hitting declaration of Law and Gospel. We are sinners, but we are forgiven. We were trapped, but now are free. We were dying, but now are healed in Jesus.
God’s power to change lives is still at work today. And His greatest work always remains the forgiveness of our sins. For in that forgiveness we are healed and set free. This is accomplished through the triumphant spread of the Gospel (in Word and Sacrament) both in the Apostolic age and in our own. Does that mean our life in Jesus will be free of all pain and sorrow? Of course not. But no pain or sorrow can now imprison our hearts or lives. No opposition can control our tongues or stifle our faith in the many signs and wonders of Easter we see all around us!