Summary: Jesus died and rose on purpose to save us, and His salvation is already with us. The cross and the empty tomb are necessary for our forgiveness.
“The Shout Heard ‘Round the World: HE IS RISEN!” Acts 10:34-43 Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus, Massachusetts
Easter brings up life-and-death concerns. A Canadian scientist said, “I have only two questions to ask: One, has anyone ever defeated death? And two, did he make a way for me to do it also?” The answer to both questions comes in one statement: “Because I live, you shall live also.” On Easter we celebrate the Great Reversal--the triumph of life over death. Resurrection answers crucifixion. Life answers loss.
Peter is presenting the Gospel message to a group of Gentiles, eager to hear what he has to say. What was considered an exclusively Jewish faith is opening up to all people.
A more precise translation of verse 34 is: “And opening his mouth, Peter began to speak.” How else is he going to speak? While this phrase sounds odd, it is often used in the Bible as a literary device to introduce a message of great significance. Peter’s message is “good news of peace through Jesus Christ, Who is Lord of all,” verse 36. Peace was God’s promise in the Old Testament, and it is now granted to all who’ll receive it. Peace is used as a synonym for salvation; peace isn’t merely the absence of conflict, or political stability, but peace with God. The Hebrew word peace (shalom) means “wholeness.” We are broken people, but the power of the resurrection can make us whole. We encounter Christ in our suffering. So many people live opposed to God in open rebellion. Our war with God is over, if we want it.
Peter presents a concise statement of the basic Gospel message. He points out that the life, teaching, miracles and resurrection of Jesus confirm that He is the promised Messiah. In verse 43 he declares that, “All the prophets testify about Him”. The Messianic Age has arrived with spiritual renewal, “forgiveness of sins through His Name.” The Kingdom came in a way most people didn’t expect; it is within those who believe. Jesus is a revolutionary, but not the kind the religious leaders anticipated. Jesus brought about a new world of comfort and hope. This new world began when He came out of the tomb on Easter morning.
Peter assumes that his audience already knows some things about Jesus, verse 36. Word has gotten out. But is it enough? People may know about Jesus, but do they realize Who He is, and why He came to this world? Believing in the resurrection is important—as Courtney stated in this morning’s Sunrise Service, “it’s a good start”—but even more important is understanding why Jesus died, to remove the penalty of our sins. A popular author was being interviewed on TV and somehow the topic of religion came up. She admitted, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have no one to forgive me.” We all need forgiveness, and Easter makes that possible.
Easter is also a time when skeptics abound. They demand proof, yet at the same time they reject the historical record of the New Testament. How do we know Jesus rose from the dead? By the testimony of reliable “eyewitnesses”, verse 39. Jesus not only appeared to many, He even sat down and ate with them. The disciples believed in the resurrection of Christ, not because they couldn’t find His dead body; they believed because they found a living Christ. According to the Apostle Paul, over 500 people saw the risen Jesus, and they devoted their lives to this message of hope. The stone was rolled away, not to let Jesus out, but to let the witnesses in (Peter Marshall).
How come everyone didn’t see the risen Jesus? Except for a few Roman guards, Jesus appeared mostly to His followers. Why didn’t Pilate and the Sanhedrin see Him? Perhaps because of what Jesus told Thomas: “blessed are those who believe without seeing.” Those who believed in Jesus were rewarded by seeing Him alive. Those who rejected Him were not part of this privilege. It takes the eye of faith to see. Believing is seeing. Someone put it this way: “What you see depends on where you set up your shop. Mine is at the entrance of the empty tomb” (W. Paul Jones).
People reject the resurrection because they don’t want to admit that God can act in the world. The secular world is a culture of denial and a power struggle. Is this God’s world, or ours? To admit the resurrection means that God is in charge, and we answer to Him. God expects us to be His means of victory over evil, His instruments of righteousness, His answer to human suffering.
Resurrection is “going on through death and beyond death to a new existence that death cannot touch” (NT Wright). When we place our trust in Jesus, we enter a new world in which death is defeated. We live and die by this truth. Madeline L’Engle writes, “There are times when I feel that God has withdrawn from me, and I have often given Him cause, but Easter is always the answer to ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’!”