Easter 2

Text: Acts 3:12-20


We have to hear the whole story.


“One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer-at three in the afternoon. Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, "Look at us!" So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.  Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."  Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man's feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.  When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.  While the beggar held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon's Colonnade.”


It’s a great story.  It happened after Easter.  It tells us that now more than ever we are all about Jesus.  The narrative on the page still has JESUS as the subject of every sentence.


Peter is talking.  He would say at the end of the story, “There is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  And we hear about the disciples after Easter, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”  Life is going on in post-resurrection Jerusalem.   The clock still gets to three in the afternoon.  There still is a time of prayer.  People are still going to church…Peter and John were. Things are trying to get back to normal and people are still like that.  We like holidays but there is something comforting about things getting back to normal.  And people still need help.  Lame people still can’t walk.  People still suffer.  People still live with wounded consciences and accusing minds.  That’s what we are aware of after Easter.  It is Jesus who saves us.  It is after Easter now, but it’s still Jesus!


Why does this surprise you? Peter asks the question.  Really he asks, “Why are you surprised that this lame man got up from his portable bed and walked?  Jesus got up from his grave and flew!”  We could say after Easter now, “What could possibly surprise you any more with regard to what your faith in Jesus is about?”  If Jesus rose from the dead and we have seen him and are still seeing him, then what burden or danger or trouble or problem can Jesus not fix and heal?  The miracles are going to go on.  Even in our lives, the miracles are going to go on.  It shouldn’t surprise us.  Let’s even expect that it is going to happen.  Jesus is among us!


Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?  It isn’t we who have done this.  It never has been.  Who is able to do miracles?   We can’t.  Only Jesus can do miracles.  We can’t look to ourselves for anything supernatural because we are natural.  We can’t look to ourselves for anything that is superhuman because we are human.  We can’t look to ourselves for anything wonderful and good…because we have that basic bad streak.  That bad streak is what causes our anger and lust and laziness.  It makes us grumble and complain.  It weighs us down.  It affects our minds and ways of thinking.  It pollutes our heart and ways of feeling.  By ourselves that is the way it is.  We still need something supernatural and superhuman and wonderful.  We still need the Jesus who can still do miracles.  Let’s expect them to happen still.  Easter with its greatest of all miracles is now a week behind us.  But Jesus is still with us.  He still does his miraculous things.  


There still is a reason why we look at the miracles and think about the miracles.  That reason is included in our reading from John 20 today.  Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:30,31)


Surely a great miracle is forgiveness.  Jesus makes our lame and low spirits soar.  He takes us by the hands still.  “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you---even Jesus.”


The first hearers of the words we read here in Acts chapter 3 had just killed Jesus.  There the blame lies like a corpse on their thresholds.  You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.  You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.  Pretty serious charges these.  It would be bad enough to be called the murderer of a man.  To be called the murderer of God is much, much worse.   This man whose name was Peter told the people they had disowned the Holy and Righteous One.  That was exactly what Peter himself had done in the courtyard of the High Priest.  He wasn’t saying he wasn’t guilty.   He was saying they could be forgiven.  He could be forgiven.  We all can be forgiven.  We are all guilty of disowning Jesus and condemning him to death.  That’s what our sins do.  That’s what our disinterest or disinclination or distance do.


But there is Jesus’ name for us all to look at with a new look after Easter.  There is the Jesus who still comes to us and finds us weeping and weak.  He knows everything about us but he still saves us.  He loves us.  We can say as we stand at his table and at his baptismal font, “It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.”  Those same words work healing in us too.


And it isn’t just a healing.  It is a complete healing.  That’s what happened to the man in the temple.  That happens to us too.  This is the way Jesus always acted.  He did things completely.  We just heard him say, “It’s finished!”  Aren’t you glad that Jesus doesn’t  just make you better?  It wasn’t that the man in the temple was able to hobble around some now.  He was completely well and healed.  He could jump and run and shout.  He could “hang on” to the disciples (verse 11).


I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.”  Peter said those words to his hearers in  Jerusalem shortly after that first Easter.  Ignorance.  Awful ignorance.  God sent his Son to town and the people didn’t get it.  That it was really so that God loved them so much.  They didn’t get it.  That there is the Son of God who wants to come and make his abode with us.  Don’t get it.  That when life goes hard and death rears his ugly head, there is Jesus and his cross and we can see it and everything is all right.  Don’t get it?  Yes, we do get it.  Of course we get it!  We’re here.  We’re listening.  But we have to admit that there is ignorance and we show it too.  As we live our days with the risen Jesus, observers of our lives might not be able to tell that it makes much difference.  If we had to critique our own life and be brutally honest with ourselves we might well come up with the conclusion, “You know, I live my life most of the time like I really don’t get what Jesus has promised me and I really don’t get it that he is with me every single moment.”  


Thank God that he still talks to us in spite of our ignorance.  He still spends his days with us.  Still watches our nights.  Still stands by our deathbeds.  Still lets Jesus be our Savior.  And that is what it says, “And that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you---even Jesus.”  What great words those are for people who sometimes act ignorantly and don’t get it all.


Jesus is still the Christ.  God hasn’t changed his mind.  This is still Jesus, the one he loves.  This is still his only begotten son.  This is still the one who sits at his right hand and rules all things.  Jesus is still the one God sent and meant for each of you.  He is still the anointed and chosen one.  That’s the conclusion God the Father wants every one to reach…”It’s Jesus.  He’s the one I need.  There is no other.  This is God’s special choice for me.”


He has been anointed for us and he has been appointed for us and he is still “Even Jesus.”  


Jesus hasn’t changed.  He won’t change.  Easter is always going to be the same.  We aren’t going to come up with a brand new celebration some year.  The Word is constant.  The story is etched in God’s stone.  It will always be totally about Jesus, even Jesus.  


And when that last trumpet sounds and we experience Easter ourselves…up front and personal…we are going to see him.  We are going to see this Jesus who died for us, see him with his scarred hands and side.  We are going to see him looking at us with his eyes.  We are going to see his feet, like blazing bronze from a fire.  We’re going to say, “Jesus!  It’s really you!  You are just like you said you would be.”


“My Lord, and my God!” is what Thomas said when he finally got it.  


We say it too.  Amen.