2000 years ago God raised Jesus from the dead.
That is remarkable, but in itself it is not life changing. It is an interesting fact. Something to talk about over coffee or a pint.
‘You know that Jesus?’ ‘He was crucified’. ‘Yes. But he came back from the dead’. ‘No! I don’t believe you’. ‘It is true, I met him. Gave me quite a turn’. ‘What’s he doing these days?’ ‘Not sure. He comes and goes. Turns up here and there’. ‘Amazing. I wonder whether I’ll see him. Do you think Arsenal stand any chance of catching Chelsea?’
If Jesus rose from the dead, then that is great for Jesus, but it does not really need to affect you.
But Peter and John do not simply say that 2000 years ago God raised Jesus from the dead.
They make, if it is possible, a bigger claim.
They are ‘proclaiming that in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead’ (v2)
In other words they are saying that Jesus did not only rise from the dead, but that he IS the resurrection. He IS ultimate life. And we share in that resurrection life when we come to him, put our trust in him and call on him.
In other words resurrection life is Jesus shaped.
When we put our hand into his hand and allow him to lead us, we enter into this new life.
He is the logic and wisdom of this new life.
He is the ruler of this life.
He is the role model for this new life.
He is our guide and companion in this new life.
But more than that. He is not only the companion beside us. He is the one who comes into our lives and gives us the heart, the desire and the inner strength so that we want and are able to begin to live this life.
The resurrection life is a Jesus-shaped seed that is planted deep inside a person when they turn to Jesus. As we feed it and water it, that seed grows, and it starts to shape us. Not physically, but spiritually, at the very centre of our being. As Jesus knows God as his Father, so we come to know God as our Father; as Jesus sees things with the eyes of God, so we begin to see things with the eyes of God. As Jesus is controlled by love for his Father, by joy and by peace, so we begin to be controlled by love for his Father, by joy and peace.
And because Jesus did not simply rise from the dead, but because he is the resurrection of the dead, because resurrection life is Jesus shaped, there are three implications.
1. Jesus is the power of the resurrection life.
We’ve already seen that.
Because of the resurrection power of Jesus, people are healed.
A 40 year old man, lame from birth, is healed in the name of Jesus.
What happens here is that the resurrection life, when there will be no more pain, or suffering or sickness or death, when there will be no one lame or blind or deaf – breaks into the here and now. This is a glimpse, a taster of that future life.
On Friday we had a service to give thanks for the birth of little Oliver. He is only 5 months old, but in those 5 months he has had meningitis and sadly, as a consequence, has suffered brain damage. His mum and dad have gone through hell. We pray that he might be healed. But even if he is not healed here, the resurrection power of Jesus means that one day Oliver will be free to be the person who God made him to be. We live in hope
And the resurrection power of Jesus means that people are changed.
Dorothy spoke last week of the transformation in Peter. He was set free from fear. Only a few weeks earlier when someone asked him if he knew Jesus he said ‘No’. Now he stands in front of the same people who condemned Jesus to death, and he openly speaks of Jesus.
And the most amazing thing about the resurrection power of Jesus is that when we preach in his name, people believe and are converted. People who are spiritually dead are made alive (v4).
Jesus is still the resurrection from the dead. And when we faithfully speak in the name of Jesus, things will happen.
People will be converted: Those 5000 who came to believe didn’t see the risen Jesus. This is after the ascension. Jesus has gone to heaven. They only had Peter’s word to go on that God had raised Jesus from the dead.
And yet when Peter preaches in the name of Jesus, something happens. They realise their deep need for God, for his forgiveness and power, and many come to believe. They put their trust in Jesus and they call on him.
Of course this is God’s business and not ours. Many of us long to see God work more. Many of us long to see more God-incidences. We’ve seen three in the last few weeks. In one case a lady who could not see had her eyes opened long enough so that she was able to read a particular Psalm. We give thanks for that, but it gives us a greater longing to see God’s resurrection life come in more power. We long to see healings. We long to be changed, to see others changed. We long to see many becoming believers.
Only God can do that. Our task is to pray, to trust that there is power in the name of Jesus, and like Peter and John to speak in the name of Jesus
2. Jesus is the true cornerstone for our lives.
He is, ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’ (v11)
Some bibles say capstone; others say cornerstone. The capstone is the final stone that is put in when an arch is made that holds everything together. Without it, the whole thing collapses. The cornerstone is the foundation stone.
So this is saying that Jesus is the foundation rock on whom we build, the stone who holds it all together.
There is a story that Jesus told. There were two builders. Both built their own homes. One built on rock, the other built on sand. ‘And the rain came down and the flood went up .. and the house on the sand fell flat’. And Jesus teaches that those who listen to his words but do not put them into practice are like the one who built on the sand.
Why? Because he is the only true cornerstone on whom we can build our lives.
The political rulers of Jesus day rejected Jesus because they built on sand.
They built on the fear of not rocking the boat. They were terrified of what the Roman authorities might do.
They built on their preconceived images of what God’s kingdom and what God’s ruler would look like.
They built on a foundation of needing to prove themselves, of showing that they were somebody and that they were significant. Jesus’ message, miracles and popularity threatened that.
Many of us reject Jesus because we build on sand: we build our lives on what others think of us, on trying to prove ourselves, on living a stable quiet life, on our own unquestioned assumptions, on our safe cliques. We think that is what will give us fulfilment, significance and permanence.
And when we build our lives on those things, they will of course crash.
Peter invites us to build our lives on the one who is bigger than death, to build our lives on the one who knows us yet loves us, who died for us, who rose from the dead, who has an eternal destiny for us. That is the only way we can survive the earthquakes which threaten to shake and break our lives into millions of little pieces. Listen to him, obey him, trust him – even when, particularly when, he asks you to do things that you do not agree with, or that you find particularly difficult. That is when obedience is costly and when we grow in love and trust. That is when we build on the rock.
3. Jesus is the only one who can give salvation
‘Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mortals by which we must be saved’. (v12)
There is a danger that when we quote this verse we often do it as spiritual Arnold Schwarzeneggers with our theological rocket launchers. We blast it at non-believers thinking that it will shake them and get them to believe.
‘We Christians have got it right and you’re all condemned: so you better become one of us’. And all it does is destroy them and make us look like arrogant, intolerant bigots .
Please remember that when Peter states this fact he is not in a position of power, but of extreme weakness. He is on trial. He could be imprisoned, beaten and even possibly executed.
And Peter is saying to them that Jesus, who they last saw dead hanging on a cross, but who God raised from the dead, is the one who God will use to bring salvation to everyone who turns to him. ‘There is no other name .. by which we must be saved’.
Peter is saying this to them: Because resurrection life is Jesus shaped, if you call on him you must be saved. This is not a threat. The threat is in the previous verse. If we build our lives on foundations that are not Jesus they will be shaken. But verse 12 is a gift. This is a promise.
Call on the name of Jesus.
Call on the name of Jesus when you are out of your depth, when your life has been shaken, when you face the unthinkable.
Call on the name of Jesus when you face relentless pressure, when the monsters are about to devour you, when you are crushed, when temptation and sin and fear and death overwhelm you and grip you and control you.
Call on the name of Jesus when you stand naked and vulnerable before others, when you have been shamed, when they laugh at you, mock you, spit on you and then crush you.
Call on the name of Jesus when your hopes have been smashed, your desires ripped in pieces, when you are broken and heartbroken.
Call on the name of Jesus when you are empty and lost and desperately alone, when you are deep in the pit, and do not know which way to turn.
Call on the name of Jesus when you are hurting, in pain, and all you want to do is to die.
Call on the name of Jesus when you begin to realise what you have done to others, how you have hurt them, when you see yourself with all the darkness inside you, you see how small and trapped you have become, and when you cannot face yourself let alone others.
Call on the name of Jesus today in church, in the classroom, in the boardroom, on the shop floor, in the office, in the bedroom. Call on the name of Jesus when you wake up and when you go to sleep. Call on the name of Jesus when you are well or sick, happy or sad, in life, at the time of death and in death.
Call on him with all your heart.
There is no other name that has been given to you by which you must be saved.
He is the life raft that will not fail, the friend who will never betray you, the lover who will never abandon you, the brother who will always be there for you.
Many of you will have heard of Andrew White, the vicar of Baghdad. I had the privilege of being a student at theological college together with him. Andrew, in his previous life, had been an anaesthetist at St Thomas’ hospital. He told of how, as he was putting patients under, he would invite them to think of something really precious and lovely to them. And he spoke of one larger older West Indian lady who looked up at him, smiled and said, ‘I’m thinking of Jesus’.
Someone I know who I deeply respect and who has more godliness and theology in his little finger than I have in the whole of my body said to me, ‘As I grow older I find that I am losing many of my old certainties. But I’ve come to realise that it doesn’t really matter, because what I do know is that it is all about Jesus’.
Come to Jesus, call on Jesus
Because Jesus rose from the dead, because resurrection life is Jesus shaped – he is the power of the resurrection life, he is the cornerstone on whom we must build our lives and there is no other name given to men and women by which we must be saved.