The Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 9, 2021

Acts 11:19-26

God’s Children Make

God’s Grace Visible!

 

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews.  Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.  The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.  News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.  When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.  He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.  Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch.  So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.  The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.  (NIV1984)

 

 

Dear fellow worshipers of our living Lord and Savior,

 

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!

 

“Happy.  1. Favored by circumstances; lucky; fortunate 2. Having, showing, or causing a feeling of great pleasure, contentment, joy, etc.”  Does Webster’s definition of “happy” bring a smile to your face?  Does it make you feel “happy”?  Does it help you to visualize what it means to be “happy”?  How about this:  “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.  If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands.  If you’re happy and you know, Then your face will surely show it.  If you’re happy and you know it, Clap your hands.”  If you have ever seen little children sing that nursery rhyme, then you have seen what it means to be happy!  In fact, watching little children sing that nursery rhyme not only makes “happy” visible— but it makes you want to sing along!

 

No matter how accurately we might define certain concepts— such as “happy”— it is so much more powerful when someone makes that concept visible!  We find a very good example of that truth here in our sermon text for today.  Our goal today is to see how these inspired words of our God give us a very beautiful example of how:  God’s Children Make God’s Grace Visible!  There are three things we want to see today.  First, let’s see how God’s children make God’s grace visible by sharing the Good News about Jesus.  Then, let’s see how God’s children make God’s grace visible by encouraging each other to remain true to the Lord.  Finally, let’s see how God’s children make God’s grace visible by partnering with others.

 

Luke begins our text by showing us how God’s children make God’s grace visible by sharing the Good News about Jesus with others.  He writes, “Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews.  Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.  The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.”

 

One might think that the children of God who were forced to leave Jerusalem because they were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus would “lay low” and try to “fly under the radar”— at least for a little while.  God’s grace, however, would not let them do that!  God’s children saw this oppression as an opportunity— and opportunity to make God’s grace visible to others!  At first God’s children made God’s grace visible by “telling the message only to Jews.”  They wanted their fellow Jews to see and to understand, to believe and to trust that the long-awaited Promised Messiah had come!  His name is Jesus of Nazareth!  What “message” did they share?  They undoubtedly shared with their fellow Jews the “message” about Jesus’ life— the miracles He performed and the message He proclaimed.  They undoubtedly shared with their fellow Jews the “message” about Jesus’ death— how the people of Jerusalem handed Jesus over to the Roman governor and demanded that He be crucified.  And, they undoubtedly shared with their fellow Jews the “message” about Jesus’ resurrection— how He kept His promise to physically rise from the dead on the third day and how for 40 days Jesus met with His disciples to prove to them that He had indeed risen from the dead!  And if any of their fellow Jews had any doubts about the power of the “message” they were proclaiming to them, they were able to point to themselves and say, “I am visible proof of God’s grace!  What the God of our fathers had done for me— He has also done for you!”

 

Some of the children of God who were forced to leave Jerusalem because they were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus, men from the Gentile areas of Cyprus and Cyrene, decided to go to the city of Antioch and “began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.”  To us this seems like a “no-brainer.”  Not only does Scripture very clearly proclaim that the Son of God came into this world to live, to die, and to rise again for all people (See John 3:16; 1 John 2:2), but we are living visible proof of God’s grace!  In the days of Luke, however, the spiritual wall that divided the Jews and the Gentiles had not yet been torn down— at least not completely.  And so when Jews from Cyprus and Cyrene, Jews who had been forced to leave Jerusalem because of persecution, when these Jews began to “speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about Jesus” they were indeed making God’s grace visible in a very powerful way!

 

God’s children make God’s grace visible by sharing the Good News about Jesus with others— even with those whom some people may consider to be “unworthy” of God’s grace!  What was true for God’s children here in our text is just as true for us, God’s children today.  We live in a very mobile society.  While it may not be persecution that forces us to flee from one place to another, there are many other factors that can cause us to move— our job, our health, our family, our retirement plans, etc.  Wherever we go and whyever we move we need to see it as an opportunity to make God’s grace visible to others!  We need to see it as an opportunity to talk to our new neighbors, our new co-workers, our new acquaintances and tell them “the good news about the Lord Jesus.”  Since we also live in a very diverse society, we need to ignore the racial rhetoric that is causing so much hurt and division in our country and remember that since Jesus loved everyone so much that He was willing to die for them (Pointing to the cross) we need to make God’s grace visible by reflecting that same love and that same concern as clearly, as sincerely and as powerfully as we can!

 

The application of this truth to the fact that today is Mother’s Day is not difficult to make.  As a child of God herself a Christian Mom plays a significant role in making God’s grace visible to others— especially her children.  Why?  How?  I can easily think of an answer to both of those questions.  First, there is a special unique bond between a mother and her child.  A mother’s love for her child motivates her to want to protect her child and provide for her child to the very best of her ability.  This love encompasses not only her child’s physical needs, but also her child’s spiritual needs.  She knows that when her child was baptized in the Name of the Triune God, the heavenly Father adopted her child to be His own dearly beloved child.  For that reason a Christian Mom will strive to make God’s grace visible to her child in a variety of ways.  That leads to the second question of how Moms strive to make God’s grace visible.

 

Moms spend a great deal of one-on-one personal time with their children.  This gives then a tremendous opportunity to make God grace visible to them!  Singing to them, praying with them, teaching them about Jesus, setting a godly example for them to follow— Moms are indeed in a unique position to use all of this as an opportunity make God’s grace visible to her children.  And when a Mom becomes a Grandma, it starts all over again!

 

God’s children make God’s grace visible.  Once we understand how important it is to make God’s grace visible by sharing with others who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for them (Pointing to the cross), then it will be easy for us to understand that as God’s children we make God’s grace visible by encouraging each other to remain true to the Lord.  Luke brings this out here in our text when he writes, “News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.  When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.  He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.”

 

Barnabas was originally from the island of Cyprus.  He was a Levite whose given name was Joseph.  It was the apostles who gave him the name Barnabas— which means, “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36).  Since Barnabas had the God-given ability and the heartfelt desire to “encourage” his brothers and sisters in the faith, the church in Jerusalem considered him the natural person to send to Antioch.  When he got to Antioch and “saw the evidence of God’s grace,” this not only made his heart “glad,” but it also motivated him to “encourage” these new brothers and sisters to “remain true to the Lord with all their heart.”  Since Barnabas had also endured “the persecution in connection with Stephen” he knew how difficult it might get for these new Christians.  So Barnabas did what Barnabas was noted for— he made God’s grace visible by “encouraging” them.

 

We all need to be like Barnabas.  We all need to do everything we can to encourage each other to “remain true to the Lord with all (our) hearts”— especially those who are new to the Christian faith, especially our children and our grandchildren.  This also ties in very well with the fact that today is Mother’s Day.  Moms and Grandmas have a unique opportunity to make God’s grace visible by encouraging their children and their grandchildren to “remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.”  My Mom used to tell me that as long as she was alive, she was my Mom.  As my Mom she had the right to tell me whatever she felt I needed to hear.  It didn’t make any difference how old I was.  It didn’t make any difference what I did for a living.  She was my Mom.  If you are a Mom or if you are a Grandma, you know the spiritual dangers that your children and your grandchildren face in this world.  You know how devious the devil is.  You know how powerful Satan’s temptations are.  Make God’s grace as visible as you can and remember the unique position God as given to you in the lives of your children and your grandchildren.  Strive to be someone who is known for being “full of the Holy Spirit and faith” so that when it becomes necessary for you “encourage” your children or your grandchildren to remain “true to the Lord” they will indeed listen to you!

 

God’s children make God’s grace visible by sharing the message of Jesus and by encouraging others to remain true to the Lord.  Since there are so many people who need to hear about Jesus, and since there are so many Christians who need to be encouraged— we quickly realize that we can’t do this all by ourselves!  That’s why Luke reminds us that as God’s children we make God’s grace visible by partnering with others.  He writes, “Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch.  So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.”

 

These words are simple, straightforward and easy to apply to ourselves.  As an individual child of God we do everything we can to make God’s grace visible to the people around us.  But since we can’t do it alone, in our desire to make God’s grace visible to as many people as possible we partner with others— specifically, our congregation and our Synod.  With the help of our spiritual partners we can make God’s grace visible to the people in our community.  With the help of our spiritual partners we can make God’s grace visible to people all across the world!  Therefore, my friends, let’s make sure that we continue to support both our congregation and our Synod so that by working together we can make God’s grace visible!

 

God’s children make God’s grace visible.  How do we do this?  By sharing the Good News about Jesus with others.  By encouraging each other to remain true to the Lord.  And, by partnering with others to carry out the work God has given to us to do.  Why do we do this?  We do this to keep the focus on Christ (Pointing to the cross) and to reflect Christ’s love to others.  Both the How and the Why are summed up nicely in the closing words of our text, “The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.”  May God grant that these words will always be an accurate description of us!

 

To God be the glory!

 

Amen