The Second Sunday of Easter
April 8, 2018
Easter is Our Inheritance!
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. When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 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. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. 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.” He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.” Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, “Through your offspring all people on earth will be blessed.” (NIV1984)
Dear fellow worshipers of our living Lord and Savior,
Can you guess what this is a picture of? This is a picture of my Mom and Dad’s dream— a house on a lake in northern Minnesota. Can you guess how much this dream cost them? It cost them decades of their life and a fair amount of their financial resources! Mom and Dad worked for years and years and years to build this house so that they would have a place to retire— which is exactly what happened. They moved up to the lake in 1997. Both Mom and Dad thoroughly enjoyed living at the lake. They considered this to be a gift from God. Dad lived up at the lake until just a couple of days before he died. Mom then lived here by herself (and her dachshund Heidi) until she was forced to leave to get cancer treatments down in the Twin Cities. Do you know what happened to Mom and Dad’s dream after they were both walking on streets of gold? Their dream got handed down to their children. Yes, this is a picture of my earthly inheritance. Do you know what I did to earn this inheritance? Absolutely nothing! Do you know how much this inheritance cost me? Not one single dime! The only reason I am part owner of this piece of property on a lake in northern Minnesota is because I inherited it! I can assure you from personal experience that an inheritance can be a wonderful thing!
As you and I gather together here in God’s house to continue our celebration of Easter today we are going to focus our attention on the subject of an “inheritance.” Let’s use this portion of the book of Acts to remind ourselves and to remind each other that: Easter is Our Inheritance! There are two things we want to see this morning. First, let’s see that Easter is an inheritance that no one deserves to receive. Then let’s see that Easter is an inheritance that God Himself has freely given to His children down through the ages.
Our text for today takes place in the Temple of the Lord in the beloved city of Jerusalem. When Peter and John were going to the Temple a man who had been a cripple from birth (Acts 3:2) begged them for some money. How did Peter respond? In Acts 3:6 we are told, “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.’” Instantly the man was healed— “walking and jumping, and praising God” (verse 8).
That miraculous healing is the basis for the opening portion of our text for today. We are told, “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. When Peter saw this, he said to them: ‘Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.’”
Peter wanted to make it abundantly clear to everyone that this miraculous healing had absolutely nothing to do with Peter’s own “power or godliness.” No, rather, this miraculous healing was effected by the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, through the Name of His Son— Jesus Christ of Nazareth!
Now it’s important for us to notice that Peter himself emphasizes that he is speaking to “Men of Israel,” people who know and worship the Lord, the “God of our fathers.” It is in that context that Peter is able to lay the groundwork for what he says in verse 25 of our text, “And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with our fathers.” But, before we focus on the fact that Easter is the inheritance that God graciously gives to His children down through the ages we first need to see and understand that Easter is an inheritance that no one deserves to receive.
How did Peter impress upon the “Men of Israel” there in the Temple that they did not deserve to receive the Easter inheritance that the good Lord has handed down to His people for ages? After clearly proclaiming that this crippled man was miraculously healed through the power of Jesus of Nazareth Peter looked at these people and said, You handed him (Jesus) over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life….”
What a powerful proclamation of God’s holy Law! Peter knew that the people who had gathered there in Solomon’s Colonnade were well aware of what had taken place at Jesus’ trial before Pontius Pilate. Therefore Peter did not hold back! “You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One…You killed the author of life.” “You did this!” Peter says. Even though these people were by ancestry “heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers” they were responsible for the death of the Lord’s Promised Messiah! Did the people there in Solomon’s Colonnade deserve to receive the Easter inheritance that the Lord had been handing down throughout the ages? Absolutely not!
Before we get too riled up against the people here in our text, however, let’s not forget that we are no different from them. We all had a part in the miscarriage of justice that took place when Pilate released the murderer Barabbas and handed Jesus over to be tortured and then crucified. Because of our own sins Peter has every right to say to us, “You handed him (Jesus) over to be killed.” Because of our own rebellious ways Peter has every right to say to us, “You killed the author of life.” When we look at our own lives and examine our own hearts do we deserve to receive the Easter inheritance that the Lord has freely been handing down to His children throughout the ages? Again the answer is— absolutely not!
Thankfully, our text for today not only proclaims God’s holy Law in all of its power and severity, but our text also proclaims to us the glorious message of the Gospel in all of its beauty and simplicity! After reminding us “You handed him over to be killed…you disowned him before Pilate…You disowned the Holy and Righteous One…You killed the author of life,” Peter then goes on to proclaim, “but God raised him from the dead”! Once we realize our role and our responsibility for what took place on Good Friday (pointing to the cross) then, my friends, then we are ready to hear what God did on Easter Sunday: God raised His Son from the dead! Yes, my friends, the glory of Easter Sunday is now the gracious inheritance that God Himself has secured for all of mankind through the physical resurrection of Jesus the Christ!
How does the inheritance of Easter become our personal possession? Look at what Peter goes on to say in our text, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out….” First, God the Holy Spirit uses the power of the Law to smash our sin-hardened hearts. He uses the power of the Law to lead us to realize that on our own we are completely helpless to change our lost condition. He uses the power of the Law to bring us to the realization that we desperately need a Savior. Then God the Holy Spirit uses the power of the Gospel to create the gift of saving faith in our heart— the faith which empowers us to “Repent…and turn to God.” That gift of saving faith, my friends, is what enables us to know deep down in our hearts that on Easter Sunday God raised His Son from the dead! That gift of saving faith is what comforts us with the confidence of knowing that Easter is now our inheritance. Easter is the inheritance that guarantees to us forgiveness of sins, eternal life and salvation. Easter is the inheritance that guarantees to us that we too will rise from the dead and live with our risen Savior forever!
Once we have seen that Easter is an inheritance that none of us deserves to receive, once we have seen that Easter is an inheritance that each of us receives purely by the grace and power of God alone then we too can turn to verse 25 of our text and truly rejoice as Peter says to us, “You are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers.” Beginning with Adam and Eve and continuing with people such as Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Ruth, Rahab, David, Mary and Peter— and so many others!— God Himself has handed the inheritance of Easter down from one generation to the next. Now, God has graciously given the inheritance of Easter to you, my friends! The joy of Easter, the power of Easter, the confidence of Easter is yours! What are you going to do with it?
Sadly, some of God’s own children treat the inheritance of Easter worse than they would treat an inheritance from their parents or grandparents. Sometimes even God’s own children don’t appreciate their Easter inheritance. That is evidenced by their sporadic attendance in worship and Bible class. Sometimes even God’s own children don’t treasure their Easter inheritance. That is evidenced by how infrequently they receive the holy Supper of their risen Lord and Savior. Sometimes even God’s own children don’t rejoice in their Easter inheritance. That is evidenced by the offerings that they place on the altar of the living God. Is that how we want to treat the glorious Easter inheritance that the good Lord has so graciously and so freely given to us, my friends? I certainly hope not!
This picture usually hangs on the wall in my office. Every time I look at this picture I smile. I smile as I remember all the joy and all the happiness that the good Lord gave to my Mom and Dad when He allowed them to retire to this house on a lake in northern Minnesota. I smile every time I remember that my Mom and Dad loved their children so much that they saw to it that this house was handed down to us. I smile as I remember that this is my earthly inheritance.
My prayer this morning is that you take a long heartfelt look at the Easter inheritance that you have been given purely by the grace of God— and smile! Smile as you remember that the message of Easter is the most precious inheritance that you will ever receive. Smile as you remember that the message of Easter is the most precious inheritance that you can ever hand down to your children and to your grandchildren. Smile as you remember your Easter inheritance!
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
To God be the glory!