On Easter Sunday I said that the women who encountered the empty tomb were too afraid to tell people what they saw. They were afraid that people might think they were crazy, or that they might be treated differently if they openly confessed the Living Christ. It takes strength and courage to openly proclaim that Jesus lived, died, and was raised from the dead, particularly in our culture where “The Walking Dead” popularizes a zombie apocalypse and not a Risen Savior.
The Book of Acts is the story of what happened after Jesus left this earth behind and how the Disciples carried on with Jesus’ mission. It is the narrative that guides us as we seek to be the church in the world today. The story we read this morning takes place right after Peter and John have entered the Temple and found a man, lame from birth, begging at the Beautiful Gate. Recalling the story of Jesus healing the lame man at the Pool of Bethesda, we watch as Peter tells the man that he has no money, but “what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” The man is immediately healed and begins to walk; of course, the people nearby are amazed.
We come today to Peter’s explanation to the people standing around in astonishment. “Why are you surprised?” Peter asks. “We did not heal this man through our power; it is God’s power through Jesus Christ that healed him.” And so we hear Peter remind the people that God sent Jesus and they participated in handing him over to be executed. He offers a stinging indictment of the Israelites and boldly proclaims that Jesus is the source of his ability to heal.
The early church who heard and read this story immediately understood it as a proclamation of Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. They understood that Peter was speaking to the people of Israel, not the Gentiles. And, Peter gave them an “out” when he said: “I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.”
For us, however, there is a different way of reading this text. We must hear in this text that Jesus offers us the strength we need to carry out the mission to which we have been called. We do not get to use the excuse that we simply didn’t know any better or that our leaders sent us down the wrong path. We have heard the Great Commission for ourselves. We have been given the promise of God’s power personally by the Jesus who saved us. We don’t get to stand here and act surprised by the power and strength that Jesus offers us in his outstretched arms. We have heard this all before.
In Chapter 18 of Matthew’s gospel we read this: Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
Our strength and our authority come directly from God through Jesus Christ. We do not need to be timid about that! What we have in our faith is truly a Super Power – it is the power to give witness to the transforming love of God so other people might also be transformed. We have no reason to be afraid to tell. We are plugged in to the source of the power that created the universe. Surely, there is nothing we cannot do in the Name of God.
One of my guilty pleasures is a TV show called “Marvel’s Agents of Shield.” One of the plot twists involves encountering extra-terrestrial beings with super powers. As their powers are revealed, these beings are often fearful of their new ability and the people around them are certainly afraid of the damage these powers might do to us ordinary folk. I think their fear stems from not knowing where these powers come from and not knowing what they are capable of doing.
Our Super Power is better than these sci-fi powers. First, we know where this power comes from – the God who created us, loves us, and guides us. We don’t need to wonder what the source of our power really is. Second, we know that our power cannot harm us or anyone else. Our Super Power is, by design, given so that we might learn to be better people and love others more…Doesn’t sound dangerous to me. What gives us strength, our super power, may not always be as obvious to us as we would like. We may imagine something more dramatic. As our children demonstrated earlier, however, the true source of our Super Power is the plan that God has placed in our hearts. God’s plan is for us to hold the treasure of Jesus, to carry the gospel message to the world, and to point others toward God. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.