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Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1299

April 16, 2017 Acts 10:34-43

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“Bearing Witness to the Good News”

 

Christ has risen! This is the glorious day of Christian celebration. We celebrate today because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and lives today. He reigns. He saves. He loves. He lives. And this list could go on and on and on! This is the day of good news, the gospel. This is the day of the Lord. We celebrate his rising today and we celebrate it every single Sunday of the year because this is why we worship on Sunday – because He is risen!

We are here today because of Jesus Christ and we are here also because of the witnesses who have gone before us to tell us about Jesus Christ. Mary Magdalene and the women began the post-resurrection witness. Today I want to examine the host of witnesses to the Good News of Jesus Christ.

 

  • The Witness of Peter and Luke

 

I’m not sure if I have ever preached outside the gospels for Easter Sunday. But today I want to focus primarily on Acts 10 and Peter’s sermon. So this is a sermon on a sermon. If we were to outline the main points of Peter’s sermon we might see it in three parts.

 

(1) The Good News that Jesus Christ is Lord of all. God sent Jesus for all, Jew and Gentile, He does not show partiality, no favoritism. Those acceptable are the ones who fear God, stand in awe of God, worship God, and they keep the Commandments of God. They do what is right. Yes, Jesus is Lord of all.

 

34So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all),

 

(2) The history of Jesus Christ. Jesus began his public ministry with the baptism of John; He went throughout the country healing, delivering, doing good deeds in the presence of God. He was crucified but raised on the third day. Jesus then appeared to the people who knew him.

 

37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 

 

(3) The command to give witness. Jesus appeared to the people who knew him so that they would be the ones who would tell everyone what happened. They would testify to the risen Lord just as the prophets of old had done looking forward to the Messiah.

 

42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

 

Peter is the witness in real time, the preacher to the audience of Acts 10. He preaches this sermon as a witness to Christ. The secondary witness in this is Luke, the author of Acts, who gives witness by recording this sermon for generations to come. Witnesses abound – Peter, Luke, the prophets, and all to whom Jesus appeared.

 

  • The Witness of the Prophets

 

Let’s look closer at the witnesses within Peter’s sermon. The witness list grows tremendously in verse 43, “to him all the prophets bear witness.” Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Micah, and all the prophets, the list is powerful and impressive both because of who has spoken and what has been said. Luke, in his gospel, gives us two other accounts of these witnesses. You might recall Jesus on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:27, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Jesus expands the witnesses to Moses as well, and even all the Scriptures. Jesus does this again in the upper room in Luke 24:44-45. “‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Moses, Prophets, Psalms, all give witness to Jesus Christ. The Old Testament points us to the Easter narrative, points us to Christ. Jesus and Peter are not limiting the witness to those who we label as prophets, no, I believe that they intended to include every book of the Old Testament, Genesis to Malachi, they all are included as witnesses to Jesus.

Let’s look at two from Isaiah:

 

Isaiah 25:8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.

Jesus swallowed up death when he was raised from the dead.

Isaiah 53

2 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. 4 Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. 11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

This is the great suffering servant text pointing to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

If we look carefully throughout the New Testament, we find so many Old Testament references that point to Jesus.


 

  • The Witness of the Disciples

 

We have been listening for the voice of Jesus in all the post-resurrection stories for the last seven Sundays, but in that series we have also seen the witness of all the disciples, the women at the tomb, the disciples in the upper room, Thomas, Peter, Paul, and one mention of 500 to whom Jesus appeared (1 Cor. 15:6).

We know the witness of the four gospel writers, the letters from Paul and John and Peter and whoever wrote the book of Hebrews! All through the book of Acts we see the early church growing through the witness of the disciples and that effect has been bringing people to Jesus to this day.

 

  • The Witness of the Church

 

The New Testament is the beginning of the witness of the church. And that witness has continued beyond the writings to the testimony throughout church history. It is a history that has good and bad, but its constant intent is to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ that began in Genesis and continues today because Jesus Christ is alive. He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today. This is why we are not the witnesses along the lines of Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Matthew, John, and so forth. Yes, you and I are the witnesses of the church to the message of Christ.

 

Now I trust that none of you need to be convinced that the witness is true because of all these witnesses we have seen and heard. I trust that you are hear today precisely because you believe in Jesus as the risen Lord. Some might be more convinced than others. When the disciples worshiped Jesus in Matthew 28 it says that some doubted, but they still worshiped. We all have some degree of doubt from time to time, but we are still called to be the witnesses. No one in the church is a perfect witness, but the testimony we have is itself perfect. It is truth and the truth is that Jesus Christ is risen today and because He lives we also live. Because he has loved us, we love Him. Because Christ has conquered death and the grave, we have the promise of life eternal. Because Christ died on our behalf, we have been set free from bondage.

The Easter message is our message of life for the world. We are excited and joyful on this day because of the empty tomb and because the tomb is empty, we have a story to tell. Go, tell it, teach it, preach it, in whatever way you can, bear witness to the Good News of resurrection. Amen.