“Who Are You?”
(Easter, So What? – Part 2)
April 23, 2017
By John Partridge*
Acts 2:14a, 22-32 John 20:19-31 1 Peter 1:3-9
Who are you?
What is it that makes you, you?
More importantly, what truths will you hold so tightly that they will shape your actions and determine who you are and the person that you will become?
Likewise, what goals have you set for your life, what calling have you felt, what destination are you seeking? These things will also have an enormous impact on how you live your life, what decisions you make, and make up a large part of who you are.
As we heard last week, the things that the Apostle Peter saw and experienced during the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus changed him. The fisherman that Jesus called in the Gospels is almost unrecognizable when we see him in the book of Acts. If he were not identified by name we would be tempted to imagine that this was someone else. In the gospel story, Peter is regularly forgetful, stubborn, hot headed, and prone to exaggeration. During Jesus’ trial, Peter knowing Jesus three times. Afterward he is a broken man who flees Jerusalem and returns to his fishing nets. But the man that we see in the book of Acts is an entirely different man, driven, confident, bold, and fearless. But this new Peter wants desperately to explain to the world why the resurrection of Jesus ought to change them too. (Acts 2:14a, 22-32)
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.
26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest in hope,
27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
you will not let your holy one see decay.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.
Peter recites the words of King David and explains that almost a thousand years earlier David knew that one of his descendants would be the messiah, the rescuer of Israel, and that the messiah would live forever. Peter is not only impressed and dramatically changed by what he has personally seen and experienced, he is also deeply moved and transformed because he understands that God planned it all, and revealed it to David, before any of them were born, and generations before the Roman Empire even existed. Peter wants everyone to realize that not only were the events surrounding Jesus’ trial, crucifixion, and resurrection were miraculous, they were all known and planned far in advance by an incredible and infinite God.
As we noted last week, Peter’s understanding of these events leads him to teach that because we know about Jesus, and because we have experienced his love, mercy, and grace, then we are therefore compelled to do something about it.
We wonder what should we do, but an even better question is, what does God want us to do?
Honestly, some of the details can be a little mysterious, particularly when it comes down to discerning the specific call on individual lives, but as a group, there really isn’t much mystery at all. Many places in the gospels, in the New Testament, speak plainly about the calling and mission of the church and the followers of Jesus Christ. In John 20:19-31, as well as other places, we receive that message from the lips of Jesus.
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Jesus says that he is sending his followers out into the world and he proclaims that as they go, they are called to be agents of forgiveness. Jesus’ interaction with Thomas demonstrates, physically and tangibly, that he really is the same man who hung on a cross and was buried so that Thomas can believe in the resurrection. But as he does so, Jesus also explains that all of us are called to be a blessing to others by sharing the Good News of the Easter story. And finally, John explains that the stories of the gospel writers, and the miracles that are recorded there, are given so that we might find life in his name. That means that as we go out from this place and tell the world about Jesus, we carry the message of life itself with us.
And then Peter summarizes our mission in 1 Peter 1:3-9 where we hear these words:
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Peter emphasizes that the good news of Jesus Christ is a story of our rebirth into a life of hope. The Easter story is a story of our adoption and reminds us that because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross; we are now his brothers and sisters and have been granted a share of his inheritance from the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the creator of the universe, and the judge of all humanity. But our adoption and inheritance is not a guarantee that our lives will be wonderful and perfect. Jesus lived a perfect and sinless life and yet he experienced great suffering, grief, pain, and death and so we understand that following God, at least in this earthly life, does not grant us protection from evil. Peter assures us that as long as we are alive on earth we may suffer trials and grief, but the things that we suffer here may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus returns. The gift that we can expect to receive in this life, as a result of our faith and our rescue from death, is an inexpressible and glorious joy.
So who are we?
What is it that shapes our actions and determines who we are and what we will become?
Gigantic factors in who we are, is what we have seen, heard, and experienced, but also the call of God upon our lives. We hold tightly to these things because we know that they are true. The events of the Easter story are so powerful and significant that we are changed and shaped by them. The story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection reveals God’s plan for the world and we realize that if King David saw God’s plan a thousand years before it unfolded, then surely there is a place in God’s plan for each one of us.
We are called to be agents of forgiveness and agents of hope.
We are called to be a blessing to others by sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ and by doing so; we are called to give life to others.
Because we do these things, we are filled with an indescribable joy.
We are not insulated and protected from evil, pain, suffering, and grief, but we are called to live and to love, so that Jesus receives praise, honor, and glory.
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* You have been reading a message presented at Trinity United Methodist Church on the date noted on the first page. Rev. John Partridge is the pastor at Trinity of Perry Heights in Massillon, Ohio. Duplication of this message is a part of our Media ministry, if you have received a blessing in this way, we would love to hear from you. Letters and donations in support of the Media ministry may be sent to Trinity United Methodist Church, 3757 Lincoln Way E., Massillon, Ohio 44646. These messages are available to anyone regardless of membership. You may subscribe to these messages by writing to the address noted, or by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To subscribe to the electronic version sign up at http://eepurl.com/vAlYn. These messages can also be found online at https://pastorpartridge.wordpress.com/. All Scripture references are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.