Sermon on Acts 13:15-16, 26-33
Text: After the reading from the Law and the Prophets, the leaders of the synagogue sent word to them, saying, “Brothers, if you have a word of exhortation for the people, please speak.”
16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Fellow Israelites and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!
26 “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.
32 “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: ‘You are my son; today I have become your father.’”
We have had a cross at the front of our church for the last number of weeks. The cross is the most widely recognized of the symbols of Christianity. You may have noticed that there were different colored pieces of material that have been draped on the cross. During the season of Lent, we had a purple cloth draped on the cross. The color purple symbolizes repentance. It is a perfect color for that season as we are reminded of Jesus’ suffering for our sins. On Good Friday, the cloth was black. This color symbolizes mourning, as we join the disciples and the women who took the lifeless body of Jesus from the cross and placed it into a tomb. On Easter morning, the color of the cloth was white. White symbolizes joy. We rejoiced as we heard the angels tell the good news that Jesus had risen from the dead. We are now three weeks from Easter. Do we still feel the joy that we experienced that day, or has it faded as we have gone back to our everyday lives? What about when the cross is taken down and the white cloth put away? Will the Easter joy be put in the box with that white cloth? My dear friends, as we study God’s Word this morning, may it be that we are reminded that the joy of Easter is such wonderful news that we cannot put it away. To put it another way, KEEP CHRIST’ CROSS DRAPED IN WHITE! 1. The Old Testament Pointed To The Resurrection. 2. The Resurrection Is The Focal Point Of The New Testament.
Our text for this morning comes from the Apostle Paul’s first recorded sermon. He was on the first of his missionary journeys. He came to a city in south central modern day Turkey, called Pisidian Antioch. Paul and his companion Barnabbas went to the Jewish synagogue and, as was the custom for traveling teachers, they were asked to speak to the congregation. Paul got up to speak to this gathering of people who would have been very familiar with the Old Testament. As such, they would have been very familiar with all of the prophecies that God had given about the coming Messiah. They would have known about the suffering and death that the Messiah would endure.
Paul tells them that what they had been waiting for was fulfilled in Jesus. We read in verses 27-29, “The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb.”
The first thing that we take note of is the phrase that “The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus.” (Verse 27) It wasn’t that the Jewish leadership didn’t know who Jesus was. They were well aware of whom he was and what he had been teaching. Rather, this is saying that they refused to see Jesus as the promised Savior. He didn’t fit their idea of whom and what the Messiah was supposed to be. In their hatred for him, they saw to it that Jesus was put to death. “Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed.” (Verse 28) Pontius Pilate may have been the one that ordered the execution, it was the Jewish leadership that was behind it, even though he was innocent of any charges that they tried to bring against him. Their hatred of Jesus would accept nothing less than Jesus being put to death.
It’s interesting to note that twice in these verses, Paul refers to the fact that all that would happen to the Messiah was prophesied throughout the Old Testament. Through their actions, the Jewish leadership unwittingly fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus. However, even though they might not have known exactly what they were doing, this did not excuse their actions. They sinned when they put Jesus on the cross.
While we might be tempted to blame the Jewish leadership, the blame does not stop there. The blame rests on you and me, as well. How can I say that? I can say that because it was your sins and my sins that were the reason that Jesus went to the cross. If we had not sinned, if humanity had not sinned, there would have been no reason for Jesus to be on that cross. The fact is that we have sinned. For example, earlier we talked about the joy of Easter slipping from our hearts. Why does that happen? Is it because the things of this world take on more importance in our lives than our relationship with God? How many times have we run after the things of this life, making them a higher priority than God is in our lives? Every single time that we have wanted to do things our way rather than God’s way, we have placed our will above God’s will. There are many instances that we could point to. The fact is, it was because of our sins that Jesus suffered and died.
However, Paul didn’t stop with Jesus being put into a tomb. He said in verse 32-33, “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.” Jesus rose from the grave. This was also prophesied in the Old Testament. For example, we read in Psalm 16:9-10, “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.” Every single prophecy about Jesus was fulfilled. Someone calculated that there are no less than 33 prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus’ trial, condemnation, and death, alone. The odds of all of those prophecies that were written many years before Jesus was born would all be fulfilled in him are astronomical.
We take great comfort in the fact that all of the Old Testament pointed ahead to Jesus’s life, death and resurrection because it assures us beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the one who was prophesied. He is the Christ. He is the one that God sent to save the world. In a world where we are told that every religion is the same and it really doesn’t matter what you believe, there may be the temptation to wonder if what we believe is correct. The fact that Jesus is the one who had fulfilled all of these prophesies assures us that he is the one. All of the Old Testament pointed ahead to him.
After Paul told them about Jesus’ suffering and death, he continued by saying, “But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.” (Verses 30-31) Paul highlights the fact that there were so many witnesses to Jesus resurrection. This wasn’t just the dream or delusion of a few people. Jesus’ resurrection is an established fact. Those who saw him did not keep this news to themselves. “They are now his witnesses to our people.” They told others about Jesus’ resurrection. Paul spent the rest of his life going from place to place, telling the people about Jesus’ resurrection. It is obvious that this was the focal point of the early Christian church as is evidenced by the fact that Jesus’ resurrection is mentioned more than 200 hundred times in the New Testament. Obviously, the news of Jesus’ resurrection was something that was very important and needed to be shared.
It is with great joy that we hear the news of Jesus’ resurrection, as well. There is a reason that is the focal point, not only of the New Testament, but of our lives, as well. First of all, Jesus’ resurrection assures us that our sins have been forgiven. If Jesus had not completed the task of paying for our sins, he would still be in the grave. The fact that he has been raised tells us that the Father has accepted his payment for our sins. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:17, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” Later on, in that same chapter, he makes the glorious exclamation, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 15:20) It is this fact that causes us to celebrate the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.
Secondly, Jesus’ resurrection assures me that, if I should die before Jesus comes back in glory, I will rise from the dead. Again, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:22-23, “In Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” This means that I don’t have to be afraid to die. What great comfort is ours in knowing that death is but a sleep from which we will awaken on the Last Day. Jesus’ resurrection gives me this comfort.
In addition, I know that, because Jesus rose from the dead, eternal life is mine. Jesus, himself, tells us, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” (John 11:25) No matter what heartache you might be feeling, you have this confidence that there will be a time when you will be with your Savior. It will be a place where there will be perfect peace and joy. This is waiting for you because Jesus rose from the dead. When we are reminded of all of the blessings that are ours because of the resurrection of Jesus, it is easy to see why it is the focal point of the New Testament. This news is too wonderful not to make it the focal point of our lives, as well.
Jesus’ resurrection is the main focus of the entire Bible. Some will say that it is interesting, because of the history that is contained in it. Others will say it is a book from which you can learn about how to have a better life. While there may be some truth to those statements, they do not fully capture the full intent of the Bible. The central figure in the Scriptures is Jesus. The Old Testament pointed ahead to what he would do. The New Testament points back to what he has done. In speaking of chronicling of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, John notes, “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.” (John 20:31) Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. You have eternal life. There is no greater news than this. May the joy of Jesus’ resurrection fill your hearts today and always. My dear friends, keep the cross of Christ draped in white. Amen.
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