What a difference it makes to be filled with the Holy Spirit!

What a difference it makes to be filled with the Holy Spirit!

Easter 4B
Pastor Mitch Coggin April 21, 2024 Easter

Today’s first two scripture readings deal first of all with the assurance that Jesus is the Good shepherd and that he lays his life down for us, referring to us as his sheep. We are reminded in 1 John 3, (the passage that Linda read), since Christ through love for us, laid down his life for us, we ought also be willing to lay down our lives for one another. Although we literally may not lay down our lives for one another, but in our daily context of living, we should not refuse to help a brother or sister in need.

We are encouraged to love not in word or speech, but in truth or action. As James declares: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

In our second scripture lesson we are reminded that our Good Shepherd knows us (his sheep) and that his own know Him. He re-iterates that He lays down his life for the sheep. He is different from the hired hand who runs away, because he does not care for the sheep. We are reminded that there are other sheep who do not yet belong to the flock, but that Jesus will one day bring them so they listen to his voice so there will be one flock, and one shepherd.

One segment of this passage is sometimes understated but I submit it is most relevant because Jesus tells us: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it up again.” Think about that for a moment…. For this reason the Father loves me. The father loves him because He is willing to make the sacrifice for his sheep. That applies to the people of Israel as well as us today.

Secondly, He says that He lays it down of his own accord, in other words, willingly. He has the power to lay it down and take it up again. He is willing to follow his Father’s command. And he did that on the cross. As the song O Glorious Day by Casting Crown states: “living he loved me, dying he saved me, buried, he carried my sins far away. Rising he justified, freely forever, One day he’s coming O Glorious day, O Glorious Day.”

And then Christ took his life up again on the third day to prove that our Saviour lives and we as believers have been redeemed and have eternal life with him.

Our third scripture passage this morning benefits from considering the context. You will remember that Luke tells us in Acts 3: 1-10 that Peter and John went to the temple and healed a man who was lame from birth. They had no money to give him but said:“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk.” The man filled with joy, began walking, and leaping and praising God. The people that saw him were filled with wonder and amazement. Naturally, the crowd was astonished and the news spread to the religious authorities (the Sanhedrin) who became concerned about what was happening.

They happened to be assembled in Jerusalem so they convened the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court of the Jews. It consisted of 71 members, with the Annas, the high priest, as the president. This was no light-weight group of individuals. They were the educated and powerful leaders of the Jewish religious community. They were interested in maintaining the status-quo. We are told the Sanhedrin consisted of priests, chief priests, scribes, elders and respected men in the community, many of whom came from priestly families. They had a lot of clout and could impose anything but a death sentence under Roman rule.

They were upset because Peter and John had preached to and taught the people and proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. So many believed that the authorities had to put a stop to it. So, they had Peter and John arrested and held in custody overnight. Preaching the resurrected Christ was a cause for concern for the religious authorities, because we read in Acts 4:4 “But many of those who had heard the word, believed and the number of the men came to about 5000 (not counting the women). In any event, the church was growing explosively – 5000 one day, – thousands of converts in only a few days.

The Sanhedrin wanted to put a stop to that. They confronted Peter and John in the Supreme Court and asked them: “In whose name did you do this?” You will remember that earlier in Acts 3 Peter corrected the crowd who had seen him heal the lame man that it was not the Apostle’s power, but by faith in Jesus’ name, his name has made this man strong. But now they are not speaking to an amazed crowd, but confronted by an angry bunch of religious authorities.

Imagine these two uneducated fishermen standing before this august body. You would expect them to be “quivering in their boots” wouldn’t you? But what do we read happened? Rather than do as he had done on previous occasions such as when he denied Christ 3 times, Peter went on the offensive, and boldly preached a sermon to them and in the course of doing so, referred to their guilt for their role in Jesus’ crucifixion; told them to repent and tells them that it is necessary for them to be saved by reliance on Jesus’ name.

What got into Peter? This man who previously had denied Jesus out of fear?

Well, we are told that Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit. All the apostles were filled by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as was promised by Jesus, but here Peter seems to be filled with the Holy Spirit anew. This suggests that Peter was not working by his own power, but by the power of God.

When we closely examine Peter’s response to the Sanhedrin, it is quite a clever answer. He begins respectfully acknowledging the council in a formal manner when he says: “you rulers of the people and elders of Israel.” Then he reinterprets their question by focussing on the healing of the lame man (…did you do this, rather than in whose name.

He pivots to pointing out that by healing the lame man he has been arrested for doing a good deed. He focuses on the healing as a good deed rather than their main concern about preaching Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and in whose name he did this deed. In this instance, there was no justification for their being arrested because the healing did not take place on the Sabbath. Here they seemed to be arrested for healing the lame man – a good deed, which was not contrary to Jewish law.

Having done that, Peter now finally answers the Sanhedrin’s question. He tells them that they were acting by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth and that it was Jesus’ power that healed the lame man.

Then he righteously goes on the attack. He refers Jesus as the one “Whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead.” They were guilty of crucifying the one who had the power to heal and to save. He turned the tables on the council and accused them of being guilty.

Then we hear the unequivocal message in verse 12: “There is salvation in none other, for neither is there any other name under heaven that is given among men by which we must be saved.” Peter is telling the council that they must seek salvation through Jesus. He is reminding them that they (and their nation) are in danger if they continue to reject Jesus.

Time does not permit me to fill you in on what happens to the apostles after this brilliant defence and strongly worded rebuke, but you can read about it in Chapter 5 where we find the apostles continuing to heal and preach; they are again jailed and the council will want to kill them; but God frees them from prison. Stay tuned.

Let us call on the name of Jesus and like Peter be filled with the Holy Spirit as we boldly tell others about Jesus and his gift of eternal life for all who believe in him. Let us experience what a difference the Holy Spirit working in us and through us will make in our lives. May it be so. Amen.