Jesus’s Resurrection and Following Him as Our Good Shepherd - Fourth Sunday of Easter
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Acts 4:1-12, John 10:10-18
April 25, 2021

 For our First Reading this morning, we read from Acts chapter 4, verses 1-12. I invite you to draw your attention with me to this reading. In Jesus’s name.

First, we need to go over some background, which is in Acts 3. It goes like this.

One day, after Jesus had risen from the dead, ascended to the right hand of the Father, and after the Holy Spirit had been given on the Day of Pentecost, Peter and John went up to the temple at Jerusalem, as was their custom. It was the hour of prayer, the ninth hour (Acts 3:1). There was a man there who had been unable to walk from birth. Everyday, they laid him at the gate to the temple compound, the gate that was called Beautiful. They put him there so that he could beg for money from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John going into the temple, he asked them for money. Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6). Then Peter took the man by the right hand. He stood up and began to walk. He went with Peter and John into the temple. He was walking and leaping and praising God (Acts 3:8).

The people at the temple recognized him as the one whom they had always seen at the Gate called Beautiful begging for money. Now they see him walking and leaping and praising God. They were astonished and amazed. How did this happen?, they must have thought.

The man was clinging to Peter and John. So the people gathered around them in a portico of the temple called Solomon’s Portico. Peter addressed the people, the people of Israel at that time. He told them essentially that this man was given the ability to walk in the Name of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 3:12ff). Then Peter reminded them: You know, this Jesus, whom you delivered over to Pilate to be crucified. This Jesus is the Holy and Righteous One promised by God. But you denied Him and asked for a murder to be released to you. Peter calls Jesus the “Author of life.” And then Peter says to the people: “You killed Him, but God has raised Him from the dead” (Acts 3:14-15).

After having said these things, Peter gave them room for repentance and faith in Jesus by saying this: I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your rulers. Repent and turn, for the blotting out of your sins, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, blotting out of sins and times of refreshing in the Name of Jesus (Acts 3:17-20).

Now we come to chapter 4. As Peter and John were saying these things to the people, priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came up to them. They were greatly annoyed. What were they annoyed about? They were annoyed that Peter and John were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. So they arrested Peter and John and put them in custody until the next day (Acts 4:1-3).

The next day the whole Jewish ruling counsel gathered together. It consisted of the rulers, the elders, the scribes, with Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, who were of the high priestly family (Acts 4:5-6). They brought Peter and John from custody and put them in their midst. They began to examine them. “By what power or name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7), that is, make the man walk.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter declared: It is by the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth that this man stands healed among you today. This is Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, whom you crucified but God raised from the dead (Acts 4:10). Then Peter went on to say that there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name, under heaven, given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

Ultimately, they could not condemn and punish Peter and John because the crippled man was healed and they could not deny it. So they warned Peter and John not to speak or teach any more about the name of Jesus. Peter and John responded by saying, “If it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to listen to God you judge. As for us, we cannot help but speak of what we have seen and heard regarding Jesus of Nazareth and His resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:19-20).

As we look at this story, it is interesting to see how God and Jesus just don’t go along with human judgments when it comes to God, Jesus, the kingdom of God, salvation, and ultimate things. On the day they crucified Jesus a few months before this, the Jewish ruling counsel, including the high priest, had determined that Jesus was a trouble-maker and needed to be gotten out of the way, though all He did was good. They did this in the name of God and everything that is holy (Matthew 26:63, 65-66), though what they did was far from just and holy.

But now God is just not cooperating with their condemnation of Jesus. Peter and John were not educated men. But they speak with such boldness and clarity. They must have been with Jesus, the living Jesus.

This man, who was at the gate begging everyday; we cannot deny the miracle that happened; now he can walk. Only God could do such a thing.

Peter and John make no claim to have healed this man in their own power but in the Name of Jesus. But they had delivered Jesus over to Pilate for crucifixion to get rid of Him. And now Peter and John claim to have healed this man in the Name of Jesus, because Jesus has risen from the dead. Peter and John say to them: “You put Jesus to death, but God has raised Him from the dead, accomplishing forgiveness, bringing life and salvation.” God rejects the rejection of Jesus by the rulers.

And now Peter and John declare that there is only salvation with God in Jesus’s name. It is hard to deny this. The man was healed, and the fact that Peter and John take no glory for themselves, but attribute it all to Jesus, lends great credibility to their testimony. God just wouldn’t go along with what the rulers did.

From Peter and John’s point of view, they saw Jesus alive again. They could not help but preach and teach and testify like this. But this did not mean that with respect to the society around them, and the rulers of that society, that everything was going to be smooth sailing. It does not mean that there was going to be unity between that society and those rulers and themselves about God and Jesus, salvation and ultimate things. It also did not mean that there would be no price to pay for being eyewitnesses of the resurrection, whose lives had been completely changed because Jesus lives. In the death and resurrection of Jesus, there was the potential for paying a price at the hands of the society and its rulers. But they could not help but speak about Jesus and hold fast to His name, when the moment came.

And for us, we live in their testimony. And as Jesus’s sheep, we live in the words Jesus says, “I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14). And so we cannot help but hold to and testify to this One who has laid down His life for the sheep, and then taken it up again (John 10:17). Peter and John and the rest of the apostles had to endure the judgements of the rulers and society of their day with respect to the teaching about Jesus. We must do so today.

One of the judgments society today may hold against us relates to the Apostles’ assertion that there is salvation in no one else; no other name but Jesus, under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

There is more than ample justification for this assertion. Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd.” He says, “the Father knows Me and I know the Father” (John 10:15). He says, “I know my own and my own know me” (John 10:14). Jesus says that the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He has the authority to lay it down, and the authority to take it up again (John 10:11, 18); that is, He has the power and the right to rise from the dead. And so He laid down His life in sacrifice for the sheep, for whoever would be His sheep. And so He took His life up again to lead us, and anyone who will follow Him, to the green pastures of life with God. No one else, whether a religious, social, or political figure, has done this, is able to do it; lay down his or her life, and take it up again, to lead us to the green pastures of eternal life.

Nevertheless, the assertion by the Apostles about there being salvation in no other name than Jesus offends our society’s notion of pluralism. Pluralism meaning something like all religious claims made by any group or any individual have equal validity.

By and large, I think, pluralism was originally intended to be a political doctrine. The aim of it as a political doctrine was a peaceful society, in which people from different religious backgrounds and contentions could find a basis to get along in the civil realm, that is, in economics and commerce, and law and government. Of course, in order for pluralism to work, there must be free exercise of religion in the public square, including the exercise of Christianity. Otherwise, Christianity is suppressed by society and the state, which is a contradiction; a contradiction of pluralism. Those who suppress the free exercise of Christianity in the name of a purported absolute wall of separation between church and state undermine religious pluralism. But an even greater problem for Christianity is that many are turning away from Christ in the name of pluralism.

Now this political doctrine has appropriate purposes with respect to the aims and purposes of civil society. But it has no authority in the kingdom of God. In the kingdom of God, Jesus of Nazareth is Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). And indeed, God is the possessor of heaven and earth (Genesis 14:19).

I think a huge mistake people are making today in turning away from Christ in the name of pluralism is to think that God must comply with judgments made by society and individuals about God and Jesus and ultimate things. They may be doing this because human beings have a difficult time living with a discontinuity between society and government and God and religion. They may also be doing this because they think that in their view of things, they just have the right and power to decide for themselves about these things.

But the fact that we live in a fallen world; the fact that human nature is thoroughly corrupted by sin and that sin must be atoned for so that human beings may live in God’s presence; the fact that Jesus has given His life and taken it again toward these ends; means that society, and individuals, and government have no valid judgment when it comes to ultimate things pertaining to God and Jesus and salvation. God determines these things, and He has done so in Jesus Christ.

Dear friends in Christ, Jesus teaches us this: “I am the Good Shepherd.” But He did not only say it. He lived it. He demonstrated it when He died. He demonstrated it when He rose to live again.

He knows you, and you know Him through His word and faith and Spirit. You follow Him, and He leads you. He has the right to be called the Good Shepherd, because He laid down His life for the sheep, and took it again. He has laid down His life for you, that you may live. And He has taken it up again to lead you forth into green pastures; to lead you beside the still waters, to restore your soul.

And Jesus also speaks of other sheep, not of this fold, that He must bring also (John 10:16). At first, this meant a reference to His sheep among the gentiles, in relation to the children of Israel. For us, it can mean those who are not yet part of our Christian gathering in Jesus’s Name, or not yet part of the Christian gathering in other parts of the world. In other words, Jesus calls us also to preach and teach His name, irrespective of the judgments of society and its rulers; teaching and preaching things from God’s word regarding God and Jesus and right and wrong and ultimate things.

So let us follow Him, no matter what the cost may be from society and its rulers. He is our joy and our hope, and He lives at the right hand of God. He is with us always. And in the end, He will have the last word, as He is risen from the dead. And, in Him, you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever, and no one will be able to take that away from you (John 10:28-29). Amen.


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