How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.
(1 John 3:1)
Have you ever encountered someone who only knew how to talk about one thing? Maybe it’s a relative or an acquaintance you bump into from time to time and no matter how you try to steer the conversation, they always seem to rip the wheel away and head straight for the one thing they know how to talk about? Sometimes it’s subtle. You say, “Did you catch any of that game yesterday?” And they say, “Sports, right, right,” and then launch into a ten minute speech about how NASCAR is the best thing since sliced bread. It doesn’t surprise you anymore, because it happened the last time you talked to him and the time before. You mention something about paying for your or your child’s tuition, and the one-conversation pony jumps on it and says, “Who’s doing your investments? Do you have life insurance?” That’s what he loves to talk about, and that’s why people seem to avoid him at parties. Sometimes, if a person only knows how to talk about one thing, the conversational shift will be anything but subtle. You say, “How about this weather?” And they say, “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with the Republicans AND the Democrats!” Whoa! I think we all know someone who really, really wants to talk about just one thing and will find a way to get every conversation to that point. Those are a few of the common ones – sports, money, and politics. As you read through the book of Acts and you skim through the epistles of the apostles, it’s pretty apparent that much of the New Testament wants to talk about one thing. Certainly all of it hinges on one thing – the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
Did you see Peter doing that in our second lesson today? He stood up to preach to the Pentecost crowd who had come from all over the known world. And what does he want to talk about? He wants to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. But before he gets there, he needs to say something that nobody wants to hear – not even you and me today. Men of Israel, 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. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to a cross. The apostles had been sent out to preach to all the world, and preach they did. Pull punches, they did not! Did you hear what Peter said? You put [Jesus] to death by nailing him to the cross. You! Your sin, your wicked selfishness put Jesus on that cross! It cut the people to the heart, just like it does today. You might not have been holding the hammer or driving the nails, but you’d better know that your sin has been noticed by the holy God…and this is what it cost – the death of God’s one and only Son. The message of God’s law is unmistakable.
But just as unmistakable is the message of the gospel, and this is what Peter is itching to get to. You put Jesus to death...but God raised him from the dead. The resurrection matters! When Jesus died on the cross, he paid for the sins of the world, and that means your sins, too. When God raised Jesus from the dead, he showed that the payment had been accepted. The resurrection matters. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, your sins are dead and buried, never to return. Because of the resurrection of Jesus, your eternity is secure. The resurrection matters. So does it make sense that Peter and the apostles always want to talk about it? What’s even better – the resurrection of Jesus wasn’t just a nice thought. It was an event that really happened. Peter said, God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. In their preaching, the apostles drew a straight line from the Jesus they heard, touched, and saw raised from the dead – they drew a straight line to the Jesus that is proclaimed into your ears today in the message of the law and gospel. The resurrection is a miracle, and miracles matter!
Did you notice all the miracles in our Scripture lessons today? 80 year old Moses tried to offer every excuse in the book so that he wouldn’t have to be the one to go down to Egypt, stand toe-to-toe with one of the most powerful people in the world and say, “Let my people go!” So the Lord gave him signs – a staff turned into a serpent and back again; a hand made leprous and restored; water from the Nile turned into blood, but what was the point? Those miraculous signs would back up Moses’ message and the Lord’s promise that he’d go with him. Thos miracles would point to the truth of God’s promises. God hadn’t abandoned Moses and he hadn’t abandoned Israel. Moses wasn’t a crazy old man speaking truth to power. Moses had the Lord on his side. This is the case with miracles; they point to something else. Were your eyes opened with the blind beggar Bartimaeus in our gospel lesson? He cried out after Jesus, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” With those words he confessed his faith in Jesus as the promised Savior, and Jesus’ miraculous healing put the exclamation point on Bartimaeus’ confession. Miracles point our attention to the truth of who Jesus is and what he came to do for us.
The miracles of Jesus all served a purpose. Yes, they helped the people who were healed, fed, and raised from the dead. Yes, they served to undergird the message he was preaching. Every sick person and diseased soul was marched in front of Jesus and he helped them, not just to satisfy their need for temporary relief, but to point ahead to something else. This is what the miracles of Jesus are all about – undoing the damning curse of sin and pointing ahead to his perfect restoration of all things, brought about by the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus.
Usually when we think about miracles, we think of just those verses of the gospels that show Jesus suspending the laws of nature for a time – changing water into wine, calming the storm, walking on water, feeding the 5,000, healing the sick, driving out demons, and raising the dead. When we think of miracles, usually we think of those narratives, and rightly so. But miracles aren’t just those snapshot moments from Jesus’ life. Miracles are all that Jesus is and all that he’s done. Christianity itself is a miracle. Think about it – the eternal Son of God wraps himself in flesh in a virgin’s womb. Miraculous, I’d say. Why did he do it? So that he could offer his life of perfect obedience as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, and that sacrifice of Christ on the cross some 2,000 years ago, some 6,600 miles away means that your sins and mine are washed away. Miraculous, no? But he didn’t stop there. The greatest miracle on which all those other miracles hang – Jesus rose from death to guarantee you that you’re forgiven and now heaven is all doors and windows – it’s wide open through Christ. Sinners stand righteous before a holy God. Miraculous! How about a modern miracle? That this good news of the gospel – Christ crucified and risen for you – is preached into your ears, and by a miracle of the Holy Spirit, you believe it to be true. Peter said, Men of Israel, 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. Miracles matter. They pointed to the perfect work of Jesus the Savior. The resurrection of Jesus mattered back then and still matters today.
Do you need to relearn and be reminded of what it means that Jesus is alive? I know I do - every single day! Does the devil want to make you think that your sin is your problem and yours alone? That you’re too far gone, especially if everyone knew what kind of person you really are? The miracle of the resurrection says otherwise. Jesus is alive, and since Jesus is alive, you can take that lying devil to the empty cross and the empty tomb and show him that here the price was paid. Does your worry about the future consume you so much that you almost feel paralyzed by it in the present? The miracle of the resurrection solves that. Jesus is alive, and since he’s alive, he will make good on his promises to be with you always and to work all things for your good. Do your stress and anxiety make you feel like hope is just an impossibility? The miracle of the resurrection tells you Jesus is alive, and since he’s alive, hope isn’t an abstract concept – in fact - hope is a person, once dead and alive again…for you!
Miracles matter. After all, the resurrection of Jesus guarantees our eternity! But miracles we see in Scripture matter right now, too. I’ve heard it described this way – if you were waiting at the back of a slow moving line of sick and dying people waiting to see Jesus, you might start to lose hope. But then, standing at the back of that long line, every cry of joy you heard from the front of the line, “I can see! I can walk! I’m alive!” would give you hope. You would know that the one who can heal the sick and raise the dead will take care of your every need, too. My turn is coming. I’ll be perfectly healed in heaven for sure, but until then there are still some miracles Jesus lets us see on this side of things.
In the waters of baptism there is the promise of God to you – that because of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead, death can’t keep its hold on you either. You belong to Jesus. In bread and wine, Jesus gives you the very body and blood that was given and shed and resurrected for the forgiveness of your every sin. Through simple words from a simple man, the power of Christ’s resurrection is communicated to you over and over again – I forgive you all your sins. So, if you want to talk about one thing and only one thing, might I suggest something that has eternal value? Miracles matter. The resurrection of Jesus matters. Jesus lived, Jesus died, and Jesus rose – and he did it for you so that you can be with him forever in heaven. Miracles matter, because you matter to Jesus.
To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.