Easter 4 – April 25, 2021

“The Acts of… US – Power in the Name of Jesus” – Acts 4:1-12


1. Good Shepherd Sunday & Acts 3 Story

Before we dig into Acts 4 and continue the sermon series on “The Acts of… US” I want to make a couple of connections. First, I want to acknowledge that the Fourth Sunday of Easter is always called “Good Shepherd” Sunday, with Psalm 23 – “The Lord is my Shepherd” – as the appointed Psalm for the day, and with Gospel readings from John 10. Last year, we heard from the first 10 verses of John 10, with these words of Jesus:

“The shepherd calls his own sheep by name,” and

“The sheep hear his voice and know his voice,” and

“I am the door of the sheep,” and

“I came that they may have abundant life.”

Today’s Gospel reading picks up that Shepherd theme with Jesus saying plainly in verse 11 – “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” He went on to say, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold,” and “there will be one flock, one shepherd.” So those readings make it clear that Jesus is the shepherd who died to save His sheep, us!

The second connection I want to make is to the context of what we read in Acts 4. The story, found in Acts 3, is the one about Peter and John healing a man at the temple gates… a man who had been crippled from birth. In last Sunday’s reading, Peter told those who witnessed that miraculous healing in the temple area that they, the residents of Jerusalem, acting in ignorance, had been accomplices in the killing of Jesus, the Author of Life, but that God had raised Him from the dead. It was faith in the power of the name of Jesus that had brought the crippled man to complete healing.


2. Arrested, and explanation

Now, in Acts 4, we pick up the next part of the story. When the religious leaders heard the commotion about this healing, and heard that Peter and John were teaching the resurrection of the dead in the name of Jesus, they arrested the two disciples and put them in prison overnight. The next day, they gathered together with the high priest and other officials to demand of Peter and John an explanation for what had happened and by what power, and an explanation for what they were teaching.

Peter explained in simple terms: “If you want to know how this crippled man was healed, I’ll tell you. It was by the power of the name of Jesus Christ – remember… the one you crucified, the one God raised from the dead. That’s how! Oh, and by the way… there’s no other name, no other person, no other power that saves people – just Jesus!”

This was the third time in three consecutive chapters of Acts that Peter points the finger at people and accuses them of killing Jesus, and it is the third time in three consecutive chapters of Acts that Peter declares that God raised that same Jesus from the dead.

There are two other things that I want to note here, things that we find in the next few verses, ones that we didn’t hear today. First, those religious leaders were amazed about two things. They were amazed that Peter and John were ordinary guys. They apparently didn’t have religious education diplomas. They didn’t claim to be prophets or rabbis. They were just blue collar guys telling it with apparent honesty. The religious leaders were also amazed that the crippled man was standing beside them, obviously healed. They couldn’t deny what they saw with their own eyes.

The second thing in the verses that followed was that the religious leaders charged Peter and John not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. Peter and John replied, “We cannot BUT speak of what we have seen and heard.” They were compelled to talk about Jesus and the resurrection life and resurrection power that were found in His name.


3. The power of the name of Jesus

Let’s examine that power of the name of Jesus, in this story with the disciples, but also for believers today, in our book of the Bible – the Acts of… US!

We need to recognize that the religious leaders asked for it: “By what power was this man healed?” Peter’s answer was a simple but profound response about what the name of Jesus could do.

    a. Power to heal

The name of Jesus could heal. Jesus, Himself, had made that clear by healings during His own public ministry. He had healed lepers, a woman with bleeding for 12 years, a deaf and mute man, a woman who had been bent over for 18 years, a man who had been crippled for 38 years, and another man who had been blind from birth. Peter and John were simply continuing the deeds of Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit by healing this man who had been crippled from birth. The name of Jesus has power to heal sickness.

     b. Power over sin, devil, death

Jesus’ name also has power over sin, over the devil, and over death itself. That was evident by the fact that, even though the religious leaders had pressured Pilate until he handed down the sentence of crucifixion, Jesus rose again from the dead. Sin could not hold Him. Death and the grave could not hold Him. The devil was no match for Him. By the name of Jesus, forgiveness had power over sin, and life had power over death. Jesus, Himself, had power over the devil and his forces of evil.

That is true even more when it comes to salvation. Sinful human beings – that’s us! ALL of us!! – we deserve only God’s anger and punishment. We deserve condemnation because of our rebellion against God. But what does Peter say? “There is salvation in no one else… no one else than Jesus!” And that means that there IS salvation in Jesus!! If Peter had a Twitter account, he would re-tweet it. But because his name is Peter / Pete, he re-Petes it, repeats it!! “There is no other name under heaven – no other name but the name of Jesus – by which we must be saved.” If you want to be saved, if you want to go to heaven eternally, it will be only by faith in the powerful name of Jesus, by trusting in the saving work of Jesus. That’s exactly what Jesus had said about Himself in John 10: “I am the Good Shepherd who lays down His life to save His sheep, us!”

    c. Power to witness

There is another power that was unleashed in this broad story, and that is the power to witness. Peter and John didn’t just tell the people in the temple gates that day about the healing and resurrecting power of Jesus. They had the courage to tell the religious leaders the same thing, even after they had been arrested and held in jail overnight. They were filled with the Holy Spirit, so they had no fear about telling the truth about what they had heard and seen in this Jesus. As they would later say, “We HAVE to tell! We can’t keep it bottled up! Even if you threaten us, we will proclaim the powerful name of Jesus!” As we continue to read in Acts, chapters 4 – 9, we hear of several occasions when various followers of Jesus faced persecution for the name of Jesus, but they continued to witness, for Jesus’ name gave them power and courage.

Another similar power is evident in the ministry of St. Paul, and that is the power to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. Our home Bible Study group is just studying Paul’s time in Athens in Acts 17. What he sees when he arrives is a city full of idols and statues and altars to the various gods that were honoured in that Greek and Roman culture. What does Paul do? He points to an altar dedicated to an unknown God, and he proceeds to tell the audience at a public gathering in a meeting place about that unknown God – Jesus, who rose from the dead. Some sneered at him for this outlandish teaching, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”

4. The Acts of US

Now, since Jesus continues His words and deeds through us in the power of His name by His Holy Spirit, we want to consider how that powerful name impacts our lives of following Jesus


   a. Healing – trust God for the outcome

The context of the Acts 3 and 4 story is the healing of the crippled man, so let’s think about healing in our time. I am not sure that any of us has a miraculous gift of healing in the powerful name of Jesus as Peter and John had that day at the temple gates. But we don’t want to discount the fact that, still today, Jesus heals people. So many of our prayer requests are for people who are suffering the physical effects of sickness and disease. We do well to bring those people and their ailments to the Healer of both body and soul.

I like the story that a man named Gerald tells. He was visiting a 76 year old man in the hospital. Before his surgery, the doctors told him he had a 25% chance of living. Gerald visited him to listen and encourage him. Just before the surgery, he walked into the room and spoke with the anxious older man. Nobody in the family was saying a word. Everyone looked helpless and defeated. Gerald told the man to let the doctors do the surgery and to trust God for the outcome. The man immediately calmed down, and as Gerald left the room, the nurses thanked him, for they needed the man to be calm before the surgery. The man survived the surgery, and was a changed man who lived for another 15 years. There is healing power, calming power, even in words about Jesus.

    b. Witnessing – we already have the courage!

What about the name of Jesus when it comes to our witnessing of His resurrection and His salvation? In such circumstances, we may be hesitant at best, and fearful at worst.

I told this story just over a year ago, but it is relevant again in this context. It’s from the Wizard of Oz. You remember how Dorothy, from Kansas, was transported to the magical Land of Oz in a tornado. Wanting to return home, she gets guidance from the Good Witch of the North who advises her to consult the Wizard of Oz. On the Yellow Brick Road to Oz she meets:

the Scarecrow who hopes the Wizard will give him some brains,

the Tin Woodsman who hopes the Wizard will give him a heart, and

the Cowardly Lion who hopes the Wizard will give him courage.

After surviving some dangerous encounters along the way with the Wicked Witch of the West, they eventually make it to see the Wizard only to find out he is a hoax. They leave the Emerald City brokenhearted, their dreams smashed. However, after a final encounter with the Wicked Witch, they overcome evil and liberate Oz. Through their ordeals and in their final victory, the four characters discover that they already have what they were looking for. In fact, they had it all along. The Scarecrow is clever, the Tinman has heart, and the Lion is brave and courageous. They didn’t need the Wizard; they needed a situation to force them to activate what was already in them. Even Dorothy had the capacity to return to Kansas – by clicking her ruby slippers together three times.

So, you have this situation, this opportunity, really, to say something about Jesus. It may be in that hospital room, or at a graveside. It may be in the lunch room at work, or over the phone with a friend. The conversation seems to have an open door to talking about Jesus. But along comes a scoundrel to steal your peace of mind and joy, your confidence and courage, and to leave you timid and trembling instead. The scoundrel’s name… FEAR! Fear of death, fear of failure, fear of losing a friend, fear of tomorrow – you name it, fear wants to silence you, especially if the name of Jesus, the powerful name of Jesus was just on the tip of your tongue.

It’s then that we need to remember who we are. Last week, we heard in 1 John 3 that we are children of God. This week, we heard in the same chapter that we belong to the truth, and that God’s very Spirit lives in us. That gives us courage and confidence to hold out the powerful name of Jesus in conversations with friends and family, co-workers and business associates. We are going to hear in a month’s time, on Holy Spirit Sunday, that the promised Holy Spirit will give us boldness and courage to testify to the name of Jesus. In the Bible times, that was a future-tense promise. In our time, that is a past-tense promise. The courage of the Holy Spirit has already been given to us, and the name of Jesus is powerful – let’s put the two together when a witnessing opportunity arises. Like the man who was told to let the doctors do the surgery and to trust God for the outcome, we can proclaim the name of Jesus without fear, and trust God for the outcome of the conversation. Who knows… maybe some will even say, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”

The name of Jesus is powerful… powerful to heal, powerful to raise people from death to life, powerful to conquer evil, powerful even to conquer our fears of proclaiming it. May God the Holy Spirit give us courage to say with Peter and John, “We can’t help but speak of the one we know, the one whose words we have heard, the one whose powerful deeds we have seen with the eyes of our faith.”

May the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for you give you joy at every opportunity to talk about His name, the salvation-name!! Amen.

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