Something is afoot. Trouble is brewing. The security forces are skittish. The world has been shaken. There has been an unnatural disaster, an unwarranted intrusion no one expected – the resurrection of the crucified Jesus. The authorities, hoping to keep public order, call a state of emergency. The troublemakers, those who attempt to capitalize on the disruption, are rounded up & brought to court to account for themselves. This resurrection commotion must be quelled.
In the Acts of the Apostles, the resurrection is depicted as a veritable explosion that propels Jesus’ once disheartened & fearful followers into confrontation with the authorities. The bigwigs are not amused. They have the disciples tossed into prison. But an angel delivers them, telling them: Go, take your place in the temple, & tell the people everything about this new life. So the apostles go right back to the temple at daybreak – the same time of day that Jesus rose from the tomb - & began to tell the people news about the resurrection.
In no uncertain terms, we demanded that you not teach in this name. And look at you! You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.
But Peter & the apostles defiantly answer: We must obey God rather than humans! Peter tells the authorities that they will keep telling people about Easter, keep healing the poor, keep stirring up trouble in the ghetto, no matter what the religious authorities say.
Our God is a God of extreme forgiveness. God does not simply overlook our offenses or pretend that they are no big deal. Extreme forgiveness offers hope for a new life to those who don’t deserve it.
In verses 30-31, Peter & the apostles are brought into the presence of the high priest. Not too many months before, it was in the courtyard of the high priest that the chief priests & elders plotted to arrest & kill Jesus. It was the high priest’s slave who, as part of the mob that came to arrest Jesus, had his ear cut off & then healed by Jesus. It was the high priest who declared Jesus was insulting God. The high priest himself incited the people to condemn, mock, & spit on Jesus. And the high priest had already arrested & imprisoned Peter twice for preaching & healing in Jesus’ name.
Peter has the opportunity to speak directly to the high priest & doesn’t mince words. He declares in no uncertain terms that the high priest & those in his court were responsible for killing Jesus. He doesn’t sweep the offense under the rug or pretend that it didn’t happen. He tells it like it is. But, he doesn’t stop there! In the same breath Peter declares that God is offering forgiveness for sins & the opportunity for a changed heart & life. It was in the courtyard of the high priest that Peter himself had sinned greatly by denying Jesus 3 times. But, because he had received extreme forgiveness, he was able to extend it to others, even his enemies.
Extreme forgiveness offers us a new future, with a new identity. Revelation 1:5-6 makes this crystal clear: To the one who loves us & freed us from our sins by his blood, who made us a kingdom, priests to God & his Father – to him be glory & power forever & always. Not only are we freed from our sins by Jesus’ blood, but his blood makes us into something new! We are now a kingdom of priests to serve our God.
Priests were able to freely enter into the holy of holies. The whole lives of priests revolved around ministering to God in the temple. We used to be enemies of God. Our sins kept us from his presence. But now, because of the blood of Jesus, we have become priests & we can enter freely into God’s presence. Our lives are able to focus on serving & loving God forever.
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So if it was your understanding that Easter is just a one day celebration on the calendar, allow me to correct your thinking. Easter was & is a life-changing, world-changing, history-changing disruption in the universe. And if you accept the extreme forgiveness that Jesus offers, it will totally disrupt your life as well.
Let us pray. God of extreme forgiveness, we thank you for not treating us as our sins deserve. We thank you that you have not written us off, but you offer us hope for changed hearts & lives. We thank you that you have a future for us in your kingdom. We thank you that you have made us new & that we can serve you with our whole lives. We pray that you would make us people of extreme forgiveness, ready to offer to others the grace that we have received from you. We pray this in the name of Jesus.