3rd Sunday of Easter April 14, 2024


Be an Apostle!

Acts 4:23-33

Scripture Readings

Acts 4:1-22
John 21:1-14


WS 736, 360, 188, 659

Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) (TLH) unless otherwise noted

WS - Hymns from the Worship Supplement 2000

Sermon Audio: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/ministrybymail

Prayer of the Day: Dear Heavenly Father, by the resurrection of Your Son, Jesus, You have raised up the fallen world. We pray that You would give to us, your children, faithfulness and perpetual gladness. And to us, whom You have delivered from the danger of everlasting death, give the joys of everlasting life. We pray this in the name of Your Son, our Savior Jesus, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

And being let go, they [Peter and John] went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. 24 So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.’ For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. (NKJV)

Do you have a “hero” that you look up to, or at least did you have a “hero” that you looked up to while you were growing up? When I was younger most of my “heroes”—the men I wanted to grow up to be like—were famous athletes. I had my favorite player’s jersey, I collected sports cards, and had posters and pictures of my favorite players taped to the walls of my room. I wore my favorite player’s basketball shoes during my high school years. I wanted to play like him and shoot like him—I wanted to be just like my “hero.”

As I got older, especially as I got into seminary and into the ministry, my “heroes” began to change. I began to “emulate” and respect the pastors and professors I was training under, even fellow classmates with whom I was learning and growing. I remember, especially, during my first few weeks in the ministry how much my respect for my dad (who is also a pastor) grew when I saw how much work the ministry actually entailed each week—work that he had made look almost “effortless” and the way he always made his work for the Lord a great joy in his life. He always had been, in many ways, my “hero” in my life, but so much more so now that I was in the ministry as well.

Do you have those kinds of “heroes” in your life as well? Someone, or several people, whom we might call “heroes of faith?” Someone whose faith life and bold witness for Christ is something you want to emulate in your own?

I couldn’t help but notice as I read through our sermon text for this week that we have two very good examples of “heroes of faith” in this text from Acts. There is much about Peter and John, and even the rest of the believers in this account, that we can emulate and apply to our own faith life.

As we read from our Scripture reading from earlier in this chapter of Acts, when they were brought before some of the very same men who had called for Jesus’ crucifixion, Peter did not hesitate to answer boldly when they were questioned, or to proclaim the saving name of their resurrected Savior, Jesus. Listen again to Peter’s response from our Scripture reading from earlier in this chapter of Acts:

…let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:10-12)

When it was all said and done, the Jewish authorities called Peter and John back in and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:18) What was their response? But Peter and John answered them, “Decide whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God. For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20 EHV)

Wow! Now those are two “heroes of faith!” I want to be like them, don’t you? I want to be so bold and confess confidently and faithfully the saving name of Jesus even in the midst of an unjustified arrest, persecution, and what could have been a very dangerous situation! I want to be like Peter and John! I want to Be an Apostle! Don’t you?

Well, the fact is, we ARE!!! No, maybe not completely in the sense that Peter and John were. Jesus chose these two apostles to be among His closest followers to live with Him and train under Him while He conducted His ministry here on earth. But we are in a very true and real sense one of Jesus’ apostles! An “apostle” literally means “one who is sent out (on a mission).” Peter and John and the rest of Jesus’ disciples were obviously sent out on a “mission” from Jesus, a mission He spelled out for them just before He ascended into heaven: …You shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

But so have we! Jesus’ Great Commission to go and make disciples of all the nations and to preach the Gospel to every creature (cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16) is the “mission” He has given to us, just as truly as He gave it to His apostles. That means you and I are also Jesus’ apostles! So, let’s go and Be an Apostle!

Yes, but how could we possibly have the courage and boldness to preach Jesus’ name like Peter, John and the rest of the apostles? After all, that is getting to be a scary proposition and more so as these days go on. It’s getting increasingly “unpopular” to preach the name of Jesus as the only Savior from sin amongst the people of our society. Some of Jesus’ teachings recorded for us in the Bible are also becoming increasingly unpopular in our society and nation. What are we going to do in such a “climate” that is increasingly becoming overtly anti-Christian? Where are we going to find the courage and strength that Peter and John found?

Peter and John weren’t anything “special” or “spectacular” in and of themselves. (Remember how cowardly and foolish Peter had been at times during Jesus’ ministry? Remember how all the disciples had fled and abandoned Jesus when He was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane?) Peter and John admitted as much when they healed the lame man in the temple. Listen to their words from the chapter before our text, Acts chapter 3, Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go… And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. (Acts 3:12-13,16)

The Jewish authorities noticed the same thing about Peter and John when they arrested them and brought them in for questioning. Remember these words from our Scripture reading? Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

You see, Peter and John and the rest of the apostles were “heroic” men of faith because they turned to their “Hero” for their courage, boldness and strength! It was the power of Jesus’ name, it was because of Jesus’ resurrection, and it was because of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus had sent them that they were able to preach with such power, conviction and boldness! Look again at our text and see where Peter and John and the rest of the believers turned for this strength and courage:

They prayed to the LORD! Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word. (Acts 4:29) They asked the Lord for boldness to speak His Word! How did God answer their prayer? And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness… And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. (Acts 4:31, 33)

Is the Holy Spirit any less powerful today? Has He not also been given to us at our baptism and conversion? Does He not still come to us and speak to us through the complete, revealed Word of God? Yes! Is Jesus any less powerful today? Is He not still resurrected from the grave? Is He not still the living almighty Lord of the universe? Yes, He is! Has He not also given us the same “mission” to spread the Gospel message of forgiveness of sins through His shed blood on the cross and the gift of life and eternal salvation in heaven through His resurrection? Has He not also given us the same promises of His presence and protection that He gave His apostles, to be with you always, even to the end of the world? (Matthew 28:20) Yes, He has!

The problem, then, isn’t with Jesus, it isn’t with the Holy Spirit. He is no less powerful now than He was at the time of our text. His promises are no less true now than they were at the time of our text. The problem lies with us! Our doubts, our reluctance to speak up for Jesus and His saving name, our fears of what may happen to us if we preach the Gospel boldly to the world are because we don’t turn to Jesus, our “Hero,” our “Good Shepherd.” He not only guides, leads, and protects us, but also died to save us and then rose again to give us everlasting life and to fill us with His power & “great grace” (Acts 4:33), His Spirit, and His courage and boldness.

Turn to Jesus our true “Hero.” Call upon Him in prayer and He will answer you and fill you with boldness like He filled His disciples. Turn to Him and His Word and draw your courage and strength from His Spirit each day. And then go. We’ve got a “mission,” given by Jesus Himself. Be an Apostle! Because, after all, that’s what you and I are! Amen.

—Pastor Luke Bernthal

St. Stephen Lutheran Church
Mt. View and Hayward, CA

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