2nd Sunday of Easter – A LSB #698
Text – Acts 5:29
But Peter & the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”
How many of you can remember back to the days when you played a game called, Simon Says? Simon says, “Put your hand on top of your head.” Simon says, “Touch your toes.” Now, “Touch your nose.” Did any of you fall for it? You remember, you’re only supposed to obey the command when it is directly preceded by the words – Simon says.
That’s kind of petty, but those are the rules of the game. Sadly, far too many Christians look at religion as nothing more than a game – one they are tired of playing: “Of course you should obey God when it’s convenient for you. If it’s going to cost you something don’t be so hasty to just blindly follow what God says. After all, maybe it’s just a huge misunderstanding.”
When playing Simon Says we voluntarily give up control so we can be part of the game. Simon Says only lasts so long as the players are willing to play. That makes it easier for us to give up control. In addition, control does not always stay with the same person. You can take turns with who gets to make up the commands.
Giving up control to God, however, is eternal, & the 1st commandment makes clear that we don’t get to take turns. That is problematic for our culture. People see it as unfair & overbearing. It’s not democratic. Human beings struggle with giving up their values & priorities for any length of time. We feel that way for two reasons.
One – each of us is by nature self-centered. Our thoughts, words & deeds instinctively revolve around me, myself & I. All of us prefer to be the one who makes the decisions concerning our daily lives. The 2nd reason we have a problem with letting go of our desire to be in control is this, there are so many times we’ve seen things go wrong when someone else is in charge. So you just assume that if someone else is calling the shots you’re going to get the short end of the deal. That attitude is learned in the school of hard knocks & it is a very realistic attitude. Someone cuts you off in traffic & they make the green light. You get the red. A fellow employee calls in sick & you get stuck working overtime. That stuff happens a lot.
Our heavenly Father does not expect us to deny the reality that in this life we do, often, get the short end of the deal. He doesn’t want us to deny the grief we encounter because of sin. However, our Lord does call us to a higher standard of living, & He’s not talking household income. St. Peter wrote about that in the epistle reading for this morning:
“…He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, & unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV)
It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead that changed everything about history. The 5th chapter of Genesis encapsulates the limitations of life after the fall into sin: “Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, & he died.” “Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, & he died.” “Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, & he died.” (Verses 5, 8, 11 ESV)
“When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son & called his name Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work & from the painful toil of our hands.’ Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years & had other sons & daughters. Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, & he died.” (Genesis 5:28-31 ESV)
Genesis 5 lists a brief history of nine different men, & the record of eight of them ends with these exact same words, “& he died.” Mixed in with them, in contrast to the other eight, is the record of Enoch foreshadowing the upheaval of history that Jesus’ resurrection would bring: “Enoch walked with God, & he was not, for God took him.” In spite of the painful, yet clear, record of history, death would not be the end of all things. Through Baptism & through the Word of God, we have been born again to a living hope along with Jesus when He was raised from the dead. That is the essential message of Easter & of the Christian religion.
Those of us who trust in Jesus have “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled & unfading.” We struggle with the fact that it’s being “kept in heaven for you,” because we want it now. If you & I were in control we would have it now. Yet, St. Peter makes it clear that our Lord has not abandoned us even in this sinful world, as he writes of you:
“Who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5 ESV) Heaven is waiting for us & the glories to be revealed there will make everything we endure here worth the while.
Until then, you & I do not need to live as the dead. We do not need to look at religion as nothing more than a game. Satan’s only weapons are the lies that he tells. They are the old history which Jesus has since rewritten with His own flesh & blood. It is sin that has taught us to believe that whenever someone else is in control of our lives we get the short end of the deal.
That is not true when we surrender ourselves to Jesus. Yes, when sinful humans are in control of our lives there will always be suffering. Since you & I are included in that category of sinful human beings, even if we do not surrender control to other sinners, we still suffer.
Chapter 5 of the book of Acts began with Ananias & Sapphira lying to God about the offering they gave, & they died on the spot. The chapter continues with a whole cluster of signs from God. The high priest reacts to this by arresting the disciples. They’re miraculously released from prison, continue proclaiming Christ & get brought before the council again:
“…the high priest questioned them, saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this
name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, & you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ But Peter & the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’” (Acts 5:27-29 ESV) The church leaders have followed Satan’s lies & refused to surrender to Jesus.
Now that the apostles have seen the risen Jesus, they are no longer afraid of getting the short end of the deal. So Peter gives control of his life to Jesus, refusing to deny Him under threat of prison, & even directly accuses the council of murdering Jesus:
“The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging Him on a tree. God exalted Him at His right hand as Leader & Savior, to give repentance to Israel & forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, & so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:30-32 ESV)
It is the lies of the devil that tempt us to not obey God. Our disobedience always brings suffering into our lives, into our families, into our communities & churches. Giving control of our lives to sinful creatures always brings pain & suffering. That is the lesson we learn from the school of hard knocks, but Holy Scripture teaches a completely different lesson about Jesus.
We can surrender control of our lives to Him, & things turn out differently because only God is good. He is almighty, & He is love. Surrendering control to our heavenly Father still leaves us looking & feeling vulnerable, yet Jesus promises that we, “…by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5 ESV)
Our heavenly Father does not expect us to deny the reality that in this life we do, often, get the short end of the deal. He doesn’t want us to deny the grief we encounter because of sin. Our Lord simply promises that He has already overcome all the brokenness of this world, & He is powerful enough to work all things together for the good of those who love Him.
In the final analysis, obeying God is not so much about what we do, or do not do. It has
more to do with which relationship is more important to us. Is our relationship with God more important than any other relationship we have? And in your personal relationship with God who is more important, you or God? At Baptism this morning Jesus has called Laina into a personal relationship with her risen Lord & Savior.
She’ll never obey Him perfectly, but He will never allow anyone or anything to snatch her from His loving hand. She has been born again to a living hope. That is the essential message of Easter & of the Christian religion. It is certainly not a game that we’re playing. Amen.
May we Thy precepts, Lord, fulfill & do on earth our Father’s will as angels do above; still walk in Christ, the living way, with all Thy children & obey the law of Christian love. Spirit of life, of love & peace, unite our hearts, our joy increase, Thy gracious help supply. To each of us the blessing give in Christian fellowship to live, in joyful hope to die. Amen.
LSB 698:1, 3.
 Genesis 5:24 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet