Easter 2b

Preached: April 19, 2009

Convicted and Convinced
Acts 3:12-20

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus is Acts 3:12-20

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our crucified and risen Savior:

“Look he's walking. You've gotta come and see.”

“So what? Everyone walks.”

“No, no. This is the guy that was always sitting by the temple gate with his hand out. You know that beggar who was crippled from birth. He's walking! And not just walking, but jumping and praising God like he's done it all his life. You've gotta come and see.”

How many conversations like that circulated that day when Peter and John had come to the temple? Peter and John did not have silver or gold to give this beggar, but they gave him something much, much more. Nothing like this had been seen since the days when Jesus had been around. But he had been gone for a while now. Did the crowds gather to gawk at this healed cripple or to see if it was really true? How many were there hoping to be amazed by something more or hoping for a some miracle for themselves?

Whatever reason drew them, they were in for a shock. For when they were all together, Peter began to accuse and convict them: “We didn't do this by our own power. No, God has glorified Jesus. You remember Jesus, don't you? You handed him over to be crucified. You disowned him before Pilate. Pilate wanted to let him go, but you called out 'Crucify him! Crucify him!' You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and instead asked that the murderer, Barabbas, be freed. You killed the Author of life” (see Acts 3:12-15).

What heavy accusations! They were not simply murderers, they were God-killers. How could this conviction bring any other sentence but death and damnation in the unceasing fiery torture of hell? They stood there convicted of their guilt.

But Peter does not stop. “Yes, you killed the Author of life, but look at what God did for you nonetheless. He raised him from the dead. Yes, it's true. I and the others who were with Jesus have witnessed it. We saw him and touched him and spoke with him, yes! with the risen Jesus. The same Jesus you crucified God has raised. Through faith in Jesus, this man was healed. All this that happened to Jesus was God's plan foretold through the prophets. The Christ had to suffer and die for our sins. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins are wiped out” (see Acts 3:15-19).

Through these words the Holy Spirit convinced many that in Jesus they were pardoned. Jesus had wiped away their sins. Instead of death, they had life. God had done this for them. He had appointed Jesus to save them. What Good News to hold to in faith!

So also, we gather together each week here in church not to be entertained, not to see something miraculous, not to gain some earthly advantage for ourselves, not to be amazed or thrilled. We come to be convicted and convinced by the power of the Holy Spirit working through God's Word and sacraments.

For you and I, like those people in Jerusalem, are God-killers. That's how serious your sin is. Only the Holy Spirit can bring you and me to see that. Sometimes we want to excuse our sins by saying that no one got hurt. But the horror of sin isn't that you or someone else might get hurt. The horror of sin, no matter how big or small, is that it rebels against God. “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4 NIV), David confesses in Psalm 51. When you choose to hid your faith and blend in with the world instead of honoring Jesus with your words and actions, you disown him like those people did before Pilate. When you indulge a sinful desire, you're choosing a murderer instead of Jesus. You and I have called out “Crucify him! Crucify him!” since it was our sins that were charged against the Holy and Righteous One. Convicted of our guilt, we must confess with the hymn writer: “Ah! I also and my sin Wrought your deep affliction; This indeed the cause has been Of your crucifixion” (Christian Worship “Jesus, I Will Ponder Now” 98:3).

But how refreshing each week as we stand convicted to hear again and again the Good News of pardon! Jesus' blood washed away your sin. Therefore, repent. Turn to God anew. Remember the promise he made to you at your Baptism. You were washed and reborn. What a time of refreshing you have in Jesus! A fresh, new standing before God. For you are counted holy in his sight through faith in Jesus. A fresh, new outlook on life. For God's saving plan, revealed in the Scriptures, is fulfilled for you. A fresh, new strength to serve your Lord. For the Holy Spirit dwells in you who believe. A fresh, new view of eternity. For Jesus is coming for you, to bring you and all his chosen people into the paradise of heaven. What a miracle this refreshing is, so much great than any cripple walking! What a miracle that the Holy Spirit has worked this faith in your heart so that you are convinced.

Yes, stand convicted and convinced. Convicted of your sins and convinced that Jesus alone is your Savior from sin. He has washed you clean. He refreshes your soul.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313