If we dipped ourselves in the waters of the fourth chapter of the book of Acts, we’d get a look at a church that was functioning as Resurrection Central. We’d see:
- Some people were disturbed by the resurrection of Jesus (v. 2). The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection while others that did thought it was something that would happen only on the last day (John 11:23-24). They didn’t want to think that it had happened to an itinerant preacher from Nazareth they had executed. The idea was repulsive to them on several different levels.
When the church is functioning as resurrection central, the Christian faith will be seen as something more than just another belief system in the market place of ideas. The resurrection takes our message out of the realm of abstraction and puts it into the real world where people are forced to make a decision. Did Jesus rise from the dead? All in the world the enemies of Jesus had to do to stop the movement dead in its tracks was to produce the body of Jesus. Do this and it’s all over, everyone goes home. But they didn’t because they couldn’t.
- Some people were inspired to be courageous because of the resurrection (v. 13). A couple of months before, Peter was denying Jesus and John was running and hiding. Now they are standing before the authorities and proclaiming the risen Christ. What has the made the difference? An empty tomb and a risen Lord.
- Some people were confused. “What are we going to do with these men?” (v. 16). You can hear the desperation in their voice, can’t you? It hasn’t worked out at all like they thought it would. The carpenter’s son had been an irritant to them for three years. Passover provided the opportunity for them to finally be rid of him. Only now, the problem is worse than it was before! His disciples are working miracles like He used to do and claiming they are doing it by His power because He has risen from the dead (Acts 3).
When the church is living the resurrection, people aren’t allowed to see Jesus as a good man and a great teacher. That isn’t on the table—good men don’t speak of themselves as the Messiah. He is Lord, liar, or lunatic. If you don’t choose Lord, confusion is about all that is left because He certainly doesn’t fit the profile of a fraud or a crazed person.
- Some people couldn’t stop talking about the resurrection (v. 18-20). It’s not simply that they weren’t going to stop talking (as in a matter of submitting their will to that of the authorities), it was that they couldn’t stop (due to the change that had come upon them). If the history and traditions are accurate, all of the apostles save John went to a martyr’s death rather than be silenced about what they had seen and heard.
This is the transforming power of hope. When we begin to grasp what happened in the resurrection, we understand that we can be anything that God wants us to be. Through His power, we can transcend things that have previously stifled us.
- Some people had their prayer life changed (v. 29). Again, a couple of months before Peter and John couldn’t stay awake with Jesus in Gethsemane. Now they can’t be kept from prayer. And their prayer isn’t that God will keep them from harm, it is that God will help them to speak boldly. Their prayer life had been resurrected!
- Some people were filled with the Spirit (v. 31). And who would that be? The ones who yielded themselves to God. But there’s more . . .
- Some shared a special unity. There’s a unity that’s ungodly (Genesis 11), but this is the unity that Jesus prayed for (John 17). It’s a unity forced by difficult circumstances but fueled by their hope in Christ.
- Some testified to the resurrection with great power (v. 33). This would be the apostles and the great power seems to be connected to the unity displayed by the church (notice the statement about the apostles’ preaching is sandwiched in between statements about the church’s oneness).
- Great grace was upon them all (v. 33).
So what have we seen? We’ve seen that a church functioning as Resurrection Central is a church with a living hope (1 Peter 1:3). That hope was like an engine that drove the community of faith and affected everything they did. What would have happened if instead of being an everyday reality, they would have started their engine only once or twice a year?
Hope isn’t hope without the resurrection! In our culture, where truth floats up from the bottom, people’s “hope” tends to be tied to what they can see in the future. If the economy’s in the tank, health issues are on the horizon, then their hope tends to be downsized accordingly. In God’s kingdom, where truth comes down from above, our future is tied to what we can see in hope. When we see in hope the power of God to bring victory out of defeat, good out of bad, and life out of death, then we understand that whatever hills or valleys might be in our future, they are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us (Romans 8:18). What we see in hope transcends our circumstances and transforms our lives.
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, (Ephesians 1:18).