Printable PDF: 11-26-2017 Christ the King Sermon
Pastor Jacobson ~ Christ the King ~ November 26, 2017 ~ Acts 4:1-12
“Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me.”
- Luther’s Famous Quote
One year after posting the 95 Theses, Luther met with Cardinal Cajetan in the city of Augsburg about his teachings. After this meeting Luther wrote his colleague Carlstadt, “This much I know, I would be the most accommodating and beloved person if I were to say the simple word ‘revoco’, that is ‘I recant.’ But I will not become a heretic by denying the understanding through which I have been made a Christian.” Luther would not recant to Cardinal Cajetan in the city of Augsburg. Neither would Luther recant the next year to Doctor Johannes Eck in Leipzig.
Luther’s next opportunity to recant would come before the Holy Roman Emperor in the city of Worms, Germany. In the year 1521 it made sense to have Luther on the national agenda. The relationship between church and state was not like we have it today. At that time the church and the state were so closely tied together that those who challenged church teaching were seen as a threat to whole political structure. On April 17, Luther was ushered into the Diet at about 4:00 p.m. Emperor Charles V was there. Near him were his advisors and the representatives of Rome. All around were Spanish troops. In the middle of this impressive assembly there was a table, piled high with books. The archbishop of Trier gestured toward the pile and announced to Luther that he had been called to the Diet to answer two questions: Had he written these books? Was there a part of them he would now choose to recant? To the first question Luther replied in affirmation, adding that he had written more books than there were on the table. In regard to the second question Luther said, “This touches God and his Word. This affects the salvation of souls. Of this Christ said, ‘He who denies me before men, him I will deny before my father.’ To say too little or too much would be dangerous. I beg you give me time to think it over.”
Luther was given the night to think about his answer. The next day’s business delayed Luther’s return until nightfall. After Luther made initial remarks about the three different kinds of book he had published, the examiner declared, “You must give a simple, clear and proper answer to the question, will you recant or not?” Luther answered, “Since you desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. I do not accept the authority of popes and council for they have contradicted each other. Unless I am convinced by Scripture or clear reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I will not and cannot retract anything since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. Here I stand, I can do no other. May God help me.”
- Peter’s Growing Faith
Luther takes his stand, not a stand because Luther is so strong. Luther cannot recant because God’s Word won’t let him go back on what he has been saying. Our Acts lesson mirrors Luther’s experience in Worms. As I read these 12 verses pay attention to the similarities and to Peter’s growing faith.
1The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand. 5The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander, and others of the high priest’s family. 7They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” 8Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
Similarities between God’s reformer and apostles: Preaching the gospel, finding success, challenged by church and state officials, finding their strength in Christ, filled with the Spirit, taking their stand, accepting the results…you may even have more. So many similarities, but let’s focus on Peter’s growing faith, namely his spiritual growth spurt. Peter had always had good intentions, but Peter’s good intentions had always seemed to turn into weak resignations. Peter walks on water. Then Peter sinks. In one moment Peter makes the beautiful confession. In the next moment Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You have merely human concerns.” In recent months Peter vows never to deny his Savior, even if everyone else does. Shortly thereafter Peter is running with everyone else. When pressured by a servant girl Peter swears he doesn’t even know this man Jesus. Peter’s little eye spies Jesus, and Peter weeps bitterly.
Repentant, restored, renewed Peter confesses Christ and doesn’t stop confessing Christ. The previously scary encounters are now Peter’s opportunities, opportunities to find his hope in Christ, in Christ alone and to make his stand on Christ, the solid rock. Free in Christ’s forgiveness and care, full of the Spirit’s power and wisdom, Peter proclaims Christ freely and fully. And in the closing verse of his second letter Peter encourages believers, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
3. Our Daily Opportunity
Grow. That’s kind of a strange command. As a child does all the things a child does like eat and drink, sleep and play, a child grows. A child grows at his own pace. Some years he hardly grows at all. Other years, there’s such a growth spurt, you may hardly recognize the child. Children of God also grow as they do things children of God do. As we study and meditate on God’s Word, as we partake of the sacraments and contemplate their meaning we grow spiritually. We measure a child’s growth using doorframes and pencils. One way we measure spiritual growth is how we face our challenges.
Your challenge won’t be Emperor Charles V or Annas. And yet the pressure of your challenges can feel very much the same. Where will your hope be found? On what principles will you make your stand? Will you stand up and speak for Christ or will you remain silent?
There are times when it’s God-pleasing to remain silent. Experience teaches us like it taught Peter that we should think first and talk second. Sometimes we open our mouths and there is a giant foot of sin that gets stuck in it. Jesus saved us from these sins when he like a sheep before its shearers is silent, so Jesus did not open his mouth. No deceit or any other evil fell from Jesus’ lips. And yet there are times when a believer must speak. Souls are at stake. At these times the temptation is to say nothing. Silence may save our skin, but it won’t save our neighbor’s soul. Thankfully our Savior spoke. Jesus told the high priests, “Destroy this temple and I will raise it in three days.” Jesus, when asked by Pontius Pilate, “Are you a king?” answered, “It is as you say.” His speaking resulted in the piercing of his skin for our failure to speak. His skull was crushed with a crown of thorns because of our sins of speaking selfishly. By his wounds, including ones that affected his voice, we are healed.
And on Christ the King Sunday, as we close another church year of God’s grace, we think about our daily opportunities to speak for our king. Often we don’t even have to go out and seek opportunities to speak God’s Word. These opportunities find us. These opportunities are in our home with our families and as we fellowship with family who don’t live in our homes. They exist in our church and in our church’s ministry as we carry out a call meeting today and a Living Nativity event this week. These speaking opportunities show up at your schools and pop up at work. They find you in retirement communities as you play cards and ride in golf carts. And when these opportunities to make your stand and speak find you, be glad you had your morning devotion and prayer, your day in worship and church Bible study. Be happy about your baptism and your partaking of Christ’s body and blood. In these means of grace the Holy Spirit fills us with Christ alone. And by the Spirit’s power, the same power that raised Christ from the dead, we are also enabled to speak for Christ the King. Christ the King says the church will never perish. Our prayer today is that with our speaking the Lord would enable the church to grow, internally and externally, and flourish. This is where we stand, in Christ we can do no other, God help us. Amen.