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Power doesn’t come from your platform or personality. Power comes from a Person who laid down his life and took it up again.

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What comes to mind when I say the word “power”? When we talk about powerful people, we typically think about kings and presidents and CEOs and media moguls. When we talk about powerful companies we think of large multi-national conglomerates. But that idea of power even creeps into our thinking about the church, doesn’t it? When many people think about powerful churches, they tend to think about mega-churches with TV personality preachers and tens of thousands of attenders. We’re taught today that power is about platform and the larger your platform is, the more powerful and influential you’ll be. But our passage this morning shows us a better way. Our passage shows us that power doesn’t come from your platform or personality. Power comes from a Person who laid down his life and took it up again. Let’s take a look at our verse again:

ACTS 4:33

At the time of our passage, the apostles would have been the last people you would have thought of as being powerful. For close to three years, they had followed Jesus. They messed up a lot along the way, but each of them had boldly proclaimed that they would follow him everywhere—even to the point of death. But when crunch time happened, what happened to their boldness? It went away, didn’t it? When the going got tough, the tough apostles bailed. Under the intense pressure of a little girl’s accusation, Peter withered and denied even knowing Jesus—three times. We give him a hard time for that, but at least he was close enough to Jesus to deny him. Everybody else but John ran away and hid when they came to take Jesus away. As a matter of fact, the Bible tells us that only John and a handful of ladies were actually at the scene of the crucifixion. That doesn’t sound like a group of powerful people, does it? Judas was powerful. He showed his power when he led a battalion of Roman soldiers into the Garden of Gethsemane to capture Jesus. The Jewish leader Annas was powerful. He showed his power by falsely accusing Jesus and tying him up and slapping Him around. Caiaphas the High Priest was powerful. He showed his power by accusing Jesus of blasphemy and sentencing him to die. The Jewish Sanhedrin was powerful. They showed their power by spitting on Jesus and beating on him with their fists. Herod was powerful. He showed his power by treating Jesus with utter contempt and dressing him in a royal robe to mock him. Pilate was powerful. He showed his power by choosing to release a murderer instead of Jesus. He showed his power by having Jesus brutally flogged. He showed his power by having Jesus mocked and spit on and by having a crown of thorns placed on his head and beaten into his skull with a reed. And ultimately, Pilate showed his power by sentencing Jesus to death by crucifixion. The Roman soldiers were powerful people. They showed their power by flogging Jesus. They showed their power by forcing Him to drag the instrument of his death through the streets of Jerusalem. They showed their power by nailing Jesus’ hands and feet to that cross. They showed their power by thrusting a spear into his side. There were lots of powerful people displaying their power that day. Peter and John and the rest of the apostles weren’t among them. They were frail. They were weak. They were broken. They were helpless. They were empty. Have you ever come to a place in your life when you realized your frailty? Have you ever come to a place in your life where you realized that all your attempts at power have just resulted in weakness and brokenness and helplessness and emptiness? No one wants to feel weak and broken and helpless and empty. Deep within each of us is a desire for power. So what happened in the lives of the apostles to move them from great weakness to great power? The resurrection of the Lord Jesus happened, that’s what! Peter moved from denying Jesus at his trial to testifying about Jesus and his resurrection. The only way that could happen is if the resurrection is real. John moved from weeping at Calvary to testifying in Jerusalem. The only way that could happen is if the resurrection is real. Thomas moved from doubt and cynicism to declaring Jesus as his Lord and God. The only way that could happen is if the resurrection is real. What we’re celebrating here this Easter Sunday is the fact that the resurrection is real and Jesus is alive. But we don’t just celebrate the resurrection once a year on Easter. We celebrate the resurrection each Sunday when we gather together. For over 2000 years all around the world, believers gather together and worship a risen Lord. That can only happen if the resurrection is real. With great power the apostles testified to that fact. And we’re going to testify to that fact here this morning. Listen to me—the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most attested fact in all of history. First, we have the testimony of Scripture.


Each of the four gospels proclaim the resurrection from a slightly different viewpoint. Each of them includes different details. Over the years, some people have looked at those as contradictions or evidence that the stories are made up. But the reality is—the fact that each of the accounts is a little bit different only proves their reliability. Ask any law enforcement officer about what it’s like to question people about what happened at the scene of a crime. They get real suspicious when witnesses’ stories line up too closely with each other. That usually tells them that they got together and came up with the story they wanted to tell the police. Real, unfiltered testimony varies between different eyewitnesses. They can all be telling the truth, but different things impact each of us in different ways. We tend to focus on different aspects of the same event. And that’s exactly what happened with the Holy Spirit inspired accounts of the resurrection in the four gospels. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John focused on different aspects of the event than Matthew did. And Matthew focused on different things that Mark did. And so did Luke. But rather than cast suspicion on the truthfulness of the resurrection, those differences reinforce their reliability. The resurrection is real and the Bible testifies to it. But if the testimony of Scripture isn’t enough for you, we also have eyewitness testimony.


In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul gives a nutshell version of the gospel. He wrote, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” Did you catch that? Paul is reminding the church at Corinth that Jesus appeared to more than 500 people at one time after the resurrection. Listen—if you want to make something up, don’t claim to have witnesses. And if you do claim to have witnesses, make sure you only have a few so you can all get your story straight. Even better—if you make something up and claim to have witnesses, make sure they’re in the witness protection program so nobody can find them and debunk your story. Paul said that there were over 500 people who had seen the risen Lord. And most of them were still walking around when he wrote the letter. That meant that if somebody was lying—somebody would have told. Here’s the thing about conspiracies—they never work. They never work because somebody’s gonna tell what they know. Somebody’s gonna go on Oprah. Somebody’s gonna write a book. Somebody’s gonna do an expose for People Magazine or the National Enquirer. Even small conspiracies of four or five people never work because somebody always tells. And the skeptics expect us to believe that 500 people were in on a conspiracy and all of them kept their mouths shut about it? No way! The resurrection is real and we have eyewitness testimony to prove it. But if that isn’t enough for you, we have the testimony of the church.


No movement in history has expanded as vastly and rapidly as Christianity. In less than three centuries, the church grew from 120 people huddled in a house in Jerusalem to the recognized state religion of the Roman Empire which had expanded throughout most of the known world. And that was before radio, satellite TV, and the Internet. And it is all based on the fact that Jesus died and rose again. Think about it—all that would have had to have happened to immediately stop the exponential growth of Christianity would have been for someone to produce a body. One body would have stopped the whole thing. The Jews tried to persecute Christians out of existence. Don’t you think they would have produced a body if they could have? Starting with Nero, the Romans tried to exterminate Christians. They burned them. They fed them to animals for sport. They ruthlessly pursued and persecuted believers throughout the entire Roman empire. It would have been a whole lot easier to show them the body of Jesus. But they couldn’t. Because there was no body. Because Jesus is alive! The resurrection is real and we have the testimony of 2000 years of church history to prove it. But if 2000 years of church history isn’t enough for you, then maybe the testimony of the martyrs is.


A little bit later on in Acts, we’ll see the testimony of Stephen who was the first Christian to be killed for his faith. Then after that, we’ll see how the Apostle James, the brother of John, was killed by Herod for his faith. History tells us that all the apostles except for John were martyred for their faith. And even though John lived to be an old man, he was tortured and exiled for his faith. Paul was imprisoned and beaten repeatedly. He was eventually beheaded. Peter was crucified upside down. Some accounts say that his wife was crucified next to him. Matthew was martyred by a sword. Mark was dragged by horses until he died. Luke was hung to stop him from preaching. James the brother of Jesus was thrown off the top of the temple and then beaten to death with a club. Bartholomew was beat to death with a whip. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross. Thomas was speared. Jude was shot to death with arrows. Judas’s replacement, Matthias was stoned and then beheaded. The apostles were tortured and killed for their faith. Other close followers of Jesus were tortured and killed for their faith. Believers throughout history have been tortured and killed for their faith. Believers around the world today are tortured and killed for their faith. Let me tell you something—throughout history, many people have died for something they believed to be true. But nobody has ever died for something they knew to be a lie. Peter and Paul and Thomas and Andrew and Matthais and James would not die for something they knew was a lie. They had seen the risen Lord. They were changed by the risen Lord. And they died for the risen Lord. The blood of the martyrs throughout history testifies that the resurrection is real.


The reality of the resurrection is undeniable. It is one of the most objectively reliable facts of history. But there are plenty of people who are confronted with those facts and still deny it. They either deny the resurrection with their words or with their actions. Think about it—over 500 people saw the risen Lord at one time. But just a few days later, only 120 were gathered in the upper room like he told them to. So if that describes you and nothing else convinces you that the resurrection is real, then I pray that grace will. You see—here in verse 33, the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection with great power. They were kicking out all the stops. I’m sure they were telling about what it was like to run to see the empty tomb that first Easter morning. I’m sure Thomas was telling about what it was like for Jesus to invite him to place his hands in the wounds from the crucifixion. I’m sure Peter was telling about what it was like when the risen Lord restored him by telling him to feed his sheep. I’m sure they were telling all the stories. But I’m sure that the greatest stories they told were the stories of how Jesus saved them. How He reached down into the pit of their lives and pulled them up out of the miry clay of sin and despair. And how, by His grace, He lifted them up and set them on the rock of His love and grace and mercy. I’m sure they told of how Jesus reached out to them and found them in their place of need. How, while they were yet sinners, Christ died for them. I’m sure they told of how Jesus took them in their doubt and rebellion and shame and fear—and put those things to death with him on the cross. And I’m sure they told of how, because of the resurrection, Jesus raised them to walk a new life with Him. And He gave them His Spirit. And He sealed them until the day of final redemption. And I’m sure they told of how Jesus’ victory over death and the grave and Hell through the resurrection means that we can have victory over sin and bondage and addiction and defeat and discouragement. And because of that—because of their powerful testimony to the resurrection, great grace was upon them all. Have you experienced the powerful, great grace of Jesus? Has there ever been a time in your life where you confessed Jesus as Lord and Master and Savior of your life? Has there ever been a time when you believed in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead? Has there ever been a time when you recognized and confessed the fact that you are a sinner? That you’ve rejected and rebelled against the God who created you and the only thing that you deserve is His eternal wrath in a place called hell? And even as you recognize and confess your sin, has there ever been a time when you understood that Jesus paid the price for your sin and rebellion on the cross of Calvary? When you recognized that He who knew no sin became sin on your behalf—so that you might become the righteousness of God in Him? Has there ever been a time when you believed that Jesus paid for your sin and lives today to give you His righteousness? Has there ever been a time when you stopped trying to earn favor with God and accepted the free gift of His salvation—by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Bible alone, for the glory of God alone? Has there ever been a time when you accepted God’s free gift of great grace? Today can be the day. This Easter, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, He has provided the way for you to be raised to new life with Him. All you have to do is accept it. Will you do that today?

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