Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 4-23-23 “Peter’s Personal Resurrection”

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Luke 24:13-35; 1 Peter 1:17-23; Acts 2:26-41

          This Third Sunday of Easter the Liturgical Calendar invites us to continue celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and the effect this event had and have in the lives of those touched by it. Even when I will use 1 Peter for my meditation, keep in mind the other two, because the three scriptures have something in common, and that is: The possibility to move from an old stage, to a new one; all three present the possibility to live according to a new point of view, a new set of values: The values of the Kingdom. The three scriptures invite us to live under the guide, example and obedience of the risen Christ. Because only when we do that, His power is made perfect -even- in our weakness and limitations.

          To demonstrate what I mean, I will have to use Peter as an example, and I am sure he does not mind. Who was Peter? We all know he was a fisherman from Galilee. This means he was an uneducated man; unlike Paul, he did not have a formal education. It is believed that he did not even know how to write and read. But here, the historical book of Acts presents Peter delivering the first, and maybe the most powerful evangelistic sermon in history.  This sermon is the envy of every preacher, short and effective. If we read the whole sermon will not take more than three minutes and when he finished preaching, three thousand souls came to recognize Jesus as their Savior. What happened to peter? How can we explain the words coming out of his mouth? How can we explain the analysis and interpretation this fisherman from Galilee is doing of the scriptures? We all know the answer to these questions. He saw the empty tomb, He saw the risen Christ, he ate and walked with the risen Christ, he was restored by the risen Christ, and he was, at that moment he was preaching, being led by the Holy Spirit.

          This fisherman from Galilee became one of the most important leaders of Christianity, this is confirmed by the book of Acts and by the letters he wrote to the church in exile. Those running for their lives because of Nero’s persecution. Peter, the uneducated man became teacher and example for generations of men and women who want to understand better what it means to be a Christian.  But Peter, my brothers and sisters is not the only example of simple human beings, who with God’s power and presence did wonders; millions of men and women with lack of formal education have been transformed by the power of the risen Christ and used by God for His honor and glory and for the growth of His Kingdom.

          This morning the fisherman from Galilee wants to share with us some lessons, some values he learned during his process of understanding what it means to be a follower of Jesus. What he shares in this letter is not quoted from other disciples; it is not something he learn from other followers, but it comes from his own experience. This is something he learned through trying and failing, again and again.

          Lesson or value number one: Impartiality. “Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.” verse 17. One of the first lessons Peter the leader of God’s church learned, was impartiality. As a good Jew, the old Peter had an exclusive mind. He believed that Israel and no one else were God’s people. But the reality he was seeing was different, the risen Christ and the Holy Spirit were moving among the gentiles and calling them to be part of God’s people. Apparently, the old Peter resisted the idea of letting strangers come into God’s people, until the risen Christ spoke to Him in a vision. This vision is described in Acts 10. This is how the story goes: Peter was hungry, and while they were preparing food, he went up to the roof to pray. He fell into a trance, andhe saw heavens opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord. Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” And in verse 15, who I believe is the risen Christ told him, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” And Luke the writer of Acts says, “This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.” It took three times for him to understand what God wanted.

          The old Peter was still tied up to all the customs of the law, to all the practices passed on by his ancestors. These practices limited God to one people, the Jews. But because of the risen Christ, Peter was led to a new way of seeing his reality, God is not limited by geography; God is not limited by borderlines. He is God of the universe; His, is the earth and everything in it, including the gentiles. God’s people is not limited to Abraham’s descendants only, but, because of what the risen Christ did on the cross, His kingdom open to anyone who “declares with his or her mouth that “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in his or her heart that God raised him from the dead. Peter the exclusive became, by the power of resurrection, head of an inclusive community.

          Lesson or value number two. Jesus and nothing or no one else can redeem us. “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”  The old Peter could easily buy a lamb or a dove, bring them to the altar to be sacrificed and he thought he was forgiven and redeemed. But the risen Christ, the lamb without blemish or defect told him: the only way to be redeem; the only way to be forgiven is through the precious blood of Christ. Now, because he understood the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, he did not have to buy lambs anymore, all he had to do was obey the Lamb of God, follow His steps and be Holy because Jesus was Holy.

 Lesson or value number three. Live according to God’s word. “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” Now that you know that Jesus wants impartiality, now that you know Jesus wants you to look for redemption and forgiveness through Him only, obey the truth you find in His words; obey the commandments you find in His word. That is what Peter did: The old Peter denied Jesus because he did not understand His death, but after he saw the risen Jesus, he preached His message and died for Him; from a leader of an exclusive group of disciples, he became leader of the most inclusive movement in history. All these happen with and by the power of the risen Christ.

Peter’s story is repeated in the lives of many Christians. We can follow Jesus for years, as Peter did, and not understand what he wants from us; we, as the disciples on the road to Emmaus can walk by Jesus’ side and not recognize who He is and what He wants from us. We can follow Jesus for years without submit ourselves to His word and His will; we can know His word; we can know what He wants and still live under the old way of life. We can follow Jesus without obeying. What is the solution? How can we go from the old creature to the new creature created by God for good deeds? By the power of the risen Christ. This power is real only when I die to myself and live for Jesus; when I stop doing what I want and do what Jesus asks me to.   

By the power of resurrection, we, as Peter, must go from the loyalty to our traditions and our laws, -when they keep us away from obeying God’s word-, to the loyalty to our Lord and Savior and the values of His New Kingdom. That I believe is the toughest struggle of every Christian and the greatest lesson Peter has for us: be faithful to the values of the kingdom.

When Peter and the disciples from the walk to Emmaus understood, Jesus was alive, they return to Jerusalem; they went and did what Jesus asked. They surrendered all. After years following Jesus, they could open their eyes and realize the word of God; the will of God is over any other rules and laws. When they did this the risen Christ could use them for His glory and honor and for the growth of His kingdom. Our mission this week: Let’s follow Peter example.   

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