As we read our passage, today, it is possible we might have heard a familiar tune in our head. The tune of the theme of our favorite courtroom or legal drama.
We might have heard the familiar chord from Law and Order or even the theme from The People’s Court. At least, that is what I heard. That is because what we have, this morning, is a classic courtroom drama. It is a case of loyalty and what it means to follow God. As we seek to understand what is going on in this trial, perhaps we need is Doug Llewelyn, the former host of The People’s Court, to tell us the litigants for this case are ready to enter the courtroom.
Entering first are the plaintiffs. They are the high priest and members of the Sanhedrin. The plaintiffs allege that the Apostles were in violation of Temple law. The Sanhedrin, which was the ruling body of religious and political leaders, claimed the Apostles were leading people away from a true faith in God by preaching in Jesus’ name. The group previously told the Apostles to stop doing so.
The Apostles, led by Peter, are the defendants. Even though they were told to stop preaching in Jesus’ name, they continued to do so. This was in violation of the Sanhedrin’s order. Prior to this trial, they were led in by the Temple guards who arrested them after preaching in the Temple. The Apostles’ hoped to express why they violated the order not to preach in Jesus’ name. As well, they want to claim how they have never done anything worthy of being arrested.
This image of a courtroom drama is familiar to us. Not because it seems like a trial seen on television. It is familiar because it is a trial of choice. One side believes it is being true to what it means to follow the Lord. The other side claims that it is doing the same. One option believes that authority is rested in the eye of the human, or what is close to us. The other believes that true authority is vested in the power and love of God.
We are participants in this trial as well, which makes it even more familiar. Unlike our passage from Acts 5:27-32, our trial is not played out in a courtroom or on television. It’s played out in our daily lives and how we respond to the good news that Jesus is alive.
Everyday we are faced with questions that forces us to consider how we are following Christ’s example. Daily living asks us the same question that the Apostles’ had to answer. Who are we obedient to?
It is a simple, but powerful question. The question asks us to think about what guides and motivates us. It also is one that forces several other questions to be asked. For instance, what does it mean that Jesus is our Lord? Is Jesus the Lord of our life? Who influences?
Each of these are powerful questions and ones that cannot be easily answered. It requires us, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to examine ourselves to see how we have responded to the questions in the past and present. Seeing how Peter and the Apostles answer the challenge by the Sanhedrin and high priest gives us guidance in how we can answer these questions.
As we alluded to earlier, this is not the first time the Apostles have been brought before the Sanhedrin. In chapter 4, they were questioned and told not to preach in Jesus’ name. They said, “We cannot stop telling about the things we have heard.” Peter and the Apostles say they must continue in their mission to be witnesses of what God has done through Jesus Christ.
They make the same argument here. When questioned, the Apostles, led by Peter, shed more light on the reasoning for their answer. When the court officials make their charge of frustration at the Apostle’s teaching, they say they must obey God rather than human authority.
Peter follows this with an element of preaching that focuses on the good news of Jesus Christ. The Apostles say that they are joining with the Holy Spirit in witnessing to the reality of the resurrection. When Jesus was raised from the dead, they proclaim the truth that he was given a place of honor. As a result of the resurrection, Jesus is both Prince and Savior for all of creation. He is both Lord and Savior. For this reason, Peter states, followers of Christ are to be obedient to God before anyone or anything.
In defending their case, Peter and the Apostles preach the good news of the resurrection and what it means that Christ is alive. They are not worshiping a false god or seeking the people to be led astray from their faith, as the high priest and Sanhedrin believed. Instead, they are proclaiming how the Lord has been present in all things. All of salvation history looked to the moment when Jesus would die and be raised to life. Peter and the Apostles are attesting to the truth of God’s desire to bring repentance and forgiveness to all.
Second, they are making the claim that the resurrection implies something very significant for faith. That is that when God raisef Jesus from the dead, he was placed in his rightful seat as both Lord and Savior. At the heart of this dispute is truly the question of Jesus’ lordship. The high priest and Sanhedrin did not want to believe that Jesus, the man whom they along with the Roman officials helped to crucify, was their Lord. Yet, the resurrection shows who Jesus is and has always been: The Lord of all.
Jesus’ lordship is central to the issue of obedience and authority. It is because Jesus is both Lord and Savior that he has authority and demands our obedience. Jesus’ lordship is about dominion and where Jesus has rule. As Lord, Jesus has dominion over all. The resurrection affirms that Jesus, as the Son of God, is the lord of all who desires to be Lord in our lives.
It is this truth that the Apostles, led by the Holy Spirit, give witness to this truth. Through their words and actions, the Apostles were living into the mission of making disciples by proclaiming that Jesus was the one who offers repentance and forgiveness and who desires to be lord. Their desire was for all people to know that Jesus was the way to a deep relationship with the Father built on the repentance of our sin and forgiveness of our guilt.
Jesus desires to be our Lord. For Jesus to be our Lord, it means that we become less and Jesus becomes more in our lives. It means to allow Jesus’ words, actions, and life to become real in our lives and lived out in how we share ourselves with others. If Jesus is our Lord, it means that he has dominion and rule over our complete lives and we seek to follow in the Lord’s ways.
Following in Jesus’ ways and words is the key idea of obedience. It is our response to his authority and lordship. But, how can we know if we are making a response to Jesus’ resurrection that affirms that the Lord is truly our Lord? It requires us to look into our heart.
Our heart, our inner self, tells us who we truly are. It shares who we are, who we seek to be, and who we want to be. It also tells us, and others, who is truly the Lord of our lives. The affections of our heart are defined by who we give authority to in our lives. Who we place our trust in is whom we truly follow and make Lord.
Every day we are faced with the courtroom battle that is faced in the lines of Acts 5:27-32. Every day we face a choice of whether we will believe that the resurrection is true and has importance in our lives. Every day we are asked to consider whether we make humanity our Lord or whether Christ is our Lord.
There are many things in our world that seeks to be our Lord and claim authority in our lives. Money seeks to control us. Our political ideologies seek to define us and others. Our jobs seek to take all of our time and energy. Our agendas seek to limit God’s will.
Yet, only one Lord can provide true hope. Only one Lord can provide true guidance. Only one Lord can have true authority that shows us the way to the Father. That is our Lord Jesus Christ. The resurrection calls each of us to respond by being obedient to Jesus’ words, presence, and life and witness to that good news in our lives and lives of our congregations.
Every day the question is asked of us to discern who we are obedient to and who is the Lord of our lives. These questions can help us, through the presence of the Holy Spirit working in us, to uncover our Lord. Who do we want to please? Who do we want to give honor to? Who do we want to hear say to us, “good job, good and faithful servant?”
Who are we obedient to? The resurrection has placed Jesus in his rightful place as Lord and has given him the authority to speak into our lives. The Apostles recognized Jesus’ lordship and sought to share this truth with everyone, even if it meant standing against the high priest and Sanhedrin.
But, what about us? Who will have dominion over our hearts? Who will be our Lord? How will we respond to the resurrection on this Second Sunday of Easter?