Sermon for 5th Sunday of Easter-05-02-2021
Acts 8:26-40; Psalm 22:24-30; 1st John 4:7-21; John 15:1-8
From our lesson from Acts, we see Phillip being directed by an angel of the Lord to go south to the road, the desert road-that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza. Being obedient, Phillip did as instructed, and encountered an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopia. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship and had pulled over his chariot and was reading the book of Isaiah. Urged by the Spirit, Phillip went to talk with him, heard his reading the book and asked him, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ This opened the door for Phillip to evangelize the man, a Gentile. Phillip had first won the Samaritans (partly Jewish people), and then he gave the gospel to a God-fearing Gentile, winning him to faith in Jesus Christ. It demonstrated that the gospel is for all people of all colors, races, cultures, and religious backgrounds. Take note beloved that in the attempt to witness to the eunuch, Phillip preached Christ. It is the message of Jesus that wins.
The psalm of David this morning is a lamentation, that may be only second to John 17, whereby Jesus prayed for Himself, for His Disciples, and for all of His believers. It reveals the strength of honesty and deep faith in lamentation. It shows a twin focus on divine greatness and human agony. The intensity of he suffering was poetic hyperbole from the mouth of David and the verses precisely picture Christ’s suffering on the cross. The psalmist groaned; he suffered extreme thirst; his hands and feet wee pierced and his clothing was divided out by lot. His enemies were as strong and vicious as animals encircling and tearing their prey. Even the relation of the sufferer to God is like that of Christ on the cross to God. He was separated from God yet belonged utterly to Him and trusted the Lord. The sufferer here, like Christ, uttered no words of recrimination, ascending to a vision of God’s dominion which is worldwide and unending. If this section stood alone, it would be a paean of praise, coupled with the suffering it is a monument of noble trust and high praise.
Jesus Christ is the link that nurtures and sustains life with God. To know and follow Him is to be kept alive. To reject or ignore Him is to reject the vital “vine” which supplies life to the body. Those who accept Christ’s vital link with God are fed by that bond and growth in God.
From our lesson from 1st John, relationships not rules are at the heart of Christian ethics. Love is the root of right relationships. Love is not something we manufacture; love is the central characteristic of God Himself and thus is a gift we receive from Him. Love is defined not by words but by the act of God in giving His Son to die on the cross for us. That love compels us to love others. When we do, beloved, we reveal we belong to God and He lives within us.
Christians relate to Jesus as a branch does to the vine. Without the vine, the branches are useless. Jesus gives His people power to serve Him and to bear much fruit, the essential work of Christians. The church is composed of people bound to Christ in faith and bearing fruit for Him.
God intends for His children to bear fruit, that is to lead others to Christ Jesus. Fruit-bearing is possible only for believers who live in constant, prayerful relation to Christ. Several principles of fruit-bearing are found in the passage: 1)Jesus Christ is the source of all life; 2) failing to bear fruit has serious consequences; 3) to bear fruit we must let the Father cut wrong practices and habits out of our lives so we can then bear more fruit; 4) fruit-bearing depends on remaining in Christ and drawing on his sustaining grace; 5) we can do nothing that really matters unless we abide in Christ; 6) we are judged if we do not bear fruit; 7) those who bear fruit have their prayers answered; and 8) bearing fruit glorifies God.
Love of God and Jesus is essential to those who want to be in the kingdom of heaven. You either love them or not. There is no middle ground here. God love us, but not so much as to compromise His laws or commands, to accommodate us. We either “walk the walk,” and “not talk the talk,” and that’s where most of us are at. Want to move past this point, you must bear fruit for our God and our Savior. Amen.