Times of Refreshing

Text: Acts 3:11-21
Date: Easter III + 4/22/12

Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Today we heard St. Luke’s report of our Lord’s appearance to His disciples on that first Easter Day. As John reported so Luke tells us that Jesus “stood among them.” Then He said, “Peace to you!” Luke tells us a little more of the emotional response of the disciples how “they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit.” He showed them His hands and feet and invited them to touch Him to prove He wasn’t a ghost. Then one more proof. He ate a piece of broiled fish in front of them. This is the risen, glorified Jesus Christ, just as divine and just as human as before, and even more so.

Do we believe yet that the Lord is risen and living? In the book of Acts St. Luke tells us of the initial witness and preaching of the disciples and certain signs or miracles that accompanied their preaching. In chapter three we are told of the miracle of the healing of a man lame from birth. In today’s reading we hear of the people’s reaction and response to this miracle. Notice, please, that while the people were “staring” at Peter and John as some sort of miracle workers, Peter preached to them not about themselves or even the former lame man but preached to them about Jesus! This was the real purpose for the miraculous signs of the early days of the Church, to draw people’s attention for the sake of preaching and proclaiming Jesus. And that’s to be the same today. For as many different “interesting,” “helpful” topics devised  by “creative” preachers today, the one thing needful, the only thing worthwhile is preaching Jesus Christ.
He mentioned the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, indicating that Jesus is the Messiah promised through the ages. He briefly recalled for the people not only Jesus’ appearance before Pilate but emphasized their roll in causing the Lord’s grief and suffering. Peter preached the scathing Law, saying, “You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life….” And even we know that, though we weren’t there, it was also our sin and disobedience along with the whole world that caused the Lord’s death. But then Peter preached the victorious Gospel, saying, “the Author of life…God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” Only then did he mention the lame man’s healing as being the result of faith in the name of Jesus.

Peter continued to preach the death and resurrection of Jesus for the sins of the world. Then he drew his listeners to the invitation to such faith for themselves with three words: repent, refresh and restore. He called people to “repent…and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…until the time for restoring all things.”

To repent means to acknowledge our sin and separation from God, what Luke calls spiritual ignorance. But more than the acknowledgement “that we are by nature sinful and unclean” and “have sinned against [God] in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have” failed to do; beyond admitting our failure to fulfill God’s Law by loving Him with our whole heart and loving our neighbors as ourselves; after confessing that God’s judgment against us is right and that we have justly deserved His punishment both now and forever; repentance means, even more, to turn in faith to God’s promised mercy in Jesus Christ, to receive the forgiveness of our sins. As we sin daily so do we need to receive God’s forgiveness daily. And so, like Peter, we are here to remind you, to call you to true repentance, to lay your sins on Jesus, turn and look in faith to Him and receive the forgiveness He won for you by His bloody death on the cross and His powerful resurrection from the dead. Your Holy Baptism is your reliable connection with this Lord’s death and resurrection.

Now when we repent and receive the forgiveness of our sins, Peter says that “times of refreshing come from the presence of the Lord.” This is an interesting word, “refresh,” as it is the only time it is used in the New Testament. It caught my eye as I was studying this text. What are these times of refreshing Peter speaks of? It is interesting that, in the context of speaking of the bodily healing of a lame man, this Greek word refers to the soul of a person, literally that “cooling breath” of life of your Creator, the vital force that animates your very life, that makes you alive. “Times of refreshing” here means to express that relief because the demands of the Law have been lifted and you receive the pure grace of God as a gift of His love. It is to know not only that your sins are forgiven, but that (dare I say it?) GOD LOVES YOU! In that love He does everything to make sure you do not slip out of His saving hands but holds you in His firm, nail-pierced, glorified and strong hands.

In this repentance and refreshing faith God promises to hold you until that day “for the restoring of all things” to be even better than the original creation. The new heavens and earth of our resurrected lives promises not only the undoing of the damage done by sin and the enemy death, but new bodies for old and the real refreshment of the paradise of God.
So shall His love
Give us above,
From misery
And death set free,
All joy and full consolation. (LSB 483:3)

The Lord is risen, indeed! He forgives all the sins of all who repent and turn in faith to Him. This forgiveness and love of God is the refreshing of life even now as we struggle with sin. Such is the love of God that He promises to hold you firmly in His saving hands until that Day of the restoring of all things to the praise and glory of God our creator and redeemer.