May 19, 2019

Rev. Bernt P. Tweit



Epistle Lesson; Revelation 21:1-6

Gospel Lesson; John 13:31-35                            

Sermon Text; Acts 13:44-52


The portion of God's Word that we look at today is taken from Acts, chapter thirteen, looking at verses forty four, to fifty two.  This is God's Word.


On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear The Word of God.  But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with envy and began to contradict what Paul was saying by slandering him.

Then Paul and Barnabas responded fearlessly, “It was necessary that God's Word be spoken to you first.  But since you reject it and consider yourselves unworthy of eternal life, look:  We are now turning to the Gentiles!  For this is what the Lord has instructed us:

“I have made you a light for the Gentiles,

that you may bring salvation to the end of the earth.”

When the Gentiles heard this, they were rejoicing and praising The Word of the Lord.  All who had been appointed for eternal life believed.

And The Word of the Lord was being carried through the whole region.  But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city.  They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from their district.  So they shook the dust off their feet against them and went to Iconium.  The disciples continued to be filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.


This is God's Word.


So, here is basically what you are going to be listening to in this message, and it is these three things.

        -The people heard the Word of the Lord, with their ears.

        -They believed the Word of the Lord with their hearts, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

        -They proclaimed the Word of the Lord to other people, with their mouths, and with their lips.

If you look at the front of your bulletin cover, you see a map of Paul's first missionary journey.

Where Paul is right now is in the very center of the map.  He is in Antioch, in Pisidia. 

It was just in last week's lesson we heard Paul's sermon that he gave.  So, what happens today is right after that sermon.  In that sermon, Paul masterfully 'connected the dots' of The Old Testament, as he was in the synagogue, in Antioch.  He made the connection that Jesus is the fulfillment of The Old Testament Messiah.

Not only did Jesus come to die as our substitute to pay for our sin, but Jesus rose from the grave.  Now Paul said,

“I want to proclaim that the forgiveness of sin

is given to you.”

He wanted to share The Good News, the good news of Jesus, our Savior, with the people in Antioch, in Pisidia. 

One of the things I love to do here at Holy Cross, (and Pastor  Bartels would say the same thing) is every other Saturday morning, we have a Jesus Cares Class.  The Jesus Cares Class is for the developmentally disabled.  In that class the students love to share good news with us.  I know when you, Pastor Bartels, are teaching the class they are sharing good news with you, and when I am teaching class, they are sharing good news with me.  I will give you two examples. 

There is one student who says she loves to go camping.  Every time I teach class, she reminds me, “Pastor Tweit, this summer I am going camping.  I am looking forward to that!” 

There is another student who said, “Pastor Tweit, I got an invitation to go to my very first wedding.  I am looking forward to going to my very first wedding.”  Then she says, “I am going to be drinking, and I am going to be dancing.  I am going to be having such a good time.” 

Then her caregiver kind of winks at me, off to the side, and says, “She's going to be drinking pop.”
It is good news she can't help but share with those who are willing to listen to her.

When Paul was in Antioch, in Pisidia, what was he doing?  He was sharing The Good News.  Look at what God has done for you!  Again, coming to that statement, I want to proclaim that the forgiveness of sin is given to you.

Now, who is this message for?  Maybe I will put it this way, and ask these questions.  When Jesus died on the cross, whose sins did He pay for?  “Everybody.” 

Is everybody going to be in Heaven?  The answer is, “No”.  Some people reject that message.  Some people reject The Good News. 

And so, we see there are two responses to that good news. 

-There are those who hear it, and believe it. 

-And, there are those who hear it, and reject it.

So, maybe let's start with, those in our text, who heard The Word, and rejected it.  They didn't want to believe it, and the result was they were filled with envy.  The result was they wanted to spread slander against other people, including Paul and Barnabas.

I think I have told you before that I love running.  Running is very therapeutic for me.  I love to do it.  Last summer, I had a running injury that I thought I could rehab on my own. 

Well, in December I went to my doctor (just keep those two time frames in mind, by the way).  I sat down in his office.  What do you think was the very first thing he said?  “What took you so long?  You had this injury, during the summertime.  What took you so long to come, and to see me?” 

So, he examined me.  Guess what he found out.  “The reason you have this running injury is because you have weak hamstrings.” 

I didn't say anything, but I pondered for a moment.  Do you know what my first thought was?  “Who do you think you are, to tell me I have weak hamstrings?  Look at how fit I am.  I love to run.  How could you possibly tell me that I have weak hamstrings?” 

He gave me exercises to do.  He told me to go, and rehab myself.  And guess what?  Doing those exercises, what he desired to do came true.  My running injury went away.

That gets to the point of what Paul was doing in our text, and what God's Word does to us.  On one hand, God's Word points out our fault.  God's Word points out our sin.  Our sinful, human nature doesn't like to hear that.  Just like the people of our text, or just like me in my doctor's office, we want to reject what people say, at first.  We want to reject what God's Word says, at first. 

What can rejection lead to?   Well, look at our text.  It led to envy from the people.  Eventually, it led to slander.  The people were envious.  They were envious of another person's situation in life (Probably here, because of how popular Paul and Barnabas had become.  Almost the whole city had come out to hear their message the next week).  They were envious, because of another person's position.

You maybe have heard this fable before.  The Fable of an Eagle.  There was once an eagle who was envious of another eagle, because that other eagle could soar higher in the sky than he could.  And so, he looked at an archer who was close by, and said, “I want you to shoot that eagle that is soaring high in the sky, out of the sky.” 

The archer said, “Well, I am going to have to build an arrow.  I am going to need a feather for that arrow.”
So, the eagle willingly plucked a feather out, to give to the archer, so he could make an arrow.

He shot it, but it didn't go high enough.

So, the archer said, “I need more arrows.  And, because of that, I need more feathers.

The eagle was willing to pull out more feathers to give to the archer.  The eagle pulled out so many feathers that that eagle himself could not fly. In the end who did that eagle hurt? Himself.

When we are envious of other people, in the end, who does it hurt?  It hurts ourselves. 

Our envy can even lead to slander, which is making false statements, or false accusations of other people.  The Greek word, here, is 'blasphemy'.  That is what the Jewish people in this synagogue in the city of Antioch were doing to Paul and Barnabas. 

But now, because of that rejection by the Jews, salvation and the Word of God was being proclaimed to the Gentiles, also.  What is happening here, is simply a fulfillment of what God's Word had said seven hundred years before this.  Seven hundred years before this, in the book of Isaiah, God is speaking to Jesus, speaking to the Servant of the LORD, when He said,

“Is it too small a thing for you to be my Servant?” 

So, God is speaking to His Son. 

“To restore the tribes of Jacob”

(that is the Jewish people)

“and to bring back those of Israel that I have kept”

(that is the Jewish people). 

“I will also make you a light for the Gentiles

that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

What Paul was saying here, was not new.  God had said, seven hundred years before this, salvation was for Jews and Gentiles.  It was the people in Antioch, the Gentile people, who rejoiced, and praised the Word of the Lord, because salvation had come to them.

We get to do the same thing, every time in worship, when we do this in our liturgy.  I can read it out of my Bible, but I am choosing to read it out of the Liturgy.  There are certain liturgies, certain services we use, where near the end of the service, we say what this passage from Isaiah is talking about.  We remind ourselves of Simeon, when he was in the temple of the Lord, when Jesus was forty days old.  Simeon was told he would hold in his hands the Savior of the world.  After holding Jesus in his hands, he responded by saying (this is the Nunc Dimittis, or The Song of Simeon).

“Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace,

according to your Word. 

For my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you have prepared before the face of all people, 

A light to lighten the Gentiles,

and the glory of your people Israel.

Simeon understood this. 

But, here is the connection I want to make for you this morning, and to me.  The message Paul is preaching in our text for today, the message he is preaching in Antioch, in Pisidia is not just for Jews.  It is not just for Gentiles.  I want you to see this very specifically.  I want you to know this message is for you.  I want you to know that. 

What Paul is proclaiming here is for all people.  What is this message?  Well, this message is a message we hear with our ears.  Scripture says,

“Faith comes from hearing the message.” 

This message is one we believe in our hearts.  Scripture says,

“God saved us and called us,

because of His own purpose and grace.”

As God's Word says, we now proclaim this wonderful message with our mouths, and with our lips.  The scriptures say,

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”

Every time we gather together for worship, the front of our church speaks that sermon, in and of itself.  Behind me is the cross, which is the central point of our worship service.  It is a reminder every time we step into this room of what Jesus has done for us.  Jesus died on the cross to pay for all of our sins, including our sins of envy and slander.  This Word of the Lord, which is proclaimed to you, is:  your sins are forgiven. 

Now, we have three liturgical pieces of furniture up here that remind us of this every Sunday. 

The Baptismal Font tells us that what Jesus did at the cross is connected to us through simple water, and God's Word.  Our sins are forgiven.

The Altar speaks a sermon in, and of itself, as well.  It is from this piece of furniture that The Lord's Supper is distributed.  Christ's body and blood are given to us for the forgiveness of sin.

From The Ambo the Word of God is proclaimed to us, reminding us again that what Jesus did at the cross He died for you, and for me.

This may be your first time ever at Holy Cross.  This may be your first time in a long time that you have been at Holy Cross.  Or, maybe you are here at Holy Cross every single Sunday, or read every single sermon.


Well, what Paul proclaimed in Antioch, Pisidia, God's Word proclaims to you, and to me today. 

Look at what our Savior came to do for us. Through His death on the cross, He has forgiven us of all of our sins, so that we can have everlasting life in Heaven.  The Word of the Lord proclaims the forgiveness of sin to you.  May we respond just like the people in Antioch, when they said, and what they did.  They rejoiced.  And they proclaimed the Word of the Lord.