“GODS SHADOW OF COMFORT”

Text: Acts 5:12-20

Sunday April 24th, 2022 – Easter 2

Trinity – Creston/Mt. Ayr

Grace, mercy, and peace is yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Our text for this Second Sunday Easter Sunday is from Acts 5.

Let Us Pray: Dearest Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to remind us that connected to you and your saving work we are covered in the shadow of your love. Amen.

Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ:

Our family has for many years attended the football season opener of the Iowa Hawkeyes. We had what we thought were excellent seats in the east stands of Kinnick Stadium. We had a wonderful view of the action. However, many times the Saturday afternoon game had us sitting right under the blazing heat of the sun.

No overhang to protect us. Just a sweltering, baking ovenlike heat that was almost unbearable. Until some white puffy clouds drifted by. Ah….the shadow they created was a welcome relief. We were cooled off. We could watch the game more comfortably. We were so happy for each cloud’s shadow when it passed over us.

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I want you to picture a much different scene. Jesus has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven. The Church is just getting started. The believers are jubilant and excited. They gather together in homes to have fellowship and prayer, to listen to the apostles teach them, and to eat meals together.

They have sold land and belongings to form a new community called the Church. More and more have been added to their numbers. What an amazing change from the grief-filled days after Jesus had been crucified!

Peter stood tall as the leader of this growing church, along with the apostle John. The two of them had just healed a beggar who could not walk. But the religious leaders did not like what was going on and tried to get them to stop talking about Jesus. They wanted to silence their message that Jesus had risen from the dead.

It did not work. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, boldly proclaimed, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we much be saved” (4:12).

The apostles continued to perform incredible signs and wonders among the people. Can you picture the crowds they began to attract? People would carry the sick out to the streets. Those with unclean spirits were brought to them.

Oh, if only Peter would stop and heal them, that the apostles would cast out the evil spirits. In fact, they were hoping that even Peter’s shadow would pass over them, that his shadow would make them whole once again. The scene ends with the simple statement: “they were all healed” (v 16).

Now, did Peter’s shadow heal the people? It could have! One time, Jesus was traveling in a crowd of people to heal the twelve-year-old daughter of Jairus, a synagogue ruler. She was dying. Along the way, a woman crept up to Jesus. She had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and no doctor could help her. She just wanted to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.

She stretched out her hand. There she touched it. Whoa! She was healed on the spot. Perhaps Peter’s shadow had that same healing power and presence of God for the sick and demon-possessed.

You see, God can be powerfully present in a shadow. When the time came for Jesus to be born, the angel came to Mary to let her know she would give birth to the very Son of God. She was confused because she was a virgin. “How can this be?” she asked.

The answer: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Lk 1:35). God overshadowed Mary, and she gave birth to Jesus, the Savior of the world.

Later in Jesus’ life, he went up a mountain with Peter, James, and John. He was transfigured right before their eyes. Blazing white. Dazzling glory shone around him. Moses and Elijah appeared there and talked with Jesus. Incredible! Then a cloud came and overshadowed them. The disciples heard God’s powerful voice boom out, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (Lk 9:35).

When God’s shadow appears, his very presence and power are in it. Peter’s shadow could have healed the people that day. Not because of any power he had. But because God was there, performing amazing signs and wonders.

Even long before Peter walked by that crowd of people, the writer of Psalm 91 knew the wonderful gift of God’s shadow: “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust’ ” (Ps 91:1–2).

2.

Now, I know the word shadow also has some negative imagery. You walk into church, and the casket is up front, just a few feet from the altar. Your dad took his last breath a few days ago. The time has come to say good-bye. The funeral service begins, and your pastor reads Psalm 23. You listen as the words strike the depths of your soul: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (v 4).

This time, the shadow is not God’s power; this time, it is death’s power over us. This time, the cloud is not the presence of healing and life; this time, the ugly presence of death hangs over you like a cloud of disease and grief. This time, the shadow is not one of joyous excitement; this time, it is one of tear-filled sorrow. You realize just how quickly life passes by.

Another psalm comes to mind: “Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow” (Ps 144:4). You’ve heard it said another way: “The grass withers, the flower fades” (Is 40:7). Your dad’s last few years went by so fast, and you realize how much of your life is already gone by.

Like a passing shadow, you cannot help but feel life slipping away. Now the shadow is dark and ominous. You don’t want to be under this shadow. Not for long. No, you long for the shadow of God’s healing presence in your life.

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What changes the shadow of death into the shadow of God’s presence in your life?

Perhaps a comic by Johnny Hart can answer that question. Johnny Hart was a dedicated Christian who drew a comic strip called B.C., where the characters are from the caveman era. On major holidays, he would often draw a comic that witnessed to his faith. (He died in 2007.)

For Easter 1999, he beautifully spoke of what Jesus’ resurrection meant to him, and for others. A cavewoman watches a caveman tie a rope around two sticks to form a cross on a hill. She asks if he’s building his new Easter model. He says it’s part of it, and that the sticks represent God.

Then the two of them walk a long way away from the cross, creating a set of footprints. He says the two of them will represent Adam and Eve. The Bible verses at the end of the footprints are Mk 10:26–27 and Mk 11:22.

They turn around. The woman sees just how far away they are from God and asks if God hates them. The man assures her that, no, God loves. She then admits that they rejected him. He assures her that God will still always reach out to them.

Next comes a cute comment from Eve that asks if God is into collectibles. Adam excitedly replies that he is—and invites her to watch the sun shine on the cross. The sun is slowly rising behind the cross and a shadow appears.

Eve asks if it’s the S-O-N, his Son. Adam smiles and tells her that’s good. The shadow gets closer to them until it covers both of them. They are standing on the shadow of the crossbeam drawn in Lenten purple. Adam says he stands corrected, and the empty cross sits in the center of the sun.

When we stand in the shadow of the empty cross, with Jesus risen from the dead, God’s powerful presence chases away the gloom of death. Jesus’ resurrection overshadows you with the very promise of life with him for all eternity. Your dad will live, and so will you. Jesus’ resurrection changes everything!

Think of Thomas, the disciple who was missing from the upper room that first Easter morning. He would not believe that Jesus was alive. He heard the news from the other disciples, but not even Peter could convince him of what had happened. He needed to see it for himself.

A week later, he’s with the other disciples. Perhaps the room is fairly dark, with just a few lamps for light. Suddenly, Jesus appears in his glorious, resurrected body. Thomas is awestruck. Jesus turns his attention to him. Maybe, just maybe, Jesus is standing before one of the lamps, and his shadow falls over Thomas.

He tells Thomas, “Touch my hands and side. Stop your gloomy doubts; start believing again.” That very moment the shadow of death turned into the shadow of life. Thomas was whole again. The very resurrected presence of Jesus made all the difference in his life.

And ours too. Now, we can’t reach out and touch the nail marks in Jesus’ hands and side like Thomas did. We don’t have Peter’s shadow passing over us with God’s healing presence and power, like the crowds did.

But we can reach out with our hands to take hold of the risen body of Christ in the bread at his Supper. We reach out to hold steady a cup filled with his blood, powerfully present for us once again. At our Lamb’s high feast, we find Easter triumph and Easter joy, paradise opened, and light and life for all our days.

The Shadow of Gloom and Death Is Changed to the Shadow of God’s Power and Life with Christ’s Resurrected Presence in Our Lives.

Can you see this shadow? Well, not like the people who watched Peter walk by. Not like Thomas did when Jesus appeared again. But believe it’s here.

Believe that God’s amazing power and presence is here for you. Listen to Jesus’ words to Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29). Jesus is talking about you! Amen.

Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.