Resurrection Sunday ()Rev. Dr. William A. Lewis, April 16, 2017
Peter and Paul in Mamertine Prison 67 A.D.
(Paul is sitting at a desk writing, while Peter gets thrown into the cell and blesses his jailer in the name of Jesus.)
Peter: May the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, be with you, releasing amazing things. Oh, what a sweet thought for sinners like me. Hmm, that would make a good hymn…
Paul: Did someone? Did I hear someone lift up the name of my Lord? Peter, is that you? The man who walked on water!
Peter: Actually, I-- hmm--sank.
Paul: Yes but you are the only one who knows what it’s like to be gripped by Jesus when sinking!
Peter: My brother, Paul! What are you doing? Writing letters?!
Paul: Actually, I have your epistle right here. I’ve collected all the apostles’ writings. I’m thinking about calling it “The Implications of the Incarnation through the Resurrection to Pentecost.”
Peter: How about “New Testament?”
Paul: What are you doing in Rome and what in the world did you do to get thrown into Mamertine Prison?
Peter: Well, I saw that persecution towards Christians was heating up, so I was on my way out of town when the Lord walked past me. I said, “Lord where are you going?” He said, “To go fishing.” I’m called to be a fisher of men. So I turned around and came looking for you. I stopped by your house and they asked me if I was an associate of yours. I should have said that I didn’t know you! They asked me, “You’re not one of those Christians, are you?” I’ve learned best not to deny the truth.
Paul: It’s not like we haven’t been thrown in prison before for our faith in Jesus. You’ve been in jail twice and the angels got you out!
Peter: Well, I’ve heard about the time you were in prison and our Lord caused an earthquake to free you. I must say, my brother, you missed your cue; God was freeing you!
Paul: Yes, I thought about escaping, but the jailer was going to kill himself and I thought it would be better for me to minister to him than to just care about my freedom. I ended up baptizing his entire family! For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Peter: Well it’s a good thing you are with me now because if you’re going to heaven, Jesus gave me the keys to the kingdom!
Paul: No offense, but I’ve already been to the third heaven!
Peter: Yes, and the Lord sent you back! So, what is heaven like, Paul?
Paul: I am restricted from sharing what I saw, but the Lord has some amazing things awaiting us. As I wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:9, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him!” And not only in heaven, but right now. These chains and bars don’t make us prisoners.
Peter: Wow, the Lord is so good even to us while we were undeserving sinners.
Paul: Don’t talk about sinners; you’re looking at the chief of sinners. I persecuted the church, throwing families into prison and having them beaten and killed. Not to mention, I was present at the stoning of Stephen, holding everyone’s cloaks as they killed the first martyr of our faith.
Peter: Oh Paul, don’t look back. We don’t have time to maintain these regrets. Besides, I denied the Lord three times.
Paul: Come on Peter, who wouldn’t have folded under the peer pressure. Besides, didn’t you try to protect your Lord swinging a sword? Didn’t you cut off the high Priest servant’s ear?
Peter: Yeah, I was aiming for his head, but he ducked. Then the Lord touched the man’s face and healed him. He healed the man who was trying to lead Him to death. He even called Judas, “friend.”
Paul: That’s our God, calling us to love our enemies.
Peter: You’ve had to practice more than most…
Paul: It’s true. I’ve had far more imprisonments and was beaten so many times, often in danger of death. Five times, I received from the Jews the 39 lashes. Three times, I was beaten with rods and once I was stoned… you know, with rocks… drug out of the city and left for dead.
Peter: And when you came to, you walked back into the city to finish your sermon. You are His man!
Paul: There was that time when I was shipwrecked. A night and a day, I spent in the deep, in dangers from rivers, robbers, Jews and Gentiles in the city, in the wilderness, and in danger of false Christians. I’ve had sleepless nights in hunger without food and in cold and exposure. But, worst of all is the daily concern for the churches.
Peter: No one would commit their life to such extreme treatment and horrible situations unless… (PAUL INTERRUPTS)
Paul: You have enjoyed the presence of the Lord – the miracles, the healings. People would take my handkerchiefs and cover sick people and they’d get healed. I heard about you raising that beautiful Christin in Joppa from the dead.
Peter: Yeah well, l I heard about you raising that boy from the dead who fell out the window. He fell asleep while you were preaching? I’m not saying your preaching is boring, but….
Paul: Hey just because you preached and had 3,000 converts…
Peter: Actually, I have counseled people to listen to your words. It is obvious why the Lord chose you. Your knowledge of the law as a Pharisee and the implications of grace is beyond the theological grasp of a fisherman like me. Didn’t you have private tutoring with Jesus?
Paul: It’s the Holy Spirit. He’s the Spirit of Truth, who speaks through us when we tune into Him.
Peter: You and the Holy Spirit are able to articulate the deeper meanings of the faith. For me, it’s a simple invite: Believe in the Lord Jesus.
Paul: It is that simple. We complicate the faith. It’s a free gift. Every time we try to add other religious elements to supplement the free gift, it takes the focus off of Christ and puts in on us. By the way, I apologize for getting in your face back in Galatia when you were trying to follow the Jewish customs.
Peter: It was necessary. It was one of the moments when a distinction needed to be made between Judaism and Christianity. Sometimes we try to please the world when our focus needs to be on Jesus. We are not saved by following man made rules, but by following the one commandment…
BOTH: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Paul: Speaking of loving people, thank you for restoring John Mark back to the faith. He was with me on the first missionary journey and I was so zealous for the Lord. I never considered how the persecution might affect a young believer. In my mind, we were seeing the miraculous hand of God so that should’ve overshadowed any fears. But some people need time to process their faith. I kicked him off the team the next time we went on a missionary journey. Fortunately, you extended grace and brought him back into the family.
Peter: It’s easy to restore others, since I have been restored. I quoted your words to the Galatians 6:2: “If someone is caught in sin, you who are spiritual, restore them gently.”
Paul: It’s beautiful the way Jesus pursued you after the resurrection. “Go tell My disciples and Peter,” just like He pursues all of us. The relentless heart of the Father runs to embrace His prodigal children. It’s just like you invited John Mark to help you write your gospel - except you gave him the credit. I noticed you didn’t include that time when you walked on the water. Good thing Matthew told the story or nobody would have ever known about it.
Peter: I really didn’t want anyone to know I sank. But you seem set on bringing it up.
Paul: It’s not the sinking that I see. Being the only man to ever have walked on water is worth including in your biography. You really empowered John Mark.
Peter: I’ve quoted your letter to the Philippians. Regard one another as more important than yourself, following the example of our Lord who was God and yet set aside His identity as God to become a man to represent us on the cross when He took our sins. This means, “There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”
Paul: I still can’t fathom why God would subject Himself to death just so we wouldn’t have to be separated from Him forever. God almighty cares about us that intensely. What’s most amazing is when Jesus introduced Himself to me. I was on the way to persecute more of His followers. I was trying to kill Him by attacking His followers when He stopped me on the Damascus road, blinding me and then redirecting me from being an agent of death to a distributor of life.
Peter: Even when we are enemies of God, fighting against Him, denying Him, He loves us. God is patient, not wanting any to perish but for all to come to the knowledge of the truth.
My calling wasn’t as dramatic I was just doing the daily grind at work, trying to catch a fish or two, when I was first introduced to Jesus. I liked Him. He healed my mother in law—but I decided not to hold that against Him. Anyway, I was happy associating with Him until one day after catching no fish, He took me out on the water. I informed Him, “There are no fish out here.” Then we caught an overwhelming number of fish. I realized I was dealing with somebody who wasn’t “normal.” He then called me to a purpose beyond trying to get ahead in life and care about humanity’s greatest need: eternity with God. God wants to have an encounter with every one of us!
Paul: So we can misunderstand Jesus or not even be looking for Him, but He comes looking for us! It’s sad how many people think the love of God and the cross is foolishness.
Peter: What they don’t understand is it’s actually life with God. Christianity is meant to be a supernatural experience with the living God who speaks to our minds directing our path by His Christ Spirit.
Paul: I remember finding some believers and asking, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you first believed?” They hadn’t so I laid hands on them and they received Him! God doesn’t come to just the religious. He has a fondness for sinners, just like the Word says.
Peter: What bothers me is how people dismiss the word of God. They don’t realize it is a divinely inspired document. It’s by men moved by the Holy Spirit spoken from God. Speaking of the scriptures, you have written a lot of edifying material for Christians to feed their souls.
Paul: Yes, I had to correct the Gnosticism infecting the faith with human ideas and twisting God’s thoughts into human understanding. This is the Christians message. In Colossians 1:14, “He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us into the kingdom of His Son in whom we have redemption and forgiveness of sin.”
Peter: Do you think we’re getting out of here this time?
Paul: I don’t think so. Nero seems to be a tool of Satan. In fact, there are rumors that Nero is using Christians as human torches.
Peter: It’s not a rumor. Chilo, a wicked man, had sold the wife and daughter of his friend Glaucus into slavery and had him killed for his faith in Christ. Glaucus was covered with pitch, fastened to pillars, and set on fire in the gardens for the amusement of Nero. As he drove down the lines of this human agony, Nero had by his side this wicked Chilo. They came to the pillar where Glaucus was burning, but still alive and conscious. As the wind blew the smoke away for a moment disclosing the face of Glaucus, Chilo was seized with sudden bitter remorse. Stretching his arms up toward the agonizing martyr, he cried out, “Glaucus, in Christ’s name, forgive me.”
At that, the head of the martyr moved slightly, and from the top of the pillar was heard a voice like a groan, “I forgive.”
A strange light came into the face of Chilo. In the excitement that followed, Chilo, in the midst of the crowd bumped into me. I told him of the infinite forgiveness of Christ and baptized him into the Christian faith. The next day, Chilo was in the hands of Nero’s torturers, demanding he retract his Christian confession. Chilo asked that he might die like a Christians. When his torturers were binding him with ropes and piercing him with iron tongs. Chilo kissed their hands with forgiveness. Forgiven himself, he had learned to forgive.
Paul: Wow, the power of forgiveness! It doesn’t matter for me, for to live is Christ and to die is gain. I’m excited to go be with our Lord. I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course. I have kept the faith. There is laid before me a crown of righteousness.
Peter: …Unless you get taken on a Tuesday. They do beheadings on Tuesdays. So you might have to find another place to hang your crown. (They both laugh.)
Paul: I pray they don’t take us on a Friday. They crucify on Fridays.
Peter: I could NEVER be worthy to die in the same way our Lord did.
Paul: What would you do? Ask them to crucify you upside down?
Peter: Death doesn’t threaten us. Seems I read in one of your letters that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. People have already tried to erase the gospel, saying Jesus was just another man. But I know who I met on the boat that day, and who I have experienced every day since.
Paul: This is one thing I have all confidence in; the gospel of Jesus Christ can never be silenced. I know in whom I have believed and I’m persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.
So where are you on the Spiritual journey?
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