Easter: When Power and Grace Collide

Pastor Jeff Struecker

In 1880, there was a war. Now, most people don’t know about this war that went on between two genius-level inventors, but everyone in the world (no exaggeration) benefited from this war. 

You see, there was a race that was called “the war of currents”, and the world’s fair was coming up. Two genius-level inventors were racing to put an exhibition in the 1893 world’s fair that would demonstrate the power of electricity, and these two inventors had two differing opinions about how to deliver electricity.

Now, by this point, most of the world was aware of electricity, but almost nobody in the world had electricity. There were two guys, one by the name of Nikolai Tesla, the other one, Thomas Edison. Nikolai Tesla believed that he understood how to deliver electricity safely to millions of people around the world. Thomas Edison had a differing opinion on how to deliver electricity safely to millions of people around the world. These two guys started to set up power grids. 

One of them was underwritten by the Westing Corporation, and the other one became the super famous, extremely powerful Thomas Edison’s General Electric Corporation.

Thomas Edison understood how to deliver electricity in what’s called direct current (DC) electricity. Direct current goes in one direction; it’s really hard to control, and it’s also very difficult to adjust the voltage or the power, of that electricity. Once it’s gone in that direction, it doesn’t go back the opposite way. And it’s really, really hard to control.

This was a war that cost a few people their lives because of the power of electricity. Nikolai Tesla, on the other hand, had a differing opinion about how to deliver electricity. He believed in what’s called alternative or alternate current. Alternate current delivers electricity in both directions. Alternate current allows you to change up or down the electrical power. 

These two guys started to duke it out mostly in New York state as a trial period for this war of currents. In most wars, there’s a clear winner and a clear loser. Nikolai Tesla’s approach to alternative current became the clear winner. Even Edison and his General Electric company had to admit, “This is the way of the future. We’re going to leave direct current and go to alternative current.”

In most wars, there’s a clear winner and a clear loser. In most wars, there are a lot of people that are hurt along the way. For this war, everyone was a winner at the end of it. You see, this pioneered the work that led to everyone around the world having access to safe electricity in their homes. When you flip a switch, the electricity shows up that turns on the lights or powers something in your home. 

Most people, when they think about God’s power, can sometimes think about it like a winner and a loser: that if God gives away a little bit of his power, he’s giving it to us, and he loses a little bit of power. I need you to think about God’s power today like the war of currents, where everybody wins.

You see, if you’re new to Christianity, I need you to understand something about the God of the universe, the one who created you, the God of the Bible. He has unlimited power, which means when God gives some power to his people, he doesn’t lose any power; he just puts his power on display for the world to see, and he does it through people. What we’re going to do is talk about Easter.

I need you to understand that Easter is the most significant holiday of the year. I’ll prove it to you in just a moment, because Easter is the moment where the God of power in the Old Testament and the God of grace in the New Testament (both of these two aspects of who our God is) collide at the empty tomb on Easter Sunday. 

I just said a moment ago Easter is the most important holiday of the year. If you were lying on your death bed right now, if you contracted the COVID virus, if you had a very severe reaction to the virus, if you’re in ICU and the doctors come to you and say, “That’s it; you’re going into organ failure. You are not going to be around tomorrow,” all of those birthdays and all of those anniversaries that you’re going to miss, those things are going to hurt. All of those national holidays that you celebrated in the past or that you may celebrate in the future, you may mourn that you’re not going to be able to enjoy those things. But the only holiday that would really matter if today was the last day of your life and you knew it, is Easter, because what Easter shouts to the world is at the end is not really the end.

What Easter shouts to the world is at the end is not really the end.

Death is not the final answer in your existence; something is waiting for you after the grave. And if today was the last day of your life, I promise you the only holiday of the year that would matter is Easter. And what we’re going to do for the next few moments is we’re going to camp on two words. We’re going to pull out the sleeping bags, set up the tent, and we’re going to camp on power and grace, that are found in one verse in the Bible. 

Easter is the day when power and grace collide

They’re found in the book of Acts, chapter four, verse 33. We’re going to take this one verse, and we’re going to dissect it for a few moments. Acts 4:33 describes God’s power and his grace. In fact, it uses the words great power and great grace in this one verse to describe how big of a deal Easter is. 

Acts 4:33 With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. 

Easter signals God’s power in you

Now, what the Bible is describing for us is the significance of Easter. You see, Easter really does signal God’s power. It talks first in Acts chapter four about God’s power at work in you. 

So here’s the deal, Folks. Easter provides you the power live differently. Easter promises you the power of God’s grace in your life. Easter gives you the promise of future. It points to what’s waiting for you after you die.

You see, Easter demonstrates for us what happened after Jesus’s resurrection, and what happens between his resurrection and your resurrection. Easter provides for us a picture of what Jesus is doing right now. He is alive, and standing in the throne room of God before the Father of heaven, interceding on behalf of his people. Easter is the ultimate promise that God’s power and his grace are at work, and they’re at work in your life wherever you are, whatever you’ve done.

The first thing that Acts chapter four alludes to is actually written in between the lines. It’s about God’s power at work in these apostles. Now, you need to know the backstory, because in the backstory, these followers of Jesus, when he was arrested, when he stood trial and when he was being crucified, these followers spread to the four winds. They ran for their lives, quite literally. And now all of a sudden in Acts chapter four, something is different with these guys and girls. 

Now, they’re boldly standing up before their enemies and proclaiming the power of God at work in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What happened? What’s the difference? Well, they experienced the first Easter Sunday, and their lives have never been the same since. And that same power is available to you.

I just need you to understand something. If you’re struggling right now with temptation, if you’ve been wrestling with sin, if you’re going through some difficulties at work or at home or at school, I need you to hear something: The power of God in you is greater than the power that’s at work against you, your enemy. 

Satan is nothing and cannot touch the power that’s at work in you through a risen savior. And that’s power that’s available to all of God’s people all over the planet who have bowed their knees and surrendered their souls to the living Lord and said, “The same power that raised him from the grave, I need that power at work in my life.” 

That power is on display, perhaps greater than anywhere else in the Bible, on Easter Sunday morning.

Let’s just be honest. God showed off a little bit in the Old Testament. When he showed his power and he split the Red Sea and his children walked through on dry land, that was pretty awesome. When he showed up in power and he shut the mouths of lions and Daniel was safe in the lion’s den, that’s a pretty amazing, raw display of power. When God sent his servants, and he put his power on display by sending down fire and brimstone to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, that kind of power was really awesome. But it’s nothing compared to the power over death itself that God put on display on Easter Sunday morning.

If you were to read about God’s power in the Old Testament, and then if you were to continue to read through the New Testament, you would see verse after verse about God’s incredible grace. And there’s a moment where the great power of God and the great grace of God collide. It’s in Acts chapter four, verse 33.

Now, let’s say we were studying through the book of Acts, and we were to just go systematically through this book. I would point out in verse 32 of this chapter that God shows up in power, and you see his power to unite people, supernatural unity. 

People from different backgrounds, different ethnicities, coming together. And the only thing that joins them together is their faith (verse 32). If you were to keep reading in verse 34, you would see supernatural generosity. People are saying, “Hey, I own an extra car. I’ve got a beach house I don’t use it that often. I’m going to sell the car. I’m going to sell the beach house. And Church, you can have every penny of it. Give it to the widows that are hungry. Give it to the people that are poor and in need.” That kind of generosity doesn’t happen by accident. It’s God putting his power on display.

These are like the cookies in an Oreo. You know what I’m saying? Verse 33 is the white stuff in the middle. If you come from a country that doesn’t have Oreo cookies, I’m sorry, because this may be the greatest cookie ever invented in mankind. You’ve got supernatural unity in verse 32. You’ve got supernatural generosity in verse 34. And sandwiched in the middle is that white stuff. I don’t even know what it is, but you don’t have an Oreo without the white stuff. I’m pretty sure that they make the whites stuff from unicorn milk. 

But verse 33 is the Oreo cookie in the middle, unlimited human power put on display because of the Holy Spirit of the living God at work in these brothers and sisters. And I need you to understand something. This is not them working on their own strength, because they can’t accomplish that kind of unity. They can’t accomplish that kind of generosity. They can’t do the kind of grace and strength that we’re seeing today. This must be the power of God at work in them.

Easter shows God’s power through you

Now, in the Bible, it always goes in this order: First, you have the power of God at work in you. The Spirit of the living God that raised Jesus from the dead is also now working in you. Then now that it starts to work in you (second thing), the power of the living God starts to work through you. It always goes in that order. It never goes the other way.

You see, I think what God likes to do is, he likes to show the world who he is. He likes to show the world how powerful he is, and God chooses to do it today through people. He says, “Watch this. I’m going to show off. And I’m going to show off by what I do in her life, so that people around her are going to see that and say, “Wow! That can’t possibly come from her.” I’m going to show the world how powerful that I am by working in this brother’s life, and everybody who knows him will say, “That didn’t come from him alone. That must be God at work.”

It may surprise you, but God didn’t raise his son, Jesus, from the grave or come in the first place in the form of a man or take your sins on the cross to give you more power on your own. Here’s what I’m trying to say: God didn’t show up so that you could try to pray harder to be a good person. It wasn’t God’s plan that you would work harder and try to do better next week than you did this week. That’s not at all how it works.

God’s plan wasn’t to send his Holy Spirit so that you could to do more, work more, accomplish more on your own. In fact, he sent his Holy Spirit for the opposite reason, to show, “Oh God, I can’t do enough. Can’t pray hard enough. I can’t work enough to be the good person that you want me to be. God, I need your help.” And he says, “I know that. That’s why I sent my Spirit to give you the power to work in you first so that I can work through you to your neighbors and your classmates at school. Your friends are going to see that there’s something different in you.”

In fact, I think Jesus really wants to show his power to the world. And when he left earth and went back up to heaven, here’s what he said to his disciples: “I’m going back to the Father. I want you to go to Jerusalem… and I want you to wait. 

Don’t do anything until my Holy Spirit shows up. And when my Holy Spirit shows up and starts to work in you, then my Holy Spirit is going to start to work through you.” And if you read the rest of the book of Acts, you just see raw demonstrations of Holy Spirit power again, and again, and again.

What you really see after the Holy Spirit shows up in the book of Acts is the fulfillment of what Jesus said to his disciples right before he went back to Heaven. “I want you to wait in Jerusalem. And when my Holy spirit comes, then he’s going to work through you. And you’re going to be my witnesses in your hometown, in your state, in your country, and to the ends of the earth.” And that’s exactly what you see happening after the Holy Spirit shows up and starts to work through these brothers and sisters.

Guys, I am a living example of this, because there is a moment in my life, a very pivotal moment in my life where God chose to send me in a direction that I never expected in a million years. And it was immediately after a big firefight that’s depicted in the movie, Black Hawk Down. The next day, my friends are walking up to me and they’re saying, “Jeff, I listened to your voice over the radio, and you were different last night. I watched you in the city streets during this big battle, and you acted different last night. Jeff, there’s something different about you. You have something that I don’t have. What is it, because I want it?”

And all of my friends would tell you exactly what I’ll say to you right now. It wasn’t me personally. I wasn’t better trained. I wasn’t stronger. I wasn’t faster. I didn’t have more courage. I just simply said, “God, I can’t do this anymore. I need your help.” From that moment forward, he gave me peace and power that I haven’t experienced (maybe rarely) before or since. My friends could see it, and they could see the power of God working through me. 

And I believe that he wants to work through you. Wherever you’re at, whatever circumstances that you find yourself in, I really believe he wants to do the same thing through you.

Easter showers God’s grace on you

The first half of verse 33 talks about God’s great power at work in you, at work through you. Then the last thing, the last half of the verse talks about God’s great grace. In fact, it uses really unusual language, the grace, the great grace, was on them all. That’s a weird way of saying it, and here’s what I think the Bible is trying to tell us: Easter shows you, it shows off God’s grace. It shows you that God has showered his grace on you.

You see, power in the Bible is displayed both vertically (God putting power in his people) and then horizontally (God putting power at work through his people). But did you know that grace works the same way in the Bible? First, God showers his people with grace. 

If you don’t understand the Bible word, grace, it says, God gives you something that you don’t deserve and you couldn’t earn. And God first showers his people with grace. But verse 33 says something really unusual. God shows his grace through his people in this verse. This is vertical grace, God putting, giving his people something that they don’t deserve, something that they couldn’t earn. 

And then the vertical grace is God now giving his people favor with other people. Horizontal grace is favor with other people, vertical grace is favor with God. And you see horizontal and vertical grace, just like you see horizontal and vertical power in verse 33.

God decides, “I’m going to show off, and I’m going to give these people who have weak, feeble hands something that they don’t deserve. I’m going to do something for them first, and then I’m going to do something through them. And their neighbors are going to see it, and they’re going want it. They’re going to have opportunities, perhaps unprecedented opportunities, to show the grace of God to people in their lives, because they have experienced the grace of God.” 

And for 2000 years, that’s exactly how it’s been working, ever since that first Easter Sunday morning.

So, really what I’m trying to do right now is to say, if you’re sitting there and you’re thinking to yourself, Jeff, I don’t understand how God could do something like that, because if you knew me and if you knew my background, you would realize what a mess I am. In fact, Jeff, my hands are pretty muddy from the mistakes that I’ve made. Jeff, my hands are pretty bloody because I’ve done some things in combat that I’m not proud of and I wish I could take back. Jeff, my hands are pretty lonely. I’m alone, and I’m isolated, and I need relationships. I need community. Jeff, my hands are scarred because of the mistakes and my failures in the past, and I can’t make those scars go away. Jeff, my hands are anxious. They’re worried because of the problems that are facing me tomorrow, I need you to understand, no matter what you’ve done in your past, the power that changed these disciples, the grace that God showered on his disciples is also available to you, no matter what you’ve done, no matter how bad, how muddy, how bloody, how scarred your hands are. 

When we get to Heaven, there will be no hands that say “bloody”. There’ll be no hands that say “muddy” or “scarred” or “worried” or “anxious” or “lonely”. God will make right all that’s been wrong. God will restore everything that’s been scarred or broken. God will fix everything. 

In fact, there will be nothing but perfect hands in Heaven, except for the hands of the Lord Jesus Christ, the nail-pierced hands that make it possible for you wherever you’re at, whatever you’re going through, to be forgiven.