BETRAYED - KILLED - RAISED UP
"'Fellow Israelites, listen carefully to these words. Jesus the Nazarene, a man thoroughly accredited by God to you -- the miracles and wonders and signs that God did through Him are common knowledge -- this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you. And you pinned Him to a cross and killed Him. But God untied the death ropes and raised Him up. Death was no match for Him...'" Acts 2:22-28 (The Message).
What was Peter to say on an occasion like this? The events of the past six weeks were fresh in the minds of his audience. Many of them had been in the city when Jesus was crucified. Passover was the main feast of the Jewish calendar. As pious Jews they would have come then and stayed for Pentecost.
They knew the events. Now it was time to understand their meaning. It was Peter's role to interpret the prophetic Scriptures which would clarify everything for them. True to the promise of Jesus, the Holy Spirit in them brought everything into sharp focus. Peter saw it all and was more than eager to explain what he himself had finally understood.
His famous first sermon was the outpouring of the revelation which had produced worship from the mouths of the disciples when the Spirit came. His mind was alight with the truth of the Old Testament which had lain dormant in him from his early childhood. It was all so clear and all so real!
What did Peter say? He began by quoting from the prophet Joel. 'You think we are drunk or crazy. This isn't something that just happened. God spoke about it centuries before through the prophet Joel. Like everything else God has done, He told us it would happen and now it has - just so that we will know it's God.'
'Jesus didn't just happen either. God set it all up and then got it going. You and your unscrupulous leaders put God's plan into action. They betrayed Him, handed Him over to you and you killed Him. But that didn't work because God raised Him up again. Death had no permanent grip on Him and now He's alive!'
What a bold and courageous thing to do! How could Peter have spoken like that when, just a few weeks before, he cowered before a serving maid in the courtyard of the high priest? Now he lays the blame for Jesus' murder squarely at the door of his hearers. They could have easily mobbed and lynched him and all the others right there!
Instead of being apologetic, he declared the truth, loud and clear. But his intention was not to accuse or blame. He put their culpability in the context of God's sovereignty and plan. Yes, they did it but God set it up because He had a higher purpose for His Son and for all who believe in Him. This was not about them. It was about Jesus.
When we compare the weak, tame preaching of the gospel in many streams of the church today - "Come to Jesus. He'll forgive your sins so that you can go to heaven when you die" - with Peter's startling declaration on the day of Pentecost, we miss the robust content of his message. 'God planned it; you did it - killed Him by nailing Him to a cross. God had the last word; He raised Him up and He's alive. Your little scheme didn't work. And now? You are guilty. You will have to answer for what you did.'
What did Peter mean? Take ownership for your guilt. Only then does God's mercy come into play. We were all guilty of murdering Jesus even if we weren't there. Out sin was responsible for nailing Him to the cross. We can never receive mercy until we have received the verdict - guilty as charged.
"God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood. He did this to demonstrate His justice because, in His forbearance He had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished - He did it to demonstrate His justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who believe in Jesus." Romans 3:25-26 (NIV).
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