Sermon on Acts 2:14, 22-32
Text: Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.
22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. 25 David said about him: “‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, 27 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.”
There certainly seem to be many different religions in the world. How many would you guess that there are? According to several sources, there are estimated to be between 4,200 and 4,300 different religions. These sources lumped together some religions under one heading, such as Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, and Assemblies of God, under the heading of Protestants. If you were to split all of the religions up, the number would grow by a large margin. With all of these religions out there, there are those who wonder which is the right one. Perhaps, in unguarded moments, we have wondered the same thing. What separates one from the other? What makes Christianity different or better than all of the others? This morning, we are going to highlight one major difference that separates Christianity from the rest. THE RESURRECTION IS A UNIQUE MESSAGE. 1. The Prophets Foretold It. 2. Christ Rose And Fulfilled The Prophecies. 3. The Disciples Proclaimed It.
Our text for this morning is a portion of the sermon that Peter preached on Pentecost. The crowd had heard the sound of a mighty wind. They saw the disciples with what appeared to be tongues of fire on their heads and heard them speaking in foreign languages. As they wondered what was going on, Peter preached a sermon to them. He used the opportunity to tell the crowd that had gathered about Jesus, especially highlighting his resurrection.
Peter, addressing Jews who know and accepted the Old Testament, quotes their beloved ancestor David. Peter said, “David said about him: ‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’” (Verses 25-28) This is a quote from Psalm 16. As you read these words, you hear the confidence that David had throughout his life. He knew that the Lord would continue to be with him. He knew the joy of belonging to God.
Peter then makes an observance about the words that David was inspired to write. David had said in Psalm 16, “You will not let your holy one see decay.” However, Peter noted, “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.” (Verse 29) David had said that his body would not decay. Yet, Peter reminds the crowd that it was a fact that David had died. The place where he was buried was well-known to the Jewish people. Obviously, then, David was not talking about himself. Peter continued, “But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.” (Verse 30) Peter called David a prophet. He was speaking God’s words to the people. As God’s spokesman, he was given insight into the future. Since he could not be speaking about himself, he had to be talking about someone else. He had God’s promise of a descendant to rule on his throne over a kingdom that would last forever. David was speaking prophetically about his greatest descendant, the Messiah who was to come. He made this prophecy about 1,000 years before Jesus was born. The one who was sent from God would not decay in the grave, but would come back to life.
There are no other religions that would dare to make that claim. No other world religion leaders could claim that their life was prophesied as the events of Jesus were. Specifically, none could claim that their resurrection was foretold. The closest you can come to it is some of the religious leaders telling their followers that they would come back from the dead. Because of some of their teachings, some of their followers looked for their leaders to come back. For example, Mary Baker Eddy, who is the founder of the Christian Science religion taught that death was “an illusion, the lie of life in matter; the unreal and untrue.” As a result, soon after her death on December 3, 1910, her followers started looking for her to return. Obviously, she didn’t. No matter what claims the various religions might make, none can say that their leader came back from the dead. None, that is, except Christianity.
Regarding Christ’s work on the earth, Peter said, “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” (Verse 22) First of all, Peter reminds his listeners of what they knew. They had heard of this Jesus who had come from Nazareth. They were familiar with the miracles that he had done.
Then, Peter said to them, “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Verse 23) Peter got very pointed with the people that he was addressing. He told them, “You put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” Yes, they had used the help of the Roman government in carrying out the sentence, but they bore the responsibility for Jesus’ crucifixion. Yet, we also note the words, “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge.” Everything that had happened to Jesus was all a part of God’s plan. God could have altered things so that it didn’t happen this way. However, God’s love for the world would not permit it. God’s gracious plan of saving all people from sin, death, and hell included everything that happened to Jesus. Without this gracious plan, you and I would have been lost forever. Every single one of our sins would have condemned us to an eternal separation from God’s love. God chose to send his Son into the world to be the perfect sacrifice to pay for our sins.
However, the story of God’s love didn’t end on the cross. Peter continues, “But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (Verse 24) This is really the heart of Peter’s sermon on that day. Having exposed sin, Peter pointed them to a Savior, not a religious leader who was still in the grave, but one who had risen from the dead. Peter said that “God raised him from the dead.” Nothing could prevent God from carrying out his plan of salvation to its glorious conclusion. He freed Jesus from the agony of death. Though it had looked as though death had claimed victory on the cross, Jesus burst from its icy grip. Death is unable to master or control the one who had called himself “the Resurrection and the Life.” Jesus fulfilled everything that the prophets had foretold, including his resurrection. This is the good news that we celebrated last week. Christ’s victory over death gives us the certainty that we will enjoy that victory, as well. Jesus said it so plainly in John 14:19, “Because I live you also will live.” Christianity is unique because, first of all, our leader rose from the dead. No one else has ever done that. Secondly, Christianity is unique because we have the certainty that we will rise from the dead on the last day and we will be with our Savior for all eternity. All other religions offer a wishy-washy hope of an eternity. If you do enough right, you might get into a better after-life. You can’t be sure, though. We know for a fact that we will be in heaven, because Jesus came to the earth to be our Savior.
Christ’s resurrection was the heart of Peter’s sermon that day. As you read through the rest of the book of Acts, you see that this continued to be the heart of all of the sermons that the apostles preached. It is the heart of God’s message today. This is the message that is to be proclaimed to the ends of the earth.
Peter said in verse 31, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.” Again, Peter speaks with certainty of Jesus’ resurrection. There are no qualifiers. This actually happened. Peter, also, noted, “We are all witnesses of it.” Peter and the other apostles, as well as hundreds of others had seen Jesus alive during the forty days following his resurrection. They could attest to this fact. Also, included with the word is the mission that Jesus had given the apostles just before he ascended into heaven. He said in Acts 1:8, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” They were to witness to others that Jesus had come and by his life, death, and resurrection, had saved the world.
This is also the mission that has been handed down to us, as well. We have been called by fath through the gospel to know Jesus as our Savior. We are witnesses of the fact that Jesus died and rose again. This has been shown us so very clearly in God’s Word. However, we are not to keep this gospel message to ourselves. We, also are called upon to witness God’s love to those around us. Our first reaction to this might be that we are not qualified. We aren’t perfect people. However, I would like to remind you about the one who spoke the words of our text. A little than two moths pervious to Peter’s sermon, he denied even knowing who Jesus was. On the night of the day that Jesus rose from the dead, Peter was with the other disciples behind locked doors because they were afraid. Peter may not have been our first choice to be a witness for Jesus, much less a leader. Yet, God did choose him and gave him the strength to carry out the task of being a witness of Jesus’ resurrection. In the same way, God has called each and every one of us to be his witnesses to those around us. We witness by the way we live our lives. We witness by the things we say to and about each other. We witness by the priorities in our lives. We witness when we help someone out with a problem by not just helping find solutions, but pointing them to the one who has the solution to all of life’s problems. We witness because we know that Jesus died and rose to save us. We witness because we know that Jesus saved them, too. We witness because we have something special to share with them.
So, going back to our original question, what makes Christianity different from all of the other religions in the world? What makes us unique? The answer is “resurrection.” First of all, it is Christ’s resurrection. Christianity is the only religion that has a leader who has risen from the dead. Secondly, and tied closely the first, is our resurrection. Because Jesus has risen, we know that we are saved and will, at the end of time, rise from the dead. Since we have such a unique message, there are many who have not heard it. May God help us to be witnesses to all, both far and near, of this unique resurrection message. Amen.
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