Sermon on Acts 3:12-20
Text: When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you — even Jesus.”
When the women came to the tomb on the first Easter morning, the angels had two instructions for them. “Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee.” (Matthew 28:6&7) First of all, they were to see for themselves that what the angels had told them was true. Jesus had risen from the dead. Having done that, they were to go and tell his disciples the good news that Jesus was alive. These two commands are told to the Christian Church throughout the ages. Come and see that Jesus has risen from the dead. That is what we did last week when we celebrated the Festival of the Resurrection. We, though the eyes of faith, have also looked into the tomb and seen that it is empty. However, like the women, we are not to keep this Easter message to ourselves. We are to “go quickly and tell.” As we study God’s Word this morning, we are reminded that THE CHURCH OF JESUS REACHES OUT 1. With A Compelling Message and 2. With A Gracious Invitation.
Just prior to our text, Peter and John were going into the temple. A they entered, they saw a man who had been crippled from birth. This man was begging from those who were entering the temple. When John and Peter came near, he hoped to get something from them. However, Peter told him, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:6) At that, Peter took him by the hand and the man got up and began to walk and jump and praise God. A crowd of people gathered in amazement at what had happened. Peter used this opportunity to tell the people about Jesus.
Here is a good thing for us to remember when we reach out to others about Jesus. It doesn’t have to come from a pulpit. As a matter of fact, reaching out with the good news about Jesus is often more effective when you are talking with people. You can make use of events in their lives as opportunities to tell them. If something great is happening in their lives, you can rejoice with them and share that this is a gift from God. If something tragic is happening in their lives, you can point them to the one who has all the answers and who loves them. God gives us opportunities to reach out to others with what he has done for them.
Let’s look at the way that Peter addressed the people. First of all, he points away from himself as the source of this man’s healing and gives credit where credit is due. “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.” Peter uses this opportunity to tell the people assembled about Jesus. He reminds them of what had happened not all that long ago. In speaking of Jesus, Peter said, “You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.” (Verses 13&14) Did you happen to notice a word that Peter used again and again? It was the word “you.” “You handed.” “You disowned.” “[You] asked.” Then, Peter hits them with “You killed the author of life.” (Verse 15) In other words, Peter told them, you killed the Son of God. You killed the Savior who was sent for you. You killed the Messiah that you and your ancestors were waiting for. With each and every one of the “you’s,” Peter was hammering home the guilt of the people whom he was addressing.
They told us at the seminary that the first person we need to preach a sermon to is ourselves. Let’s do that for a moment. “You disowned him.” Have there been times when I have been ashamed of being a follower of Jesus Christ? Were there times when I hoped that no one would know that I am a Christian? “You asked for a murderer.” I doubt that any of us have ever asked that a murderer be set free. Yet, when given the choice between Jesus and something that was evil, sinful, have I always chosen Jesus. Later, Peter would tell the crowd, “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance.” (Verse 17) This does not mean that Peter is excusing their actions, as if they didn’t know any better. They did. They had seen proof after proof that Jesus was whom he said he was. They chose to ignore that and do what they wanted to do. Does that statement describe you and me? We know that something is sinful, but we choose to ignore that knowledge and do what is wrong. Finally, Peter said, “You killed the author of life.” To be sure, I was not there when the nails were driven into Jesus’ hands. However, I know that it was my sins that Jesus was carrying on his back when he suffered and died on that cross. The message of the law, which we find in God’s Word is compelling, because it points out exactly who and what I am by nature. It tells me what I deserve.
This is part of the message that we must use when we, the church of Jesus, reach out to others. People must be taught that they, too, are sinners. It is not something that they will want to hear. They like to think of themselves as fairly good people, at least better than others. Yet, as we reach out to them in love, we must also use the law, so that they see that they cannot help themselves.
However, thanks be to God that is not where the message ends. Peter didn’t leave the crowd that afternoon, wallowing in their guilt. After he told them “You killed the author of life,” he continued by saying, “but God raised him from the dead.” (Verse 15) The one that they had killed had been brought back to life. This showed the crowd that he really was whom he claimed to be. He was to Son of God, who had come to the earth to be their Savior. Peter adds, “We are witnesses of this.” (Verse 15) Peter and John had seen, firsthand, that Jesus was raised from the dead. They had spoken with him, touched him, and eaten with him. As further proof, Peter said, “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” (Verse 16) Here is further proof that Jesus was whom he claimed to be.
How beautiful this gospel message sounds in our ears, as well. Yes, we know that we are, by nature and in action, sinners. However, as we witnessed last Sunday, Jesus has risen from the dead. This means that he is our Savior. This means that our sins have been forgiven. This means that eternal life is ours. Through the eyes of faith, we looked into that tomb and saw that it was empty and through the ears of faith, we heard the angelic announcement. Through the working of the Holy Spirt, a greater miracle has taken place in our hearts than the healing of the crippled man. We have been brought to faith in our risen Savior. For that reason, our hearts run and leap and praise God for all that he has done for us. This is the gospel message that has been proclaimed to us. This is the gospel message that we tell others. After they have heard the pronouncement of the law, we have the wonderful opportunity to tell them that Jesus has forgiven them. We tell them that Jesus came to be their Savior. This is the compelling message that the church of Jesus has always used when reaching out to others.
After Peter told the crowd this compelling message of law and gospel, he gives them a gracious invitation. “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you — even Jesus.” (Verses 19&20) Peter graciously invited the crowd gathered that day to repent of their sins and they would find refreshment for their souls.
That same gracious invitation is spoken to us every time that we hear the message of the gospel. First of all, we are called upon to “Repent and turn to God.” Repentance is more than just being sorry for our sins. It, also includes the sure knowledge that our sins are forgiven for the sake of Jesus Christ. Because we have this knowledge, we have our motivation for turning away from those sins to a life of service to God. We see that as an opportunity to thank God for all that he has done for us. We also rejoice in those times of refreshing that Peter talks about. When our souls are overwhelmed with a sin that we have committed, we hear the refreshing message of our Savior who assures us that sin was also paid for on Calvary’s cross. The gospel message quenches our parched souls. We also have the refreshing times that are waiting for us when we reach heaven. There we will receive all that Jesus has won for us. We thank our God for graciously inviting us to come to the wells of salvation and drink deeply of the waters there.
We, also, have the privilege of graciously inviting others to receive these times of refreshing, as well. For the person who feels that they have done something so horrible that it can never be forgiven, we can tell them that Jesus paid for that sin, as well. For the person who feels that no one really cares for them or how they are doing, we can tell that about Jesus who loved them so much that he was willing to do everything so that they could be with him for all eternity. For the person who is feeling overwhelmed with life, it’s just too much to handle, we can point them to the one who has everything under his control and will make everything work out for our benefit. We can also assure them that as difficult as life might seem to be now, it is nothing in comparison with the glory that we will enjoy in heaven. Whom do we know that really needs to hear these gracious words of invitation? May God help us to be his loving instruments sharing this good news with them.
This morning, as we look around the church, we might notice that there are some differences from last week. The pews aren’t as full as they were then. There isn’t the special music. We don’t have a special service. The Easter lilies may be drooping a little. Probably none of us has a special meal that we will be enjoying like we did this week. For these reasons, it may be easy to feel a little let-down from last week. However, my dear friends, the Easter message hasn’t changed since last week. We still have the wondrous news of the angels that Jesus has risen from the dead. We still hear the invitation, “Come and see the place where he lay.” Since we have done that, we have the motivation to “Go and tell.” We thank God that the church of Jesus continues to reach out. He made us part of this body through the message that we find in his Word. He graciously invites to come to him for refreshing. We pray that God would use us to graciously invite others to come and see and to receive the refreshing that God has waiting for them. Amen.
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