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The Third Sunday of Easter-- April14, 2024
 

Acts 3:11-20

 

11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 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.



          “Why does this surprise you?”  That’s a question that you’ve probably been asked before.  If someone has done something that isn’t too unusual or out of character and you expressed surprise, you may have been asked that question.  Peter and John found themselves in that situation in our text for today.  They asked, “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you?”
          In this case, it might be their question that surprises us!  After all, they had just healed a man who had been crippled from the day he was born, and they had done it without using any medicine or therapy.  The people reacted the way that we might expect.  The verse preceding our text says, “all the people were astonished and came running to them.”  It was at that point that Peter asked them, “Men of Israel, why does this surprise you?”
          As we look at this story, we’ll see how Peter responded to their surprise and led them into a discussion of two other great truths that seem to surprise some people.  Peter says to us through these words,
 
“Don’t Be Surprised”
 
I.  Sin led Jesus to the cross
II.  Forgiveness leads us to heaven
 
          It isn’t every day that you see someone who has been crippled his entire life suddenly stand up and start walking.  That would be surprising under any circumstances.  But were these “normal circumstances?”  It wasn’t too long ago that Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended back into heaven.  Since that time, Peter and the others had eagerly spread the news about what had happened.  They had come to the temple that day to preach and teach, and there they had met the crippled man. Peter said to him, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Luke wrote, “He jumped to his feet and began to walk.”
          Peter wasn’t surprised that he had healed this man.  He knew what God was capable of doing and that God had blessed the disciples with his power.  The people who witnessed this miracle were “astonished” by what they had seen. Who wouldn’t be! 
          But Peter saw a disconnect in these people.  They were astonished that this cripple was healed, but they ignored the greater miracle that had recently taken place – Jesus had saved the world from sin by dying on a cross and then rising from the dead. Peter asked those who were astonished by the healing of the cripple, “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.”
          The people were willing to acknowledge the power that Peter had shown by healing the cripple, but they weren’t willing to acknowledge the power of God who had raised his Son from the dead.  Maybe they just didn’t want to talk about what God had done because they were the ones who had put his Son to death.  That’s exactly what Peter pointed out.  “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.  You killed the author of life…”
          Pointing out people’s sins and their sins consequences is not always the most pleasant assignment to be given.  And perhaps a few weeks earlier Peter might not have carried it out as faithfully as he did here.  But things were different now.  The Holy Spirit had given him the strength and confidence to be the messenger he had been called to be.  Peter had repented of his own sins against his Lord, and now wanted these people to do the same so that they could feel the peace and love of God.
          That’s why he stood before these people and accused them of “kill[ing] the author of life.”  He knew that their sins and his sins and the sins of the whole world had serious consequences.  He knew that an innocent man, and not just any innocent man, but the very Son of God, had to die because of the sins that had been committed.  He didn’t want the sacrifice of Jesus to be in vain.  He wanted all those for whom Jesus died to benefit from what Jesus had done for them.  He wanted them to be saved by the blood of Jesus.
          And that is the truth that has to be told today.  People have to understand that sin has consequences and these are not consequences that can be avoided or ignored.  People show that they understand the difference between wrong and right.  They may try to do what is right to avoid a fine or other punishment that would come if they did what is wrong.  But there’s more to it than that.  There’s more to it than just trying to “stay out of trouble.”  Sin doesn’t go away when the earthly consequence has been resolved avoided.  The more serious and eternal consequences remain.  Sin separates people from God, and the only way to bring them back to God is to pay the price for sin, which God himself says is death, eternal death.
          God’s love offered the solution.  In spite of what the people had done to Jesus, Peter noted, “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.”  People don’t often see glory when they picture Jesus on the cross.  They should.  Jesus completed his Father’s plan of salvation on the cross.  Because he perfectly fulfilled his role, his Father glorified his Son and raised him from the dead, the price for sin having been completely paid in full.  And now, after defeating the devil and paying for the sins of the world, Jesus was alive again in all of his glory.  Those who were responsible for his death needed to know that Jesus had taken the responsibility for their sins, and that salvation was available to them through faith.
          We point out sin for the same reason that Peter did.  We want people to know that sin led Jesus to the cross.  But we’re not just looking for sympathy for an innocent man who was put to death.  We know that the sins have been paid for on the cross, and that the forgiveness for those sins has been offered to all people.
 
II.  Forgiveness leads us to heaven
 
          Peter had accused these people of one of the most heinous acts ever committed in all of history. “You killed the author of life,” he said, but then quickly added, “but God raised him from the dead.  We are witnesses of this.”  Some still tried to deny the resurrection of Jesus, but the eyewitnesses were telling their story.  Peter didn’t argue whether Jesus had risen or not.  He pointed to the proof of God’s power that was standing before them—the formerly crippled man.  He 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 given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.”
          Building on what they could see, which was not something you see every day, Peter turned to the more important healing that Jesus was offering.  He said that the Jews had acted “in ignorance” when they put Jesus to death.  They had not acknowledged him as the Messiah, the Savior sent by God.  They were now being given another chance to do just that.  Peter invited them to turn away from their ignorant unbelief and let Jesus lead them to an eternal life in heaven.
          He said, “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 Christ, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.”  What the Jews had done was wrong, even though they didn’t know what they were doing.  Peter did not excuse them for what they had done.  The fact of the matter is they put to death the innocent Son of God.
          But God used their actions to carry out his plan to save the world.  As Peter stated, their own prophets had said that this would happen.  If they would now admit that they had sinned and repent and turn to their Lord, they would experience the “refreshing [that] comes from the Lord.”  Such an admission of guilt would be difficult for these people.  Some would refuse to listen to what Peter was saying as the devil continued his battle against God refusing to give up the souls that he was holding by sin.
          But others would repent.  God promises that his word “will accomplish what [he] desires.” (Is. 55:11)  He tells us what he desires through the pen of Paul, “God wants all men to be saved.” (I Tim. 2:4)  That’s why he sent Jesus down from his throne of glory to the cross.  That is why he sends the Holy Spirit to work through the story of Jesus to remove sin and give salvation.  Confessions of faith honor and glorify Jesus who “…was crucified, died, and was buried.  The third day he rose again from the dead.”  Don’t be surprised by what God did through a death that took place on cross.  Don’t be surprised by what God continues to do through the Word, through water used with God’s Word.  Don’t be surprised by what God does through bread and wine, giving us forgiveness through the body and blood once sacrificed on a cross.
          Every sinner who is brought to faith in Jesus is a miracle.  While doctors with proper medicines can heal some people, even helping cripples to walk again, none can cure a single person of the disease of sin.  Peter was able to heal the crippled man in the name of Jesus.”  He wasn’t surprised by what God had allowed him to do using the power that God had given to him.
          Peter eagerly spoke about Jesus because he wanted the story of salvation to be known.  He wanted everyone to confess their sins and believe in Jesus for forgiveness.  He used the opportunity he had to spread that message.  We also use the opportunities that we have to tell people about Jesus.  The story of his death and resurrection is not a surprise to us, but it still is to some.  Some have still never heard it, and God’s wants them to.  Pray that God will allow us to continue to serve him and share him with others, to his glory.  We have his promise that, through our efforts, God will continue to “glorify[y] his servant Jesus.”  Amen.