Summary: After Easter. The good news of the resurrection life.
THE GOOD NEWS OF THE RESURRECTION LIFE.
A) Acts 3:12-19.
The occasion of this Sermon was after the healing of a crippled man who used to sit begging below a gate called ‘Beautiful’ – a huge brass gate which, according to Josephus, far outshone all the silver and gold in the Temple. When the crippled man asked Peter and John for alms, Peter famously replied,
‘Silver and gold have I none;
But such as I have, give I unto you:
In the Name of Jesus Christ
Of Nazareth rise up and walk’ (Acts 3:6).
Then Peter courteously took him by the hand - and the feet and ankles of the crippled man received strength (Acts 3:7). This was the same gesture, and the same word (‘arise’) as the Lord Jesus had used towards the dead daughter of a certain ruler of the synagogue (Luke 8:54). The formerly crippled man leapt to his feet, and entered the Temple with Peter and John,
‘Walking and leaping,
And praising God’ (Acts 3:8).
Doctor Luke emphasises the fact of this healing by referring to the man ‘walking’ at least three times. Not only did he walk, but he ‘leapt like a deer’ (cf. Isaiah 35:6), and praised God. What a call to worship! What a way to gather a congregation!
In these post-Easter days, is God telling us to arise? ‘Rise, take up your bed, and walk’ (John 5:8). ‘Come forth’ from the deadness which has taken hold upon your life (John 11:43). ‘Arise, shine’ for the glory of the Lord has risen upon you (Isaiah 60:1). Tap into the resurrection power which is yours in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:11)!
The crowd who gathered in Solomon’s ‘Porch’ (Acts 3:11; cf. John 10:23) – a long row of covered columns which ran the whole length of the eastern wall of the outer court of the Temple – did not gather to hear a Sermon, but to witness and wonder at the results of a miracle (Acts 3:10). However, Peter did not miss this second opportunity to address his countrymen on the back of an undeniable mighty act of God (cf. Acts 2:14).
First of all, said Peter, why are you so amazed? This mighty work is not on account of our power or piety (Acts 3:12). Even faithful Israelites might make the same mistake as the inhabitants of Lycaonia, who reckoned that Paul and Barnabas were something other than mere men (Acts 14:11-13). Also Christians, please give heed: it is not the great preachers who make converts, nor the pastors of this or that denomination or persuasion, but God Himself!
Now comes the painful bit: it is your God, O Israel, who glorified His Son Jesus; whom you (collectively) delivered up and “denied” (Acts 3:13). That word must have jolted Peter’s memory (cf. Luke 22:61). At this point the Apostle could have added, in honest humility - as all preachers must do - ‘I speak not only to you, but also to myself!’
Pilate was willing to let Him go, but you (we) preferred a murderer and “killed” the Prince of “life” (Acts 3:14-15).
‘Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble!’
Then comes the good news, for all mankind: God raised Him from the dead (Acts 3:15). It is by His name, through faith in His name - ‘by grace through faith’ (Ephesians 2:8) - that this healing is accomplished in your presence (Acts 3:16).
Peter categorises the unbelief that sent Jesus to the Cross as a sin of ignorance (Acts 3:17). There is such a thing as a sacrifice for sins of ignorance (Numbers 15:27-29), and Jesus invoked this prayer when He was crucified (Luke 23:34). Paul also admitted ignorance in his former form of life (1 Timothy 1:13).
In fact none of the major stage players in the drama of the crucifixion knew what it was all about (1 Corinthians 2:7-8). Yet God knew, and had fore-ordained it, predicting the sufferings of Christ through the prophets of old (Acts 3:18; cf. Acts 3:20-26).
This is not to make an excuse on behalf of the offenders, but in order to inform them (us) of the need, and the availability, of repentance (Acts 3:19). When we turn in faith to Jesus, our sins are blotted out and erased from the file. Then we are refreshed by the Lord, renewed and revived, finding our rest at last in Him.
B) Psalm 4:1-8.
It is because we have had experience of answered prayer in the past that we can expect answered prayer for the future. It is because we are ‘the righteousness of God’ in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21) that we can ‘boldly approach the throne of grace’ (Hebrews 4:16) and have the audacity to implore God in the imperative as the Psalmist does here. “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness” (Psalm 4:1a) is not self-righteousness but living faith-in-action!