Summary: Peter’s sermon from Acts 3 gives us the essentials of what evangelism needs to be about.
At the dramatic conclusion of the musical, Camelot, the tragic figure of King Arthur calls a boy named Tom out of the bushes. Arthur dubs the boy a “Knight of the Round Table,” but orders him not to fight in the battle. He is to “grow up and grow strong” in order to tell of the ideals and accomplishments of Camelot so future generations would remember. A similar scene takes place in the graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 (recently released as a feature film). One of the Spartans has lost an eye, so Leonidas sends him back to tell the citizens to “Remember us!” as the dying heroes’ way of saying that “Freedom has a cost.” Of course, Miller was kinder to Aristodemus than Herodotus was—the Greek historian noting that Aristodemus was considered a “craven,” a coward until he redeemed himself at the Battle of Plataea.
Today is Memorial Day weekend. For some, it has little meaning other than a day off and the running of the Indianapolis 500. Yet, the origin of the day began with remembering the dead in the War of Northern Aggression—the women of Pennsylvania who decorated Union graves in August of 1864, the women of Virginia who decorated Confederate graves in April of 1865, and the women of Columbus, MS who decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate dead—prompting Horace Greeley’s editorial and the subsequent events which called for national observance of such memorials. This day reminds us of all our war dead, hence that freedom has a cost.
In this morning’s text, Peter also calls on the crowd to remember. He even asks them to remember their own craven acts. Though God glorified His servant, His child—Jesus, the crowd had delivered Him up (handed him over as a criminal) and denied Him—the very Holy and Righteous One. Let’s read it, but since we’ve already read it in the King James Version, please indulge me with my translation as we go through the text.
13) The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, The God of Jacob, [and] the God of our [very own] fathers, glorified His servant/son, Jesus, [while] you [on the other hand] delivered Him [into custody] and rejected Him to Pilate’s face [or “in the presence of Pilate”] when he [Pilate] judged Him to be set free,
Whenever the Jews remembered God who provided their hope and salvation, they would almost always begin with a recitation of their beginnings: Abraham who left everything behind to follow God, Isaac who became God’s laugh as the miracle child of Promise, Jacob who overcame his selfish nature after wrestling with his own ambition and with God Himself, and all of the fathers who predicted that God wasn’t finished with them, yet. The Jews had thought that they were the “suffering servant,” but Peter quotes from Isaiah 52:13 in the Septuagint when he says that God has glorified his “servant.” Peter is saying, first of all, that the Jews need to remember God’s promises to them and that God would glorify a servant. Then, Peter goes a step further because the same noun can mean “child” as well as “servant.” So, Peter is laying the foundation for claiming Jesus as God’s SON.
14) But you, you [for emphasis] rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a man, a murderer to be given to you,
It is human nature for us not to like our failings to be pointed out to us. Students who aren’t exceptional really hate the “curve raisers” and “teacher’s pets” in school. And the Jews hated having the Sinless One show that they themselves weren’t perfect. They would rather have had a murderer, thief, and traitor in their midst than the sinless Son of God.
15) But you killed the Author of Life [or Point Person/Leader of Life] Whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.
Now, is this verse ironic? They asked for a murderer and killed the “author of life.” Instead of remembering God’s promises, they went against them. But God reversed the field on them. God raised Him (the ironically murdered Author of Life) from death to life.
16) And by means of His name, this one you observe and know, His name made strong and faith through Jesus has made him complete—this in front of all of you.
Of course, this is what Peter was getting to in his sermon. By means of the person and authority of Jesus Christ, this man was made strong and made complete. In verse 15, Peter claimed himself and the other apostles as eye-witnesses who could testify in a court of law to Jesus’ resurrection. Now, he says that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead was what raised this lame man to his feet and kept him there. And the kicker is that the crowd has become eye witnesses. THEY have seen the power of life at work as it is found in the name of Jesus.