Thursday 28 April 2011

Bible Book:

"When God raised up his servant; he sent him first to you, to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways." (v. 26)

Acts 3:11-26 Thursday 28 April 2011


This is a monumental passage of Scripture: so bold in itspresentation and so grand in its scope. After the miraculous healing at the gate of the temple,the people of Jerusalem are amazed and come rushing after Peter andJohn in search of an explanation. Peter (getting more accustomed topublic speaking) addresses the Israelite people there. The healingmiracle itself served only to get the people's attention and pointthem to the bigger news he had for them - news of prophecy and deephistory being fulfilled. This speech is clearly aimed at a Jewishaudience: reminding the listeners of significant points of theirhistory, unlocking doors to understanding the words of old, anduncovering windows through which they might glimpse God's bigpicture.

Peter's second sermon compliments and builds on his first (Acts2:14-39), using many mysterious phrases and ideas drawn fromthe Hebrew Scriptures - ones the audience would know well, but nowwith a new light shone on them. First, Peter emphasises that it'sonly in the power and name of Jesus that the lame man was healed.He makes the point that it's their God (...of Abraham, of Isaac, ofJacob, of their ancestors - verse 13) who's responsible - not somewitchcraft or foreign deity. Their God has glorified God's ownservant (see Isaiah 42:152:13), Jesus. In verse 14 he calls Jesus "theHoly and Righteous One" (see Isaiah24:16; 53:11) and tells again the story of Good Friday,saying that the people killed the "Author of Life" (verse 15),which connects with the Christian idea of Jesus being the Word ofGod at creation (see John1). But God has raised Jesus from the dead - the Apostles arewitnesses to that - and so it's in his name that the man washealed; a man they knew very well.

When Jesus was dying on the cross, he famously called out, "Father,forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke23:34). In the same way, Peter's aim here is not to cast blamebut to offer grace. He says it was through all of this that God'spromises are somehow fulfilled (see Isaiah53:10) and he calls them to accept God's solution: "Repenttherefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out"(verse 19). But the good news is not just about personal remissionof sins, verses 20-21 point to a much wider salvation: "times ofrefreshing" from the presence of the Lord (perhaps like the"showers of blessing" promised in Ezekiel34:26), and the return of the anointed one, God's Messiah,bringing with him the time of "universal restoration" - the renewalof all things. Peter is excited about the implications of theresurrection for the whole of creation! This restoration had onlyreally been understood previously in terms of Israel (see Joel3:1 and Amos9:14) but Peter has in his mind the overarching promise toAbraham: "in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed"(Genesis 12:3). This was to be the direction theJesus-movement headed from then on: to the ends of the earth! Butfirst, the offer of repentance and blessing was given to the peopleof Israel - God had by no means forgotten his covenantpeople.

To Ponder

How do you think the people would respond to suchan amazing message? And how do you respond?

Read Ephesians 1:5-10 - a vision for the futureof 'all things', beginning with us. Where do you see yourself inthis?

Do we sometimes make our gospel message too small- perhaps focusing solely on personal salvation? How can we, asChristians, live in a way that proclaims God's intentions for thewhole of creation? How can we be people of "universalrestoration"?

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