A Warning to Israel: Peter’s Sermon Part 2

by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)

It was important to show that the God who had healed this crippled man was the same God their fathers worshipped, and that they were not to introduce the worship of any other God. And it was especially important, because the promise had been made to Abraham that “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). And in Galatians 3:16 we read, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” Peter was wise to introduce them to this notion, because it showed them that He whom they called their God had acknowledged Jesus Christ as His Son, and produced this miracle in His name; and, in that way honoring Jesus whom they slew—he charged them with that murder and he drove it home, so they felt guilty.


Were the Jews guilty of the death of Jesus? Yes, but so were the Gentiles. The Romans would not have crucified Jesus without the Jews, and the Jews could not have crucified Jesus without the Romans. God made certain that both Jew and Gentile shared in the guilt of Jesus’ death. In fact, it was not political intrigue or circumstances that put Jesus on the cross. It was our sin. If you want to know who put Jesus on the cross, look at me – or look in the mirror.


“Hath glorified” means has honored. You denied, despised, and murdered Him, but God has exalted and honored Him. God has glorified his Son Jesus; by raising him from the dead, setting him at his own right hand, and giving him the gifts of the Spirit; which he bestowed on the apostles, and by virtue of this they produced this miracle, which was a means of setting forth the glory of Christ, and of creating in men the desire to glorify Him, or assigning honor and glory to Him. And in order to awaken their minds, to convict them of their sin, ingratitude, and folly, the apostle adds, This miracle was done in the "name" of Jesus—“Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). It was the "power of God" that had restored the man; and by displaying this power in a miracle that many had witnessed, God had shown that he approved the work of His Son, and was willing to honor Him in plain view of people.


“Ye delivered up,” that is, you delivered him to the Romans to be put to death.


“And denied him in the presence of Pilate (the Roman governor),” indicates that some in the crowd that day were present when Jesus was put on trial at Pilate’s palace. They denied that he was the Messiah. They were unwilling to accept Him as their long-expected King—“But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15).


Pilate was persuaded of His innocence, and “he was determined to let him go”; but he was weak, timid, and indecisive, and he yielded to their wishes—“But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.” The fact that Pilate regarded Him as innocent made their crime worse. They should have considered him innocent; but they pressured Pilate to have Him crucified, and that showed how adamantly they were resolved that He should be put to death. Take note of the heroic courage of Peter here, as he charges his hearers with the heaviest of all conceivable crimes, and of the terrific strength of language in which these charges are clothed!


14 But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;

The word in the Hebrew which is translated here as "Holy One" means "One who is tenderly and piously devoted to another," and corresponds to the expression used in the New Testament, "my beloved Son." It is also used by Peter, to indicate "One that is holy, that is set apart to God." In this sense, it is applied to Christ, either as His being set apart to the office of Savior, or as Him being so pure that it is proper to designate him by means of His Eminence the Holy One, or the Holy One of God. It is used several times as the well-known designation of the Messiah: Mark 1:24, "I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God"; Luke 4:34; Acts 3:14, "But ye denied the Holy One, and the just…” Luke 1:35, "That holy thing that is born of thee shall be called the Son of God."


The word "just," as it is used here means "innocent," or "one who was free from crime." It is used in reference to law, and denotes "one who stands upright in the view of the law, or who is not chargeable with crime." In this sense, the Lord Jesus was not only personally innocent, but even before his judges he stood innocent of any crime. The first crime with which He was charged was blasphemy—“Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy” (Matthew 26:65), and the Sanhedrin condemned him on this charge without proof. But Pilate refused to acknowledge the validity of this charge, and therefore they charged him with sedition—“And they began to accuse him, saying , We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King” (Luke 23:2). Neither of these charges were true, and of course, in the eye of the law, he was innocent and just. What made their crime so bad was that they demanded his death, even after it was established that they could prove nothing against Him, thus showing that it was mere hatred and meanness that led them to seek His death.


But ye denied the Holy One, and the just, of course, refers to Jesus Christ, who is "holy" in both His divine and human natures, and the fountain of holiness to His people—“For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” (Psalm 16:10)—and He is "just" or "righteous,” both in His person, and in the discharge of His office, and has produced a righteousness for his people, which is imputed to them. These characteristics of our Lord may have to do with His purity as a man, and to the innocence of His life, and the harmlessness of His actions, in opposition to the unjust charges of His enemies, and the shameful and dreadful treatment He received at the hands of those who denied that He was the Christ, the Redeemer and Saviour.


Peter boldly lays the guilt of Jesus’ death squarely where it belongs. Pilate, the Roman governor, was determined to let Him go, but the Jewish mob insisted on the crucifixion of Jesus (See John 18:29-19:16) .When Pilate gave them a choice of who he would release to them, Christ or Barabbas, they demanded the release of Barabbas, a thief, and a robber, who, along with others, had provoked an insurrection and committed murder; and after he agreed to their request, he asked them what he should do with Christ, to which they replied by shouting, “Crucify Him!” They desired an act of mercy for Barabbas, and a sentence of death for Christ and that it should be the most shameful, dreadful, and painful possible. When Barabbas left his cell that day, he fully expected that he would be put to death; but instead, he was free and Jesus of Nazareth would die in his place; but Jesus did not only take his place; He took my place and yours too—the innocent suffered and died for the guilty and ungodly.


Were the Jews guilty of the death of Jesus? Yes, but so were the Gentiles. The Romans would not have crucified Jesus without the Jews, and the Jews could not have crucified Jesus without the Romans. God made certain that both Jew and Gentile shared in the guilt of Jesus’ death. In fact, it was not political intrigue or circumstances that put Jesus on the cross. It was our sin. If you want to know who put Jesus on the cross, look at me – or look in the mirror.


Peter was not afraid to confront their sin, and he shows amazing boldness. “One commentator says that the miracle of the speech of Peter is a far more wonderful one than the miracle wrought in the healing of the man who lay at the Beautiful Gate.” (Morgan)


15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

The charge Peter made against the Jews was that they “killed the Prince of life,” or author of life; natural, spiritual, and eternal. Jesus, who is not only the living God, and has life in himself; but as man, he had power over his own life, such as no man ever had before or since; and He is the author of a spiritual resurrection from the death of sin, to a life of grace, and has procured eternal life for his people, and gives it to them. This Lord of life and glory was the one they crucified, only a few weeks earlier. His death is laid at their feet because it was at their request, and through their instigation, and at their fierce insistence, that Pilate condemned Him to death, and gave Him to his soldiers for the express purpose of crucifying Him.

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