GETTING THE MESSAGE/Acts 2:22-23
Here Peter is continuing his sermon (at Pentecost) in which he has explained the phenomenon of speaking in tongues. Peter had quoted the prophet Joel first in his explanation. The Holy Spirit was being poured out as Joel had proclaimed. The ability to speak in foreign languages was from the power of God. Those speaking in tongues declared the “mighty works of God (verse 11).”
Peter now points the multitude to the reason all this is happening: to shed light on Jesus of Nazareth (verse 22). If Peter didn’t have their full attention before, he does now. They all knew who Jesus of Nazareth was. Pilate, when he had Jesus crucified, also ordered an inscription to be put on the cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”
Peter says the Jews also knew of the “mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst.” These were historical, verifiable events. They were not vague, cloudy miracles. The blind were made to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, lepers made clean, thousands fed out of very little; such as these and much more done instantly. These were plain works of God.
They all knew it. Yet they wanted him crucified. It was a paradigm of sinful man’s attitude toward God. The miracle of creation is obvious and proclaims the glory of God daily, yet men do not honor God. The miracles Jesus did point us to what we need him to do for us; give us eyes to see, ears to hear him; to make us clean from sin. Peter turns the focus on Christ.
The sermon is good news. It is about God’s love in sending Christ into the world to die for sinners. Peter emphasizes the sovereign plan of God in salvation: “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God (verse 23).”
Peter will point out (in the rest of his sermon) that the Scriptures predicted Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension. Jesus didn’t suffer by chance or because he lacked power to deliver himself. He submitted himself to the sovereign will of God, which was to lay the iniquity of men upon him.
This is a very humbling truth in many ways. By emphasizing the sovereignty of God in the death of Jesus, Peter is saying to the people that they had been given over to their sinful nature. When the sinful nature is revealed for what it is, it manifests the desire to put to death God, to live apart from the will and glory of God.
Peter says the crowd is culpable for the death of Jesus: “You crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” By lawless men Peter means those who did not have the word of God (Romans); the Jews considered such men unclean. By giving Jesus over to them to be crucified shows the depth of their vitriol toward him.
We should notice that Peter, who previously had denied (to a servant girl) he knew Jesus of Nazareth, now is accusing a multitude of people of murdering Jesus of Nazareth. The boldness of apostolic preaching characterizes the book of Acts, as well as the humble appeal to men to be saved.
Peter not only accuses them of murder, he says they did it in spite of the obvious fact that God did mighty works through Jesus. Peter has revealed a crisis that only the gospel can remedy. As bad as their sin of killing Jesus is, Peter will also assure them that God’s grace in Christ is sufficient for the forgiveness of sins.
John Bunyan, (Pilgrim’s Progress), wrote a book, “The Jerusalem Sinner Saved.” The Jerusalem sinner is the worst of sinners; countless privileges from God, yet is so far from God he mocks, spits on, abuses, and puts to death the Son of God. Yet, in Christ, God invites and welcomes him into the kingdom of God and gives him eternal life; adopts him as his son.
We learn here that there is no justifying our sinful nature. We are without excuse in our sin. We are by nature blind to the glory of God with our sin and self. But where sin abounded, grace abounded more. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and destroy their sinful nature.
We also learn what a treasure is the wisdom only God can give; the wisdom to know myself, my God, and my Savior. Grace will make us malleable to hear God when he calls.