ACTS3v11to16: PETER'S GOSPEL MESSAGE.
(A) Introduction (Read the passage.)
The crippled beggar was healed in a public place and news of the miracle spread like wild fire. It wasn't long before Solomon's Colonnade in the temple was thronged with people. Peter used the opportunity to give a fine, vigorous and stirring testimony to Jesus. It is a glorious declaration of the power and effectiveness of the risen Christ.
(B) Jesus was rejected.
Peter leaves his hearers in no doubt that they had rejected Jesus. They had disowned him, handed him over to be killed and chosen a murderer to be released in his place. The Jewish people rejected Jesus as:
One of the reasons that Jesus failed to impress his countrymen was that he did not look the part. He wasn't regal in his appearance. Isaiah writes: He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him. Is53v2. It was hard to tell Jesus from his Galilean cousins, James and John. That is one of the reasons Judas had to identify Jesus to the officers of the High Priest. His speech wasn't cultured. He spoke like a country boy from Galilee. Finally, his bearing was not distinguished. Jesus did not seem at all like a king to Pilate. He almost treated the accusation of the Chief Priests and Pharisees as a joke. Whatever Jesus was, Pilate remained convinced he posed no threat to Caeser.
Jesus was the sort of man who important people would not necessarily provide a bowl of water in which to to wash his feet but did have the services of a prostitute's tears. There are not many men of whom that could be said!
It is very helpful in life to look the part. Recently I attended the funeral of a well-known Christian. A highly impressive clergyman gave the eulogy. He was tall, good looking and with a fine head of hair. What an asset a good head of hair is! The clergyman spoke with a mellow cultured voice and he exuded confidence and authority. He was the sort of man who would always get good service in a restaurant. Jesus wasn't.
It is very easy to be underestimated and undervalued if you do not live up to people's expectations. Anthony Trollope was held in low personal esteem because he was too loud. The Corinthian church underrated Paul because of his physical limitations and lack of oratory. The Jewish people disowned the Lord of Glory because he seemed in many ways such an ordinary man. We need to be very, very, careful not to judge a man or woman on appearances.
(b) The Holy and Righteous One.
He said, "Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the market-places"...... One of the experts in the law answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also." Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them." Luke11v43to46. Luke also tells us that at the end of what seemed a succession of insults to the Pharisees and lawyers they began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say. Luke11v53and52.
Very few can accept criticism without resentment. Hilaire Belloc did not receive a fellowship at Oxford University, in spite of getting a First Class degree, because he had made disparaging remarks about stuffy dons. He had rocked the boat. Anthony Trollope, after sterling work at the Post Office, was not given the job of Assistant Secretary because he, too, had been liberal with his criticisms. I was never popular with Senior Management as a teacher because I hated political correctness in its many guises and opposed any initiative that increased the teacher's workload without improving the quality of teaching. There was a price to pay for my fierce outspokenness!
We must expect to be disowned by the people who could advance our careers or reputations if we, like Jesus, rock the boat whether it be in secular employment or church affairs.
(c) The author of life.
Plenty of people still find this sort of teaching very disagreeable. I have a close relative who rejected Jesus altogether because of his teaching on marriage - teaching that made him feel intolerably guilty when he divorced his wife.
Many in Britain disown the author of life because they want freedom to live as they see fit. They will not be preached at, either by church leaders, or by Christ himself. The silent cry goes up from innumerable rebel British hearts: "We will not have this man to reign over us." AV Luke19v14.
(C) Jesus was exalted.
Peter told the crowd: "You disowned the Holy and Righteous One but the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus." v13.
At the end of the autumn term in 1959 I submitted a poem to the school magazine. It was entitled, 'An old lay preacher's embarrassing encounter with prunes.' The poem dealt with a simple country preacher's efforts to dispose of his prune stones in polite company. He retained them in his mouth and then:
Cos my owld mouth 'gin to toire,
Sew as I did tawlk in pleasent toons
Oi spat them pips in the foire.
My school friends didn't think much of my efforts. "It's rubbish," they said. "You'll never get that published." I expect you agree with them! Indeed as I read the poem now - I agree with them! However, the one man who mattered - the editor of the school magazine - appreciated it. When the Old Burian for January 1960 was issued there was my poem in all its glory. For once, my friends were well and truly lost for words. I was triumphant. Mr Pat Nobes, English master and editor, had exalted me.
Jesus was rejected by almost everybody but not by the one who really mattered. God did not disown him. Paul writes: "Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth. Phil2v9and10. Jesus will have his day!
If God exalted Jesus so should we. I watched a touching TV programme about the English boxer, Michael Watson, who had a brain haemorrhage after being knocked out by Chris Eubank. Watson received a visit from his hero, Mohammed Ali, while he was still paralysed. Ali didn't say much, just, "You are the man! You're nearly as pretty as me!" Watson said that he felt exalted by Ali's visit. He felt better and his amazing recovery dated from that moment. I was moved by what this personal encounter with the great American boxer and charismatic figure achieved. However, better was to follow. At the end of the programme Michael Watson was shown climbing some narrow stairs and crossing a crowded room. He was in church. There he sang his Saviour's praises and led the meeting in prayer - thanking God, thanking God. Michael Watson had encountered someone greater than Mohammed Ali; someone who helped even more in his recovery. The TV programme ended with Christ being exalted - praise his name.
The wonderful hope of the Christian is that he will share in the exaltation of Jesus. Paul, writing to the Ephesians says: And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. Eph2v6and7. We might feel unappreciated sometimes. Perhaps our talents are unrecognised and our best efforts disregarded. If we are doing our best to serve Jesus, the author of life will award us a crown of righteousness in the day of his appearing.
(D) Jesus is effective.
Peter was able to say to the astonished crowd: "Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we made this man walk? ...... By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong." v12, v15.
Jesus' finished work and his exaltation by God to glory has made him effective on earth. Jesus has not retired to heaven to bask in the Father's approval and the adoration of angels. He has not cut himself off, or been cut off, from the world of men. This is what happens when we retire. We withdraw from our life's work. Our employer no longer wants our involvement. We become ineffective in our former sphere of operation. One day you are a valued member of staff and the next one of yesterday's men. God has not dispensed with Jesus' services. He remains effective:
(b) It is faith in Jesus and not faith in a well-known Christian leader, the church or, indeed, faith itself that changes lives. I was talking to a younger brother only last week at my aunt's eightieth birthday party when he said, "You are lucky to have a faith to sustain you." It isn't my faith that helps me through life but Jesus. People on Songs of Praise often talk about the importance of their faith. It is a pity they do not speak more of the importance of Jesus. He is the man!
(c) Peter asked the men of Israel why they should be surprised at the healing of the cripple. They did not expect miracles to happen. A lot of us who worship in small declining churches no longer expect the showers of blessing. We have almost lost our belief in Jesus' power to save.
In the September 2001 issue of Evangelicals Now there was an article by Jen Watkin entitled, 'What happens when schoolgirls pray.' It was about her experience as a teenager in the school Christian Union thirty years ago. This is what Jen writes:
It is to our shame that if dramatic conversions occurred in our church we would be very surprised.
(d) Peter magnified Jesus. He and John denied playing any part in healing the crippled beggar. It was not through any power or godliness of theirs that the man was walking and jumping and praising God. In the words of the children's hymn:
He can change a heart, give a fresh new start,
Only He can do all this.