“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”‘ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:22-41 ESV)
This or that. Here or there. Choices. Decisions. We make them every day. Sometimes they are easy and sometimes they are hard. Sometimes they have little or no consequences like, do you want vanilla or chocolate? Sometimes they have long lasting consequences like, should we divorce or work things out? Sometimes they have eternal consequences like, is Jesus the promised Messiah and Savior of mankind or just a good, moral man who tried to make a difference in a corrupt and immoral society?
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit and impassioned with zeal for proclaiming the grace of God and the gospel of Christ, lays out the choices that the crowd had made regarding the man, Jesus. First, he recounts the evidence of Christ’s calling by citing the “mighty works and wonders and signs” that attested to God’s power and authority in Christ.
It is easy to skip right over that statement and miss the implications. It is easy to overlook the consequences of assuming Jesus is just like every other religious figure. Many assume that Jesus is just another religious leader with another plan for knowing and relating to God. Just one of many. A choice. A preference like vanilla or chocolate. Take your pick. It doesn’t matter which way, which path, which religion or leader, just choose one and be committed. But not too committed because that’s dangerous and leads to extremism or irrational decisions and religious zealots.
“Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’” (John 15:23-25 ESV)
Peter’s statement is intended to stress the very essence of who Jesus is, the Messiah or Son of God as evidenced by what God did in and through Him and no other. In fact, notice in the verse I just cited that Jesus makes the SAME claim… “works that no one else did.” Jesus isn’t one of many. He’s not even one of just a few. He’s the ONE and ONLY! He’s unique in the story of human history.
So, how is Jesus unique in human history and how does He lead us to God in a way that is missing from all of the other major religions of the world? Not only was Jesus life marked by “mighty works, wonders and signs” but He fulfilled God’s purpose and plan of redemption. Peter refers to this as the “definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” Other religious leaders have sought to know and find a way to achieve a sense of peace and union with God using various forms of human religious achievement. They taught that you just need to make an offering, perform some ritual, obey specific rules, but it always requires some human effort and achievement.
The message of Christ (the Biblical gospel) is that all of our efforts at finding or reaching for God have fallen short of the mark because our actions have fallen short of being righteous (see Rom. 3:22-25). Our religious actions are generally intended to achieve something for our own benefit. We tend to seek God for what we gain or receive from those actions and not because He IS God and simply deserves to be honored, worshipped, obeyed and adored. Our religious views and actions are very pragmatic. We tend to keep doing them only when they produce the results we hope to see.
So, what does this have to do with the passage (or story) we are considering today? Well, next Peter charges those hearing his message with guilt in killing Jesus, God’s promised Messiah. Many of those present were likely not in the crowd who called for Jesus’ crucifixion, but Peter says they are just as guilty. Why? They are seeing the very fulfillment of God’s prophecy and they are attributing it to drunkenness instead of God. Just like the crowd on that fateful day seven weeks earlier (the Passover presentation made by Pilate – man/Barabbas or God/Jesus ), they must decide if what they are seeing and hearing this day is of God or of man. They are faced with a choice and you are too… But, hang on. There’s more evidence.
Peter also appeals to King David and the prophecies they find in the Psalms or David’s songs. David tells of seeing His Lord at His right hand and that the Holy One will not see corruption. Peter clarifies that David could not have been speaking of himself (their understanding of this Psalm) for David’s tomb still exists and David’s body still lies within it (corrupted by death). So, he must have meant someone else and that someone, as evidenced by the resurrection, is Jesus! Peter goes on to point out that all of the men and women standing before them are eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection.
So, why is the message of Jesus different from other religions? Why is His path the ONLY path to God? Why is He unique and the ONE and ONLY Son of God? Why should you follow Him exclusively and abandon the others? Again, in the Psalms, David states that “the Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” So, Peter states emphatically that this Jesus, whom the crowd had crucified, God has declared to be both Lord and Christ. Jesus isn’t just some kind of holy prophet, messenger of God or good moral teacher like every other religion seeks but He is Lord and Christ. In other words, He is God in human flesh. God among us.
When Peter clarifies the situation for the crowd, they realize the implications and ask, “Brothers, what shall we do?” They’ve been presented with the ultimate choice, will they pursue their own will or God’s. Some choices are easy, some are hard. Some have little or no impact on life, others change everything about your life. This choice is one of those. It will change everything. It will change it towards God and His purpose and plan or it will direct you away from God and His purpose. What shall we do?
Peter’s answer to them is the same answer God presents to you, today. What shall we do? Repent and be baptized in the name of Christ for the forgiveness of your sin. To repent is to turn from sin and towards Christ. Your making a decision to stop pursuing your will and to start pursuing God’s will for your life. I need to be very blunt and honest with you, though. Our culture doesn’t buy into this view of salvation. They perceive the message of the Gospel as “God loves us just as we are and has no desire to change us.” But, please hear me clearly on this. If we don’t need to be changed then we don’t need salvation or Christ and Jesus didn’t need to die. If your life isn’t full of sin and rebellion against God’s will, then the entire Bible story is wrong and none of this really makes any sense.
But, that’s where our culture is wrong. Deadly wrong. We are in need of forgiveness because we are living in absolute rebellion against God’s will for our lives. Peter is right, repent and be baptized because of the forgiveness and remission of your sin. Let me simply end with Peter’s admonition and one observation, ”save yourselves from this crooked generation.” A crooked generation can’t generally see its own crookedness because it isn’t looking far enough ahead. They are so focused on the fulfillment of their own desires they are unable to see where those desires are taking them, farther and farther from God. To pursue God is to love Him above all else and our modern culture is teaching us to love ourselves and our desires above all else.
To do so is to cry out with the crowd, “Crucify Him!” and to stand condemned by Peter’s words… choose wisely.