What the atonement did I
What the atonement did III: Defining Love
What the atonement did IV: Only because of the atonement

I want to take Luke’s account of Simon Peter’s second sermon in two parts:

Part one: Reconciliation in action (3.1-10)

Part two: Reconciliation expounded (3.11-26)

Part one: Reconciliation in action-

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Acts 3.1-10

A story:

Just over the mountains, on the other side of the lake, there is a town. This town is full of people who want to show their king (yes, this town has a king… I know that’s unusual, but hey, its my story. Now where was I…) how thankful they are for His attention. You see, this town is poor. In fact, they only things that they have that are of any value, even the land it’s self, was given to them by their king. These people are very thankful and very proud that the king would give them all these good things, so every day they go into the courtyard of the king, and sing songs to him.

But, not everyone in the town is allowed in. The people of the town say among them selves that people with stripes on their arms are people that the king is not happy with, and so, people with stripes on their arms shouldn’t come into the kings courtyard. Now, you might think that it is easy to hide stripes on your arms, but in this town, everyone wheres sleeveless shirts, so it is quite easy to see who the king is happy with, and who the king is not happy with.

One day, about the time the towns folk gathered to sing songs to the king, something amazing happened. Two men saw another man who had stripes on his arms but still wanted to sing songs to the king. The two men laid their hands on the man with the stripes on his arms and told him that the king loved him and wanted to hear his voice in the songs. Instantly, the stripes were gone from the mans arms!

Well, as you can imagine, this caused quite a stir among all the people going in to sing songs to the king. The towns people began to wonder if these two men were especially liked by the king because they must be of royalty them selves. But, the two men quietly told every one that they were just townsfolk just like everyone else. The two men also said that the king loved everyone, with or without stripes on their arms, and that not only did the king want everyone to keep singing, but he was going to come and open the doors to his house one day and invite everyone who truly loved him to come live with him and eat at his table.

Tragedy does not process well. We constantly need a reason that bad things happen, be they hurricane, the death of a loved one, or a baby born into this world broken in a physical way.

To the Jewish mind (and largely to our own as well), these things were all judgements from God because of some sin. One of the clearest expressions of this type of thinking is the question posed by the Disciples when they encountered a man born blind:

“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Acts 9.2

For them, there just had to be a reason this man had such a defect, and of course it had to have something to do with some morally wrong action he or his parents had done. Obviously, this man was not worthy of a whole body.

We all have this compulsion to declare others as unworthy and unclean. We reason that if we can label what group is not favored by God, then I can thank God that I am not like them. The Rabbi’s response to such faulty thinking (expressed in both story and deed) exposes it as the ungodliness it truly is.

It is with these memories and lessons embedded deep into there newly pentecostal hearts that Peter and John enter the temple at the hour of prayer. Just outside the gateway into the courtyard, there is a man who is carried there every day, that he might beg for money. He is a physically broken man, and this brokenness keeps him from entering the temple to pray with the rest of the people of God. I’m sure plenty of people who passed by him every day keep thinking about what sin he or his parents must have committed in order to be judged in such a tragic way.

Peter addresses the man, and instead of giving him gold or some other temporal thing, Peter gives him the reality of the power of the glorified Christ. And so the once broken man now leaps for joy and praises Yahweh, for he can now enter and pray with the people of God in the House of God.

What more dynamic way to announce “Yahweh has reconciled man to Himself” than to take away what people see as a curse, and thus a separation from God due to some “unworthiness”? This action of healing is more than just some “power evangelism” tactic, it is an acting out of a faithful invitation for all who are spiritually broken to come and be friends with this God who has reconciled man to Himself.

Part two: Reconciliation expounded-

Peters sermon delves into this invitation to become a friend of God .

While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s, astounded. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name–by faith in his name–has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

Acts 3.11-26

First things first, don’t worship the messenger.

Peter’s first words to the astonished crowed stand in stark conrast to the notion that man’s power and piety earn God’s favor. This once broken man now leaps in praise only because of Jesus, the God-man; it is he who has accomplished this display of reconciliation.

So, this begs the question: who is Jesus? According to the text, Jesus is:

  • Glorified by Yahweh (the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) (vs13)
  • The Holy and Righteous one (vs 14)
  • Rejected by the people of Israel (vs 14)
  • The Author of life (vs 15)
  • Killed by the people and raised from the dead by Yahweh (vs 15)
  • Messiah (vs 18)
  • the Prophet Moses spoke of (vs 22)
  • The fulfillment of Yahweh’s covenant to Abraham (vs 25)

Faith in this name -the authority and total character- of Jesus Christ is the only reason this man now has perfect health (vs 16). Peter and John might be proclaiming the name of Jesus, they may be acting in His name, but make no mistake: it is all about Jesus. Peter and John are no more than ambassadors on behalf of Jesus. Their message is from Jesus and the deeds done are an extension and affirmation of all that he has accomplished: reconciliation.

Be turned from your wicked ways.

The core of the evangelistic (think proclamation of good tidings, not proselytizing) call to respond to the name and work of Jesus is found in vs 17-21:

“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.”

Repent” is the crux of this whole passage. Peter gives three reasons to repent:

  1. Previously we acted in ignorance. Just as the people did not know that Jesus is the Author of life and (ironically) thus chose a murder over him (vs 14), we too have not known who it is that we have rejected. Since now you know who Jesus actually is, repent (vs 17, 19).
  2. Repent because in Jesus’ work God has fulfilled all he first announced through the prophets. (vs 18)
  3. Repent and turn to God for blessing. (vs19-21)

I want to look specifically at this third point: Peter calls for repentance and turning to God so that our sins might be blotted out, that God might bring times of refreshing to our lives, and so that when the time of universal restoration comes, the Messiah will come for us.

This is the heart of God’s reconciliation of man to himself. This is what the healing offered a taste of. It is the idea of shalom. According to Isaiah 9, peace- this shalom- is not just something Jesus will bring to pass; He is the very Prince of Shalom!

These verses give us a proclamation of reconciliation: God has come not to bridge the gap between us and He, but rather to erase the chasm all together (blotting our sins out), bring us new life (times of refreshing), and to include us in universal restoration (Shalom). This is offered for all who will repent and turn to God, and this is exactly what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 5.18-19:

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Simon’s second speech (both the miracle that sparks it and the sermon) points us toward the reality of reconciliation. It does not deal with how Jesus’s atonement works, but rather that the person and action of Jesus accomplish reconciliation for all who will believe. We are given a picture of that reconciliation in real life as a man’s “curse” is taken away, and we are left with the call to repent and take part in the reconciliation Jesus has accomplished.