For the second time in Acts we see Peter taking the lead in an incredibly bold fashion. Here is the same guy who denied knowing Christ just two months earlier! He is in a most public of places, preaching a message that is nothing short of an “in your face” sermon telling people that they had certainly better repent.
The miracle in the temple of the lame man walking and hanging onto Peter and John created quite a spectacle, as people came rushing to see what had happened. It was in a location of the temple known as Solomon’s Colonnade, or the Portico of Solomon – a series of columns on the east side that afforded a public place of gathering for even a sizeable group.
Peter realizes that the people are looking at him as if he had some magical power, and he immediately deflects that errant conclusion by pointing rather to the name of Jesus as the source of the healing. He identifies Christ as the “servant” – connecting Jesus to the suffering servant Scripture of Isaiah 53.
And Peter then takes off on a very harsh indictment of these Jewish listeners … “YOU handed him over, YOU disowned him, YOU killed the author of life!” You will recall that Pilate was ready to release Jesus, having found no fault in him; but it was the cry of the crowd for a murderer instead to be released. The nation was guilty – complicit in hanging their own Messiah on a Roman cross. They blew it!
BUT, Peter softens the tone, telling them that he understands they did this in ignorance as those who did not know the Scriptures. The prophets over the years were clear, as they had predicted the coming of a Messiah who would suffer. And through this, the greater plan of God would be accomplished of a savior for the world. God’s heart for the world is evident in the final verses of this chapter where the covenant with Abraham is mentioned – a promise from God that not only had ramifications first for the nation of Israel, but more largely spoke of the universal blessings to accrue to all people.
The problem of their rejection was a big one! But the opportunity to repent from this error and trust in Jesus was bigger yet! It was not too late. If they would turn around (the meaning of repentance), they would experience a new time of refreshment of God’s blessing and acceptance.
When we think of preaching a message of repentance, we think too often of some whacky street preacher with a sandwich board, a loud voice, multi-colored hair, and the crazed look of a guy who just touched an electrical wire in a rainstorm! We might picture an activist sort of preacher confronting people at a gay rights rally or some other function – where the primary message being preached sounds more like judgmental condemnation rather than love, life, and forgiveness. And that is unfortunate, because the message of repentance is the best news out there. It is saying that, even though you’ve messed up in the most gargantuan ways, you can turn away from that and turn to God without fear that He is going to whack you big-time. Instead, He is going to be the father who welcomes you home. Repentance is a good thing … REPENT!
Peter Speaks to the Onlookers – Acts 3:11-26
11 While the man held on to Peter and John, all the people were astonished and came running to them in the place called Solomon’s Colonnade. 12 When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14 You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.
17 “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer.19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. 23 Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’
24 “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days.25 And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ 26 When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”