"Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which 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. But God raised him up, having loosed 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; moreover my flesh will dwell in hope, for thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy Holy One see corruption. Thou has made known to me the ways of life; thou wilt make me full of gladness with thy presence.'
"Brethren, I may say to you confidently of 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 upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of 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 which you see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens; but he himself says, 'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet.' Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."
I am going to ask you this morning if you killed Jesus, the Lord of glory. And I am going to assume that your first reaction will be a feeling of denial and resentment that something so far away could even begin to be laid at your feet. But the reason I ask it anyway is because I think that would have been the reaction of hundreds of the people Peter was talking to when he told them they had killed Jesus.
How Can Peter Say, "YOU Crucified Jesus"?
Remember that he is talking to several thousand Jewish people in Jerusalem (3,000 are going to be converted, v. 41!). Many of these people had nothing directly to do with the death of Jesus. Even if many of them were among the mobs that shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" you know that in a crowd this large there were a good number who did not do that—they weren't even there on that day. But Peter doesn't seem to be worried about that. In verse 23 he says, "This Jesus YOU killed by the hands of lawless men." And at the end, in verse 36, he says, "This Jesus YOU crucified." How can he say that?
He can say it because everybody in that crowd was involved in the crime against Jesus that brought him to his death. The essence of the crime against Jesus was not the ending of his physical life. The essence of the crime against Jesus was the rejection of God in Jesus' life. Think with me carefully about this. It is tremendously important and has major implications for us today.
Jesus was handed over to be crucified on the grounds of blasphemy. He claimed to be the Son of God (Luke 22:70–71). He claimed that God was endorsing him as Messiah (Luke 22:67–69). But the Jewish rulers rejected this role of God in Jesus' life. They called him a blasphemer. Therefore, if a person rejects the true role of God in the life of Jesus, that person votes for the charge of blasphemy. And to cast your vote on the side of blasphemy—to reject God's endorsement of Jesus—is to say in your heart, "Crucify him! Crucify him!"
So what I am asking you this morning is not: "Were you bodily there on Good Friday voting against Jesus and sending him to his death?" I'm asking, "Do you join God in his affirmation of Jesus, or do you stand against God in the life of Jesus? Do you agree with God about Jesus? Or do you reject his endorsement of Jesus?"
Five Ways in Which God Endorses Jesus
Before you answer that question, let me show you from Peter's sermon that this is really the issue. What Peter does in this sermon is show at least five ways in which God endorses Jesus. And the point of preaching in this way is show the stark contrast between the way God treats Jesus and the way the Jews treated Jesus—and perhaps the way you have treated Jesus. So as I unfold these five ways that God stands up for Jesus, examine yourself and see if you are standing with God for Jesus or casting your vote another way.
1. By Working Signs and Wonders Through Him
God endorsed Jesus by working miracles and signs and wonders through him.
Verse 22: "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know."
Notice: two times in that one sentence Peter says that God is the one at work in the miracles of Jesus. First, he says Jesus is "attested to you by God with miracles." The miracles were God's certification of Jesus. They were God's vote, God's testimony. When Jesus did a miracle, it was God's endorsement—"This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased, hear him!" (cf. Luke 9:35).
But the sentence goes on and says, " . . . signs which God did through him in your midst." There it is again. He was "attested to us by God," and, lest we miss the point, Peter emphasizes that God himself did the miracles through Jesus. God's was the power. God was in Christ to heal the sick and still the storm and cast out demons and raise the dead. While he was on the earth, God gave Jesus the fullest endorsement any human ever had. He gave him his Spirit "without measure" (John 3:34). Are we with God in this or against him?
2. By Planning His Death for the Sins of His People
God endorsed Jesus by planning his death for the sins of his people.
Verse 23: "This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men."
I can hear a superficial cynic respond to this and say, "What kind of endorsement is that? If God planned to hand over Jesus to be killed, then all he did was link arms with lawless men and help them put Jesus to death! That's not much of an endorsement."
The reason that's a superficial response is because it ignores everything else the Bible has to say about why God planned the death of Jesus. Listen to what Jesus said at the end of Luke's gospel about why God planned his death. Luke 24:46, "Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations."
In other words God planned the suffering and death of Jesus so that forgiveness of sins could be preached to all the nations (cf. Isaiah 53!). The difference between God's plan to crucify Jesus and Pilate's plan to crucify Jesus was that Pilate was rejecting Jesus as mere pretender and God was honoring Jesus as the Servant of the Lord and the Savior of the world. God planned the death of Jesus not to disown him or dishonor him or reject him, but to glorify him as the perfect, flawless Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
God's plan for Jesus to die was not an indictment like the plan of the Jews, but an endorsement of his infinite worth so that he could save the Jews. Are we with God in this or against him?
3. By Raising Him from the Dead
God endorsed Jesus by raising him from the dead.
Verse 23 ends, "This Jesus you killed and crucified." Then, in stark contrast, verse 24 gives God's powerful response to that act, "But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it." You voted no against Jesus. But God voted YES for Jesus. You denounced him, but God endorsed him. You killed him, but God raised him up.
Then, in verses 25–31, Peter shows that the resurrection of Jesus fits with Old Testament prophecy and that it means that Jesus is the son of David (v. 30); he's the Messiah (v. 31). So it was the Messiah himself that they had killed. But God raised him up.
Peter means for his audience to feel the clash between their rejection of Jesus and God's acceptance of Jesus; their defamation of Jesus and God's affirmation of Jesus. What matters here ultimately is not that they killed a man, but that they are against God.
Now this is a shocking and stunning thing for people to hear and extremely hard to admit. These are religious people that Peter is talking to. They are moral people. They are worshiping people. They are people who know hundreds of verses in God's Word by heart. And he is telling them that their minds are totally at odds with God. They claim to know God. They claim to love God and worship God and follow God. And Peter says that they are diametrically opposed to God. They are anti-God.
The test of whether we are anti-God or not is not whether we say we believe in God, or whether we say we know God, or love God, or serve God. The test is whether we embrace God's endorsement of Jesus. If we say we know God but reject God's endorsement of Jesus as the worker of miracles; if we say that we know God but reject God's endorsement of Jesus as the predestined Passover sacrifice that takes away sin; if we say we know God and reject God's endorsement of Jesus by raising him from the dead, then we don't really know God. In fact we are against God. We are anti-God.
This is what cut Peter's hearers to the heart. They saw that in their zeal for "God" they had been against God. This is so utterly important for us today. Because in our live-and-let-live pluralistic society hardly anyone would dare say to another person, "You claim to know God, but in fact you are anti-God; you are against God." Why? Because you do not embrace God's endorsement of Jesus. Jesus is the test of all true knowledge of God. Are we with God in his endorsement of Jesus by raising him from the dead, or are we against God?
4. By Exalting Him and Subjecting All Enemies to Him
God endorsed Jesus by exalting him to his right hand and putting all his enemies under his feet.
Verse 33: "Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God . . . " Then in verses 34–35 Peter quotes Psalm 110 to show the significance of this exaltation. He says, "For David did not ascend into the heavens; but he himself says, 'The LORD [that is, God the Father] said to my Lord [that is the coming Messiah, Jesus], Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet.'" In other words, David already foresaw that God would exalt the risen Messiah to his right hand and give him a place of rule and supremacy over every other person and power in the universe.
This endorsement of Jesus exposes the ultimate horror of rejecting him. In rejecting Jesus not only have they rejected the one God declared to be Messiah by raising him from the dead (cf. vv. 30–31); they have also rejected the one whom God declared to be the Lord of the universe by exalting him to his right hand.
This is the decisive thrust of Peter's sermon as he sums it up in verse 36, "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that GOD [!] has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."
God endorsed him as Christ—the Messiah—by raising him from the dead. God endorsed him as the Lord by exalting him all the way to the highest place in the universe and making him supreme over all his enemies. So do you see that the crucial issue in this sermon—Peter's and mine—is not the killing of a man, but the repudiation of GOD!
God endorsed Jesus as the worker of miracles on the earth. God endorsed Jesus as the perfect sacrifice for sins. God endorsed Jesus as the risen Messiah. God endorsed Jesus by exalting him to be Lord of the universe. To reject Jesus is to repudiate GOD! To vote no on Jesus is to oppose GOD. That's the issue. And that is what cut them to the heart (v. 37).
So I ask again, Did you kill Jesus? Not: Were you bodily there? But: Do you join God in his affirmation of Jesus, or do you stand against God in the life of Jesus?
There is one more endorsement of Jesus that God gives in this sermon. I save it for last because it is full of hope.
5. As One Worthy to Receive and Pour Out the Spirit
God endorsed Jesus as one worthy to receive the promise of the Holy Spirit and pour him out in great blessing on sinners who repent.
Verse 33: "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 which you see and hear [the praise and the prophecy and the languages of Pentecost]."
God has given into the hands of Jesus—the Lord and the Messiah—the privilege of pouring out the Holy Spirit—the privilege of baptizing with the Spirit (Acts 1:5) and filling with the Spirit (Acts 2:4) and clothing his people with the Spirit's power from on high (Luke 24:49).
What is at stake here and at every point in this sermon is God. The miracles of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, the exaltation of Jesus, the privilege of Jesus to baptize his church in the Holy Spirit, all these are endorsements from God almighty, maker of heaven and earth. Are we with him or against him? Do we join him in his exaltation of Jesus?