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. 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? 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. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 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.
“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 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. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.’ Acts 3:12-23 (NIV)
Yesterday’s lesson was on the lame man (Acts 3:1-10) who Jesus healed through the ministry of Peter and John. The lame man was healed through Peter and John because Peter and John had faith in Jesus, faith which is a gift of God. Today we move on in Acts 3 to Peter’s explanation of who really performed this work- and as we see, it wasn’t Peter or John. Peter leads us directly to the death and Resurrection of Jesus.
So why does the Resurrection of Jesus matter anyway? In what we believe to be a day and age of rational thought and of the primacy of science and technology, why should we hold on to a belief that God incarnate was put to death and rose from the grave? It seems silly or irrational on the surface to believe such an implausible account, but the death and Resurrection of Jesus is literally the premise upon which we live or die.
The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 (it is helpful here to read the whole chapter) that if Jesus did not come back from the dead, we are wasting our time believing in Him. If Jesus did not come back from the dead, we are dead in our trespasses and sins and fallen nature and we might as well eat, drink and be merry (and be free to lie, steal, fornicate and pillage, etc.) because the only thing we have to look forward to is the grave. If this world is the end, we are stuck in a rather hopeless state of affairs.
Thankfully this world is not the end.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)
We were not created by God to make our own gods, or to turn ourselves into our own gods. Yet that is exactly what we humans do when we are left to our own devices.
The premise of God’s Law is summarized in the Jewish shema: Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. (Deuteronomy 6:1-4) The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) spell out God’s requirements in even more depth.
God requires our perfect obedience to this Law. We can’t do it. But because God loved us, and did not want us to suffer the consequences of our sin and disobedience, Jesus had to take our place as a perfect sacrifice.
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 (NIV)
We are not able to follow the Law’s requirements. We are fallen, broken and fallible. Jesus has done what we cannot do for ourselves, and that is Good News. In Him we have life. We rise with Him also. He is Risen. He is Risen, indeed. He is real. Our life in Him is real too, and it is forever.