Peter’s sermon in Acts 3:12-26, as in Acts 2:14-41, arises from unusual happenings which arouse the attention of a large crowd. Both sermons seek to explain what has happened and both point to Jesus Christ. Peter directed the crowd’s attention away from both the healed cripple and the apostles to the Christ whom men disowned by killing Him, but God vindicated by raising Him, and ‘whose name, having been appropriated by faith, was strong enough to heal him completely.’ (‘The Message of Acts’, John Stott, P 92) This Christ-centred preaching is the key to success.
Jesus said, ‘Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.’ (John 3:14-15) John the Baptist gave us all great advice when he said, ‘He must become greater; I must become less.’ (John 3:30) Instead of boasting about how he had healed a lame man, Peter firmly deflects attention away from himself by saying, ‘Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?’ (Acts 3:12) He then goes on to remind people what has happened: ‘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.’ (Acts 3:13-15)
Peter again uses Old Testament references (even naming God as the ‘God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers’) to substantiate his claim that Jesus is the Messiah, the suffering servant of Isaiah 52 & 53 (Acts 3:13) and the prophet of whom Moses spoke (Acts 3:22-23, referring back to Deut 18:15, 18-19). He is adamant that it is faith in the name of Jesus which has resulted in the man’s healing and this has a consequence for all people: ‘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.’ (Acts 3:19-20)
Peter’s message was clearly powerful, even if interrupted (Acts 4:4 tells us that many believed, with the number of men growing to about five thousand.) It was probably not easy for people to hear of their own involvement in the death of Jesus Christ, even if this was out of ignorance (Acts 3:13-15, 17). There will always be this negative side to preaching, for people need to be convicted of sin before ever they see their need for God. But Peter also point out the blessings available to all who believe: rest, restoration and cleansing. Having our sins wiped out (obliterated, erased, blotted out) as ink could so easily be wiped from a papyrus is something to rejoice over. David spoke of this blessing in Ps 32:1-2 and Ps 103:3, 11-12). May we too know this blessing and point others to Jesus, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Eph 1:7)