How to Win a Case – Use Indisputable Evidence
One of our modern day leaders of the faith is the man Jay Sekulow. Jay is a trial attorney who takes on the cases of Christian groups who have been wronged in some fashion. He has argued cases all the way up to the supreme court. Mr. Sekulow gives a very simple formula for knowing when you have a strong case. He says good cases will have one thing in common–indisputable, provable evidence.
Peter begins this sermon, which is a fairly short but potent apologetic for Jesus as the Messiah, by physically healing a man who was born a cripple. And he heals him in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He uses not only the miracle to his advantage, but he draws on the covenant standing of the Jews. He also points out prophecy which has been fulfilled. It all adds up to a very strong case for Christ.
Peter’s Appeal to the Covenant People
His appeal opens, in Acts.3:12,13, with a reminder that they were the covenant people of God. Why did he make this appeal in such a fashion? There are several reasons.
Identify as a Jew – Brother to Brother
First, he wanted to identify himself with them. He is a Jew just like them, and he has come to faith in Jesus. Peter will become the apostle to the Jews, and his appeal, as a Jew, is that he would be listened to by those at the temple. Can you imagine a Gentile performing this miracle, then trying to be heard here? They would probably string him up for witchcraft. They would not hear him. But Peter is able to speak to these men gathered as brothers.
To Urge Covenant Faithfulness
Essentially he is saying, “Jesus is the Messiah and he came to you first. He didn’t go to the Gentile nations. He came to you.” It is a bit like building a case against someone and giving evidence of their guilt. Peter is saying to them, “He came to you!” Those with ears to hear are then blessed, and those who reject him have their guilt not only remain, but to increase.
Understand that Jesus Fulfilled the Covenants
Third, you notice that he mentions Jesus Christ of Nazareth when he heals the man. He is very careful and highly specific. Peter reminds them, You have seen God work in this fashion before.” And then he carefully ties it back to Jesus. He is wanting, at this stage, to make sure the crowd understands that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of those covenants made to their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
First Advertisement – Miracle brought to you by… Jesus!
Do you remember when TV shut down by 10pm? I do! I also remember, as a lad, that the product placement ads would be so vivid! They would start your favorite program, and they would say very clearly, “Sponsored by Comet bathroom cleanser.
Then the announcer would do a little fifteen second spot for Comet Cleanser and get on with the program. This was the advertisers’ way of assuring that you knew who was paying for this show to be on the air.
Peter was doing the same thing here. He gave the earliest advertisement in history, “This miracle is brought to you by Jesus of Nazareth. Test drive the all new Jesus of Nazareth! He has come to replace your old sacrificial system! He is not however the replacement for your covenants. Jesus is the fulfillment of them.”
II.Peter’s Exaltation of The Christ
Tying the Names of Jesus to Prophecy
Peter then moves on to make much of Christ and, in doing so, he makes a compelling argument that the Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah have been fulfilled in this person — Jesus of Nazareth.
Peter uses each of these names for a very specific reason. Every single name that he uses has meaning associated with it. We will look at those meanings, but the overarching reason Peter is choosing his words so carefully is to identify Jesus with Old Testament prophecy.
Jesus – God’s Servant (Ambassador)
He didn’t begin with the words, ‘Jesus the son of God’ or ‘Jesus the prophet of God’, but with ‘Jesus the servant of God.’ This word, used only a couple of places in the New Testament when referring to Jesus, means God’s Ambassador. The Jews would immediately make a connection in their minds with the prophecies of Isaiah. Isaiah 52:13-15, Isaiah 53:11
When Peter says, ‘God’s servant, Jesus’, every single Jew in the place have would thought of Isaiah’s prophecy here. When anyone mentions the date Sept. 11th, it immediately brings mental pictures and reactions to our minds, doesn’t it? The same thing happens when Peter uses the name ‘God’s servant’ to the Jews.
‘Jesus’ means ‘The Lord is Salvation’
The next name of note is the very next word in verse 13, ‘the name of Jesus.’ Again, Peter is forcing connections to take place. By saying ‘servant Jesus’, he is causing them to see that the Messiah was in fact Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Jesus, during his earthly ministry, epitomized servanthood.
As is true of names given in the Bible, they always had a meaning associated with them. The name would often tell a bit about the person themselves. Jesus’ name is no exception. ‘Jesus’ is the Greek form of the name Joshua meaning the Lord is Salvation. John Macarthur says,
“There have been many false views of Jesus throughout history, from noble example to political revolutionary. Yet to imagine a Jesus who was not the Savior is as foolish as to imagine a Shakespeare who was not a writer, or a Rembrandt who was not a painter. His name is Jesus not because He is our example, guide, leader, or friend though he is all those things. His name is Jesus because He is our savior.”
Holy and Righteous One
The third term is found in verse 14, ‘The Holy And Righteous One.’ These names are also full of meaning for this crowd. Holy means ‘separated to God.’ Jesus was not only holy by nature, but he was separated to God to do His will. The word ‘Righteous’ carries with it the idea of being innocent of any crime.
The name ‘Holy one’ is also something that is used in reference to the Messiah by the prophets. Psalm 16:10 says that God would not ‘let your holy one see corruption.’ Peter is careful to mention that Jesus was raised from the dead and there were plenty of witnesses to testify to that fact. Jesus did not see corruption.
Author of Life
Throughout this section Peter presents a number of paradoxes. For instance, although Jesus was a servant, God exalted him. They rejected the Holy and Righteous one in favor of an unholy, unjust murderer. Then he comes to the greatest paradox of all —They put to death the Author of Life.
This word author or prince in the text carries with it the meaning of someone who is the originator, pioneer or beginner of something. It is used to describe Jesus in Hebrews as the ‘author of our salvation’ and the ‘author and finisher of our faith’. Col. 1:16-17
Jesus ‘The Christ’
The final term mentioned by Peter is the word ‘Christ’ in verse 18. Again, he makes reference to the prophets here when he says:
But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Acts 3:18
Peter connects the rest of the dots here. This servant of God, Jesus, the holy and righteous one, the author of life, is the promised Messiah.
In light of John 10:24-31, Peter is testing his luck to speak like this in front of this crowd. Yes, he did a miracle, and yes he impressed them, and then called them brothers. He is really pushing it when he claims that the Messiah has already come, but he is just getting started. Peter pretty much excoriates them with his words and issues a scathing rebuke of these people.
III.Peter’s Indictment of the Crowd
“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.” Acts 3:14
Instead of welcoming the Messiah, the nation rejected him. Instead of continuing with shouts of Hosanna, the shouts became those to “crucify him!” Pilate declared him innocent six different times, yet the cry was the same, “Release Barrabas and crucify Jesus!”
Your Guilt Remains
This crowd must have thought, in this moment, that Peter was schizophrenic or something. He begins, “Brothers! Remember the covenants — remember the prophets.” Then he basically turns on them and says, “You are all murderers. Every single person here is guilty!”
Now it almost appears that Peter lets them off the hook somewhat. In verse 17 he says, “You did something without realizing what you were doing. You acted in ignorance.” But then he says essentially, “Jesus fulfilled this prophecy — and you helped fulfill it. Your guilt remains,” in vs. 18.
The Theist, The Atheist, and The Agnostic
RC Sproul, describing the differences between Theists and Atheists and Agnostics says of Agnostics that they are ‘the worst kind of Atheist.’ Theism is the affirmation of the existence of God and Atheism is everything else.
The Agnostic is outside the category of the Theist, because he will not affirm the existence of
God, but then he blames God for it. He says that the reason he can’t believe is because God hasn’t given him enough evidence on which to believe. Agnostos means ‘without knowledge’ in the Greek.
This, despite the fact that Psalm 19 says that the very heavens declare the glory of God. Every single human that walks the earth knows that God exists. Romans 1:20 says that in light of the fact that we know for certain that he is there, that we are without excuse.
What Is Our Excuse Today?
Our situation in the current day is this. We have the testimony of the prophets, we have the testimony of Christ himself. We have the words of Peter in Acts 2 and 3 addressing these very subjects, “You acted in ignorance but now you know.”
So what is our excuse today if we persist in unbelief? How can we say that we have any ground at all to stand on? We simply cannot. Just like Peter told the crowd, “You are people of the covenant and have the witness of the prophets.” For us, we live in a country and a part of the country where there is a church on every street corner — there is a Bible on every bookshelf. We simply have no excuse.
Refusing to Heed the Warning ~ A Storm is Coming
In September of 1900, a killer hurricane bore down on Galveston Island. One old bridge connected the island to mainland Texas, serving as the only evacuation route for thousands. Even without modern-day detection systems, the coming hurricane was spotted, and ample warnings were given to the residents down there.
But there were no visible signs in Galveston; people living on the island couldn’t actually see the hurricane. They couldn’t hear the furious winds, so many of them chose to do nothing. When that terrible storm struck, between six and twelve thousand people were killed, and the city of Galveston destroyed. It is still the single worst natural disaster ever recorded.
Today, if you drive along Seawall Boulevard, you will see a reminder of that storm; a strong 12 foot concrete wall stands as a barrier between the beach and the city, but also as a reminder that a century ago, thousands of people heard a message of warning and chose not to respond. Today, there are still hurricanes that come and swamp the city — and kill those who even still refuse to heed the warnings.
“But God I Didn’t Know!” Addressing Persistent Unbelief
Even with the warnings we now give of the coming judgment, even with all of the extra information that we have in our day, we still have those who will say, “But God, I didn’t know!”
“God if you had just shown ME a miracle I would have believed. God if it was just more
logical. If it just didn’t fly in the face of science so badly, if those Christians weren’t such hypocrites! If they just believed in global warming, I could get with it.”
The evidence since that day has only mounted, so it begs the question doesn’t it? If people persist in unbelief, then what is their excuse really?
Is that you today? Are you here and you just say, “I don’t really buy it. I don’t think there is any truth in it.” Let me just say that if that describes you today, you better be sure. Because your very soul depends on you being right on this one. You better know something that the rest of us don’t.
For those of us who do believe, doesn’t it tend to light a fire under us to make sure that our loved ones know the truth?
I close today with the words of Charles Spurgeon who said:
“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”