Act 3:26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness. Some background. Luk 24:46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, Luk 24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Now let me take you back to Peter’s sermon to them, mid way.
Act 3:13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.
Act 3:14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you,
Act 3:15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.
Act 3:16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.
Act 3:17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.
Act 3:18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.
Act 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out,
Act 3:20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus,
Act 3:21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
Act 3:22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.
Act 3:23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’
Act 3:24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days.
Its important to note that when Jesus preached in Jerusalem, what kind of people were there. We find that the religion was corrupt; the Pharisee’s were ruling the people with hypocrisy, laying heavy burdens on them that they could not bare up under. Even to these Christ said “come unto me…my yoke is easy my burden is light”. They were filled with hatred toward the Samaritans “which the Jews have nothing to do”, hatred toward the Romans which represented their conquered state and pagan occupation. Yet to one these Christ said “I have not found such faith in all Israel”. Even Jesus himself through doing miracles, healings, feeding the multitudes, raising the dead was the subject of their hatred “the Jews sought to kill him”. In the end when Pilate asked ‘shall I release him”? They asked for a murderer to be released instead. But Christ, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross and despised the shame; and again he endured shame from sinners against himself because Christ would have himself a people and reveal his conquering love to the whole world.
So, Christ said “Beginning at Jerusalem”. Here we see God willing to show his great love and great power in the gospel. He instructed his Apostle to preach to Jerusalem first. Christ went to the hardened sinners and declared eternal life; yet mercifully through faith and repentance lovingkindness and tender mercies was to be found. We see it was not to the ignorant pagans at the first, but to the ignorant ones who killed the ‘prince of life’. Christ went to the ones who hated him and screamed at him while bearing the cross to Golgotha. This Christ did to show that his love is toward the worst, the ones who deserve the wrath of God without mitigation, without question…but instead as Peter said “to you first” he is preached in order to turn you all from your wickedness.
The gospel presented to the Jew first is deeper than a prophetic call to a race of people, instead, it is to a people who’s hearts represented the hearts of the whole world. Hearts that are hardened, angry, despising Christ, revengeful, hating the Lord, holding open enmity against God in all forms and with all malice afflicting God’s own Son and God’s own people. Those who should be in covenant love with God are alienated from the life of God by wicked works, hard speeches and covetous practices that must not be restrained by any Holy God. It is to these people Peter begins his ministry and it is to these people that the Holy Spirit is poured out upon. Peter was preaching to no well-wishers of the Christian faith, he was preaching to Christ’s killers and conspirators of evil.
But God is rich in mercy and we see it again and again in Christ’s ministry. Christ did not withhold bread to the hungry even when he knew they would ‘seek the loaves and fishes instead of Him”. He didn’t withhold healing even though he knew they would attempt to deify the Apostles as they acted in faith. He didn’t withhold healing to a Caananite woman’s daughter possessed of a Devil even though she had to fight against her position as “dog” that didn’t have a right to the childrens bread. He didn’t withhold the truth from a cowardly Pharisee that should know these spiritual truths that he asked Christ to explain. He didn’t withhold healing from the weak in faith, a resurrection from those who could only hope to the future and had no faith to roll away a stone of unbelief. The woman with the issue of blood found healing with just a touch, Jesus withheld nothing from her even though her uncleanness barred her from him. Christ healed the servant of the Chief Priest who had come to take Christ during the night, his ear being cut off is restored. What can be said of all those whom Christ came to and brought God’s tender mercies? The man who for years infirm at the pool, the woman with a spirit of infirmity 18 years, the man with the withered hand? Shall we include begging blind men? Shall we remember that Jesus fed 5000 men plus women and children, then again 4000 who would later attend his crucifixion with jeering and mocking? At his trial where were his defenders? At his scourging where was his advocate? At the crucial hour he was betrayed then denied and finally forsaken. Upon all this suffering it is said “and God crushed him” His soul was made an offering for sin.
Christ again and again comes to meet us where we are weak, where we have no hope and no strength. He suffered for us that he might show how his great forgiving love is greater than their killer-hearts. Paul the Apostle being even more bold says; Eph 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, Eph 2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—
Finally, To these most corrupt and most sinful of all, a second warning comes, but not in the way we should think. One should think that these people needed the rocks to fall upon them, that such a judgment as Sodom had received was too good for them. To kill the prince of Life? Should not this be met with the heaviest of punishments? Should not the wrath to be unleashed be greater than anything ever seen? Who would question God for crushing underfoot those who crushed his Son? Who would fault God for avenging his Elect Son with terrible calamities beyond description? Yet,this warning is different. It is not a warning that sinners must flee from God and hide themselves from this wrath. It is a warning that says “This free and gracious mercy is offered to the Jerusalem sinner irrespective of any evil committed to this day, this pardon and offer of hope and forgiveness is available without any offering, without any sacrifices, without any gold or blood.” The warning consists of striking fear into their hearts if they do not run to his free and gracious mercy, if they do not throw themselves at his offer of redemption and tender mercies.
This is the day of salvation, this is the day where all offenses can be forgiven and there is no necessity for anyone to flee from God. God’s anger is not let loose, God’s wrath is stored up but not poured out, God’s judgment is put down and all debt is canceled at the mere confession “I believe Christ has risen from the dead and HE is my LORD.” The astounding offer is heard “flee from sin and run to God who will forgive all, heal and deliver you freely”.
We see what it means to be warned, not with wrath, but that only those who forsake mercy will obtain wrath, those who refuse forgiveness will suffer the punishment for their sins. How terrible is the hearts of some men that will forsake the mercies of God and claim that God is out to punish and destroy them when God has provided every promise necessary for them to lay hold of eternal life. To such men their judgment is just and their punishment is deserved. But we believe better things of you who have tasted of the Spirit of God and have been made partakers of faith, ready to believe this simple gospel.
Some might say “I have sinned so much, I have blasphemed God and I have despised Christ all my life”. To you Christ says “every one of you” is to be turned from their sins so that you may be forgiven.
Another might say “I have never been good, my heart says I am not able to come to Christ as I am” Christ says to you, “let every one of you be turned from your sin”, you are welcome too.
Others have said “I have doubted God all my life, I am likely to have crucified Christ had I the choice, I cannot come” Christ says to you,” I have come to you that you might believe that I am He, every one of you may come unto me and I will in no wise cast him out”.
One says that he is no Jew that the offer is not made to him. Christ says “I have opened my covenant to include everyone that believeth, he that confesseth that I have risen from the dead and come under my Lordship is to be saved” To the Gentiles this covenant with God is offered, the Jew and the Gentile my now live as brothers where there is no Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male of female, for you are all now one in Christ.
Lastly one says “I have heard all my life that I am doomed to destruction, that I am a sinner by birth and there is nothing good in me, I am born to suffer eternal punishment”. To you Christ says listen to me, Everyone of you that hears my voice and believes upon me shall have eternal life, if you hear, then believe, if you believe then come unto me and I will accept you and you shall abide with me forever”.
It behooves us now to accept what we are, sinful men who are offered such a great mercy and great grace that we might be called the sons of God. Christ has come and died and raised again so that we might be made sons of light, children of the Most High. Everyone of us may flee from sin and flee from the punishment to come and learn of the love of Christ which will abide in us. That same Spirit which dwelt in Christ will live in us and teach us all things and we will have an anointing that will reveal all things to us. Repent of remaining alienated from God, put away the demands of sin-allegiance and believe Christ’s offer of free grace.
Jesus Christ welcomes all.