IN THE WAKE OF WHAT JESUS DOES
Alrighty, grab your Bible. We’re in Acts 3:11–26. Hope you guys are enjoying Acts. We’re looking at the issue of being empowered by the Spirit to be courageous.
As you’re finding your place in your Bible, here’s the story line and where we find ourselves. Jesus is God, come into history, lived without sin, he died on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended back into heaven, sent the Spirit to indwell and empower his people to continue his mission.
This includes, a little earlier in chapter 3, the healing of a man who was lame from birth. We read the story that Peter and John, two of Jesus’ early ministry leaders, are going up to the temple around 3 o’clock, the time of prayer, and they see a man who’s been lame since birth. And he’s begging, trying to make some money to make ends meet, and they tell him, “Silver and gold we do not have, but in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, be healed.” This guy’s instantaneously healed—jumps up, dances, rejoices, and walks into the temple to praise God.
The question then is, What next? What happens after Jesus, who’s alive and well in heaven, ruling and reigning, shows up to do a healing here on the earth? We’re going to look at what happens in the wake of what Jesus does. We’ll read a lot of Bible together, and so you can read along with me.
Here we go. Acts 3:11, “While he clung to Peter and John.” I don’t know about you, this just seems kind of funny to see. Three grown men, one hanging on to the other two, because he just got healed, and he’s going to keep these guys close by. He’s not going to let them out of his sight. He’s probably thinking something like, “Hey, if there’s a relapse, I know who to call.”
“While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded”—Wouldn’t you be astounded? Somebody lame from birth all of a sudden is on Dancing with the Stars. Wow, wow, wow. “All the people are utterly astounded. They ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s.” Some of your translations will call it Solomon’s porch. “And when Peter saw it he addressed the people.” So, he’s going to stand up and preach. You know why? It’s always a good time for a sermon. Always, always, always a good time for a sermon, amen? OK, I’ll amen that myself. Amen, yes, it’s always a good time for a sermon.
So, Peter here is going to preach. “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 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. 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”—he’s getting fairly personal—“whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.”
He continues, “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”—writes the doctor—“in the presence of you all. And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.” What then? “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 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.”
And Peter ain’t done. “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. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people. And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, who proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring ‘shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” A man is healed, a crowd gathers, and Peter preaches. That’s what happens.
Four things I want to make note of up front.
1. JESUS’ PEOPLE NEED TO GATHER
Number one, Jesus’ people need to gather. And some of you may have wrongly heard that Jesus’ people, in the earliest days of the Christian church, only met in homes and small groups—five here, six here, eight here. They didn’t have large meetings. That’s not true at all. We saw it when Peter preached in Acts 2. It was on the day of Pentecost that three thousand people were saved. A very large crowd was assembled, and then they met in their homes in smaller groups. So, large and small groups.
Here again, they all rush into an area in the temple called Solomon’s portico. It was a large, open area where there were lectures and meetings and gatherings. And then Peter stands up to preach to a very large crowd of people. So, God’s people—Jesus’ people—meet together, sometimes in very large groups as we do on Sundays, and also in small groups—we call them Community Groups that meet throughout the course of the week.
2. GLADNESS AND GRATITUDE
Number two, when something happens by God’s grace, the person who receives that grace get the gladness. The person who served them gets the gratitude. But ultimately, only Jesus gets the glory. So, on this occasion, there is a man who was lame from birth. He was healed. The Bible says that he was leaping, celebrating, and praising God in Acts 3:1–10, the precursor to the section we just read. So, he gets the gladness: he’s healed. Peter and John—it would have been fine for them to get the gratitude. “Thank you for talking to me. Thank you for praying for me.”
Some of you need to know this: when you’re grateful for someone, that doesn’t mean you’re being disrespectful toward the Lord. God works through people, and we should be grateful that he does, and we should be grateful for them and grateful to them. “Thank you for loving me. Thank you for serving me. Thank you for being generous to me. Thank you for being patient with me. Thank you for praying for me.” The gratitude can go to the servants, but ultimately, the glory belongs to Jesus alone.
And this is what Peter demonstrates, because the crowd rushes in and they hear, “Wow, these guys have the gift of healing.” Well, in a day when a lot of people are poor and don’t have good medical coverage, and Peter and John are healing without any deductible or copay, all of a sudden they’re highly popular. And as everyone is looking at Peter and John, they say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, don’t think that we healed this man by our power or our piety. Jesus healed him. Jesus is alive and well, seated, ruling, and reigning from his heavenly throne, and he can involve himself in anyone’s life on earth at any point that he chooses and do whatever he wishes. Jesus healed, not us.” So, the glory goes to him.
3. PREACHING AND TEACHING
Number three, people need Bible preaching and teaching to make sense of their experience. They just had an experience. A man is healed, but the question is, Who healed him? Why was he healed? What does this mean? Those are the kind of questions that ensue. So, it is for you and me. And some would wrongly say that we don’t need teaching, we need simply experience; we don’t need an education about God, we need an experience of God. Might I submit to you that we need both. God is the living God. We need to experience him, but even if and when we do experience him, we do not understand him unless we have education regarding him.
So, let’s say for example right now you are suffering. Some tragedy has befallen you. That doesn’t reveal to you who God is or what God is doing, and you may not have any way of interpreting those facts. “Is God punishing me? Is Satan against me? Am I reaping what I’ve sown? Is this my karmic debt for my past life coming back to cash in my obligations? Why am I suffering?” Education makes sense of our experience. Experience alone does not give us an understanding: it only gives us some insight, but it doesn’t give us understanding regarding that insight. So, they had this experience. A man is healed, and Peter stands up to preach and teach the Bible to explain what happened and make sense of their experience.
So it is for you and me: We can’t just receive experience. We have to then go to the Scriptures to make sense of our experience, to interpret in light of God’s revelation. And the fourth point: the Holy Spirit wants to empower you to be courageous for Jesus. Peter here is acting in a way that is very courageous. First of all, he is at the temple. This is an institution that is magnificent. It’s a spiritual center. It’s a financial center. It’s a political center. I mean, it was an amazing, amazing place where God’s people would come to worship in the presence of God. It was destroyed as Jesus promised. It’s only a relic of what it once was, but I’ve been there and it’s magnificent and glorious.
And Peter stands up in a section of the temple to preach and proclaim the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. And he does so to people who are murderers. He says, “You killed Jesus. You handed him over. You preferred the murderer Barabbas to the God-man Jesus. You. You.” He gets real personal. How many of you, if you were addressing a group of murderers, would talk about something other than their murder, right? Because you could be encouraging them to murder you. So, he’s being very courageous. He is calling murderers to repent of their murder, knowing that if they don’t, odds are they will murder him as well.
And the Holy Spirit wants to empower you and me to be courageous in talking about Christ. And so as Peter gets up, he has this amazing sermon and he highlights eight things regarding Jesus Christ. So, I want to examine those with you in succession, because ultimately, it’s all about Jesus.
JESUS IS THE SUFFERING SERVANT
The first thing that he, in fact, tells us about Jesus is that Jesus is the suffering “servant,” and he refers to Jesus as our servant and the servant of our fathers. Those who were Jewish in orientation would have been familiar with the Old Testament, and they would have harkened, most likely, back to the book of Isaiah, written seven hundred years before Jesus was born.
And in Isaiah 40–66—it’s a very long book—in that lengthy section, the hero, the story line is about someone called the servant, the servant. I mean, if you want to have a mind-blowing experience, go home and read the second half of Isaiah 52 through Isaiah 53, OK? That’s all promising the coming of Jesus—his life, death, burial, resurrection, and salvation.
So, that’s right in the middle of this section, but chapters 40–66 are about one called the servant, that God would send a servant. And then Jesus comes, and he says things like this: “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” So, Jesus’ service for us includes his death for us.
Let me submit to you that this is one of the ways I know that the God of the Bible was not constructed by men but was revealed by God: other religious concepts of God is that God exists to be served—God is a projection of the way we are. So, you and I live in a world where most of us, perhaps all of us, would rather have servants than be servants, amen? Right? The goal in a company is to get as high up to hand off as many responsibilities so that other people can take of certain things that we just don’t like. The goal is to make enough money to employ people to serve you so that you don’t have to do certain things. And people who can’t afford that go to Starbucks and they are abusive toward their barista. It’s their little moment of having a servant, and they will give orders and demands and be very unruly.
All of us like this concept of someone serving us, someone taking orders from us, someone obeying us, someone looking up to us, someone being under us. We don’t look forward to being a servant, right? You can’t get a minor in college in how to be a humble servant, because no one would take that course of study. And Jesus comes as a humble servant. He leaves glory, comes in humility. He leaves luxury, comes in poverty. He leaves a place where he is served by the angels—pretty good staff, pretty good staff—to serve his enemies. That’s Jesus. He comes to serve.
And friends, there is not another concept of God like that. All the other concepts of God is that God exists for us to serve him; that God is a taker, not a giver; that God is proud, not humble. And not only is he a servant, he says it this way, that Jesus is—he’s the servant, “of the God of our fathers.” And he addresses this sermon at the beginning—to what category of people? Did you catch it? Careful reading of the text, Acts 3:12, “Peter saw it he addressed the people,” saying what? “Men.” “Men of Israel.” How did he begin his sermon in Acts 2 at Pentecost? “Men of Israel.” You keep reading the book of Acts, how are many sermons begun? “Men.” “Men!” “You men!” It’s a strong word to the men. Paul continues this, right? “Men of Athens!” “Men!”
God’s cry from Genesis 3 with the failure of our first father forward is, “Men!” “Men!” “Men!” “Adam, where are you?” “Men, where are you?”” That’s God’s cry. God speaks to men and women—and some of you women will be offended by this, don’t be. God created men and women equal in dignity, value, worth, but he lays an additional burden of responsibility on the men to love women, to love children, to serve women, to serve children, to protect women, to protect children. And in the world in which we live is what the world looks like when God is disobeyed and men are defiant.
Here’s the truth: if a man worships Jesus, statistically, so does his wife and so do his children. If a woman worships Jesus, statistically, it is far less likely that her husband will worship Jesus or her children will worship Jesus, because in the family system, whether you love it or hate it, the truth is this: the husband and the father is dominant. Some of you say, “I didn’t even have a dad. He didn’t even affect my life.” He is the biggest effect on your entire life, and that empty chair at the dinner table had a profound effect on who you are and how you live.
Men, we can be a burden or a blessing. We can bring life or death. We can bring tears or rejoicing to our families. And it all depends on this: do we open our ears to hear the call of God, “Men!” and then repent of sin and receive the Holy Spirit and walk with Jesus? And he says that Jesus is the servant “of the God of our fathers.” And then he goes on to talk about three fathers: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. These are three generations of men—a grandfather, a father, and a son, or a grandson.
Men, you and I need not just think about a good time but a good legacy. We are to think covenantally, not selfishly. You need to know, men, that if you worship Jesus, the odds are increasingly better that your sons and your grandsons will worship Jesus. If you worship Jesus, the odds are increasingly better that your daughters and granddaughters will marry men who worship Jesus. And the converse is true. And so men, much rises and falls with you and me. And so the beginning of the sermons in the book of Acts are calling out, calling to, men.
And so, I want you men to hear this as a particular word for you. Yes, it includes the women. Yes, it includes the children. But it is particularly granted that it would be for us men. And you single men, you’re not just marrying a woman for a good time but a good legacy. You’re not just thinking about the weekend but the fifth generation. God’s men think differently: We think biblically. We think legacy. We think covenantally. And some of you men are the first link in that chain, and it’s incumbent upon you that your children and grandchildren would come to know the Lord Jesus. Some of you are part of an already faithful chain, and maybe it was your great-grandpa, or your great-great-grandpa, who loved Jesus, and you’re carrying on that legacy of faith. And by God’s grace, I would encourage you, don’t be the broken link in the chain, OK?
He says that Jesus loves to serve fathers, that Jesus loves to serve men who want to bless their wives and children. So he calls him the servant of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do you see all that? Some of you guys are like, “Why does Jesus not bless me? Why is my life so hard? Why is it not coming together?”
Maybe because you’re a fool: Maybe because you’re looking for a good time instead of a good legacy. Maybe you’re not treating the woman you’re with with dignity, value, worth, and respect. Maybe you’re not loving the concept of one day, by God’s grace, being a father. Maybe you’re not rising up to your responsibility. And the God of the Bible is not excited about pouring all his water in a bucket with no bottom, OK? So men! Men! Jesus is happy to serve you if you’re willing to obey him. So he starts by telling us that Jesus is the suffering servant.
JESUS IS THE HOLY AND RIGHTEOUS ONE
He goes on, then, to say that Jesus is the “Holy and Righteous One.” That’s exactly what he says. And this is controversial and debatable like everything else I will say, so we’ll just put it in the line. But here it is: we live in a day when there is no conflict or controversy if Jesus is just one of many good teachers and good examples and good leaders. The proverbial Mt. Rushmore—yeah, there’s Jesus and Mohammed and Gandhi and Mother Theresa, and there he is, one of the greats. He is the “Holy and Righteous,” how many? “One.”
There’s none like Jesus. There’s none equal to Jesus. There’s none alongside of Jesus. There’s none in addition to Jesus. It’s just Jesus. It’s only Jesus. It’s always Jesus in a category unto himself. Please do not put Jesus in a category with the rest of humanity. He’s in an entirely different category. He’s not just a good man: he’s the God-man. He’s not just a good man: he’s alone is holy and righteous. There’s no sin in Jesus.
There are two categories: Jesus and everyone else, OK? And in the everyone else category, you can say, “Well, they’re the best among the everyone else,” but I’ll just tell you this. That’s nothing compared to Jesus. He alone is holy. He has no sin. He alone is righteous. He is acceptable in the sight of the Father.
Now, because—back to point one—he’s also our Father, I have good news for you. You don’t have to be holy, and you don’t have to be righteous. In fact, you can’t be holy, and you can’t be righteous. Some of you say, “I’m gonna try really hard.” Well, it’s already too late, OK? It’s already too late. You’ve already been made unholy and unrighteous, so even if you never sin again from this day forward—which is not true. To even think that would be proud, and that’s the worst sin of all, so I got you there too, all right? You’re all hemmed in. You’re all hemmed in.
Here’s the truth: Jesus is our holiness. Jesus is our righteousness. Jesus is our report card. We’ll stand before the Father and he’ll say, “Explain your holiness.” “His name is Jesus.” “So, where’s your righteousness?” “It’s right there with Jesus.” He goes to the cross to take our unholiness, to take our unrighteousness, and to trade places with us, to serve us, to give us his holiness, and to give us his righteousness.
Here’s the good news: we don’t need to pay God back. We don’t need to be pleasing in God’s sight. We don’t need to do what religions always encourage, and that is, “Pull it together so that God will love you.” Instead, it is, “God has loved you and he’s going to help you pull it together.” It’s different because we work from Jesus’ righteousness, not for our own. We work from Jesus’ holiness, not for our own. He alone is holy and righteous.
JESUS IS THE AUTHOR OF LIFE
Number three, it goes on to say that “Jesus is the Author of life… raised from the dead,” that the God of the Bible is the Living God, we are told; that God is eternally existent; that God is the uncaused cause; that God is the Creator of all that is created; and that God brings creation into life because he is the Living God. And then we, foolishly, rebel against that God, and in choosing sin, we choose death.
Now, the Living God, the Author of life, he’s so gracious with us, he’s so patient toward us that he determines that he will enter into his creation, that the Creator will enter creation, that he would humble himself and walk among us. And he comes to bring life. And what do we do to him? We kill him. We murder the Author of life.
It’s an amazing revelation at the cross of Jesus, not of just the goodness of God but of the evil of the human heart, that God would make us to live and that we would choose death, and that God would come to bring us life and we kill him. It says a lot about us.
And then Jesus rises from death. You know why? He’s the Author of life, and death cannot hold him, and he invites us to life in him—spiritual life now, where our sins are forgiven and we’re reconciled to God, and eternal life, resurrected from the dead—physical, actual, eternal life—patterned after his own bodily resurrection. He’s the author of life.
Let me say this very clearly: if you’re here and you don’t know Jesus, you’re spiritually dead. And then you will physically die. And then you will eternally die, suffering forever, because there is no life—spiritual, physical, or eternal—apart from the Author of life. That’s why we’re all in the process of dying. You know what happens after you unplug your phone, your iPad, and your laptop from it’s power source? It’s not dead, but it’s dying. And apart from being connected to a source of life, it will die and remain dead.
That’s how we are, spiritually. We’re dying and in the process of dying. We will die, and apart from a connection to the Author of life, all we will ever know is death—spiritual death—that culminates in physical death, that results in eternal death. But the good news is Jesus is the Author of life.
JESUS IS THE OBJECT OF OUR FAITH
His fourth point is that Jesus is the object of our faith. Jesus is the object of our faith, and it literally says it this way: “By faith in his name.” Now, various religions will teach that we have some sort of problem that needs some sort of solution, and they will differ on the problem and the solution, but there’s one thing that is constant among them all. I’ll share it with you briefly.
In Buddhism, you save yourself by ceasing all desire.
In Confucianism, you save yourself through education, reflection, self-cultivation, and moral living.
In Hinduism, you save yourself by detaching from your separated ego and living in unity with the divine. You say, “What does that mean?” I would say, “I’m not sure the Hindus know.” I don’t know.
In Islam, you save yourself by living a life of good deeds.
In Orthodox Judaism, you save yourself through repentance and prayer and by working hard to obey God’s laws and being a good person.
In the New Age, or Integrative Spirituality, you save yourself through seeing yourself as part of the divine oneness and seeking to live in harmony as part of the One.
In Daoism, you save yourself by aligning with the Dao to have peace in you and harmony around you. They will posit that the problem is different. It’s sin or it’s a lack of consciousness or inner-connectiveness.
So there are various solutions, but one thing remains constant—what’s the object of your faith? Might I say it this way: who is the object of your faith? You are. You save yourself. You learn something, you do something, you experience something, but ultimately, you are the object of your faith. You save yourself.
So, religion comes along to say, “Here’s what you do to save yourself.” Christianity comes along and says, “It’s not about what you do; it’s about what Jesus has done. It’s not about you saving yourself; it’s about you being saved by a Savior.”
Now, this will be difficult for some of you because you have family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, perhaps even yourself, maybe even your spouse—they adhere to other spiritualities and religions. And you say, “I know some people, they’re very devout. They’re very moral. They’re very spiritual. They’re very committed and they’re actually very nice people, nicer than some Christians I know, like you Pastor Mark, who yells at me.” OK, all of which could be true, OK? Their faith may be sincere, but the object of their faith cannot save.
I’ll use an illustration. Let’s say you’re a bad swimmer. How many of you are bad swimmers? Let’s say you’re a bad swimmer. It’s coming up to swim time, summer’s here. Let’s say you’re out swimming and it’s not going well. OK, so you yell at someone, “Throw me the anvil! Throw me the anvil!” And you have sincere faith in the anvil. You have devout faith in the anvil. You have a deep commitment to the belief that the anvil will save you.
And they throw you the anvil. And in an act of faith, you grab it, and you hold onto it with deep, devoted, sincere, religious-type commitment. How’s it going to go? OK, any of you watch the Roadrunner cartoons as a kid? How’s it going to go? You’re going to sink, because faith doesn’t save you. The object of faith saves you, and if you pick the wrong object, you’re not saved. You die. It’s like that.
So, he tells us, “By faith in his name,” that Jesus alone is our Savior. Have you received Jesus? Have you responded to Jesus? Have you put your proverbial arms around Jesus? Is your faith in his name? He goes on to say that Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecy. And he talks a lot about prophets here. He quotes from Moses. He quotes from Samuel. He’s quoting the prophets extemporaneously.
He, in fact, says it this way. I’ll read it to you in 3:18. “What God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.” Peter is saying, first of all, that the Bible is for us, but it’s not about us. Some of you are new. I need you to hear this. We believe that this is the book that God—we believe, too, this is the only book that God wrote. There’s, like, not another one at Barnes and Noble, OK? This is the book that God wrote. It’s the only book that God wrote, and the book is for us, but it’s not about us. It’s about Jesus.
So, from beginning to end, it is primarily about him, which means, then, we don’t come to this book as we would come to psychology or self-help or some sort of steps for better living or transformed understanding. We would not come to this book and say, “What are some principles by which I might improve my life?”
Instead, we say, “No, this is not a book primarily about what I do but what Jesus has done. This is not a book primarily about who I am, but who Jesus is. And as I understand who Jesus is, then that changes who I am. And that changes what I do. So all of those kinds of desires happen, but I don’t see those as the primary purpose of the Scriptures because this isn’t good advice as much as it is good news. Not good advice for me, but good news about him that then changes me so that I may become more like him.”
JESUS IS THE FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECY
And all of this is called prophecy. And so some of you may know this, but when the Bible was originally written—it’s a series of books written over a number of years—roughly 20 percent of the Bible was prophetic in nature. It was God, who knows the future, telling in advance what would happen in great detail.
And most of that prophecy surrounds the person and work of Jesus Christ. And I can’t get into all of it with you, but I’ll just give you some examples.
Like, in Genesis 3, the prophecy is given by God that Jesus would come as a male son born of a woman.
Go to Isaiah 7, that his mom would be a virgin. We’re really narrowing down the list of candidates, amen? OK? Really narrowing that.
Go to Isaiah 9 and it says that his name would be Immanuel, which means—what’s Immanuel mean? “God with us.” OK, we’ve really whittle the list down now. All right, you continue forward, the Bible says, in the latter prophets, that he would be born in Bethlehem, that he would be born and taken to the temple which was destroyed in A.D. 70. So, whenever this person was to come, it had to be before A.D. 70.
So, I always tell my Jewish friends—they’re like, “We’re waiting for a Messiah.” You missed him. He came before A.D. 70. And it’s like, I’m also not waiting for the Van Halen I tour. Like, it’s over, you know? That band is done. That’s already been taken care of, you know? I’m not, ooh, excited about the coming of 1979. That’s in the rearview mirror. That’s over. Jesus was promised to come before A.D. 70, because he was supposed to go to the temple. There is no temple. It was destroyed in A.D. 70.
So, all of these prophecies, they all point to the coming of Jesus in painstaking detail because this is the book that God wrote, and he knows the future and he brings it to pass. What he’s saying is this: They are in a period of history that is very privileged. For hundreds and thousands of years, God’s people were leaning into the future and listening to the prophets. “When is Jesus coming?”
And Peter says, “In your day, he came, and all the prophecies were fulfilled. And you killed him!” Sort of controversial. And he rose from the dead, fulfilling another prophecy in a place like Isaiah 52 and 53, that he would be high and exalted, crucified; that he would be pierced for our transgressions; that he would be buried with the rich in his death; that he would see the light of life and his soul would be satisfied; and that he would raise from death. All of it predicted in the Old Testament. He says, “You’re in the privileged position.”
Mars Hill, I would submit this to you: we’re in an exceedingly privileged position. For hundreds and thousands of years, they were leaning and straining into the future. “When is Jesus coming, and what will it be like?” And then he came, he lived, he died, he rose, he ascended. We’re in a privileged place where we see the fulfillment of prophecy. We see the birth of the church. We see the closing of the canon of Scripture.
And the truth is that the majority of the prophecies about Jesus were already fulfilled at his first coming, but we’re still anticipating some to be fulfilled his second coming. We’ve not yet had the second coming of Jesus. We’ve not yet had the resurrection of the dead. We’ve not yet had the judgment of the living and the dead. We’ve not yet had the sentencing to eternal heaven and hell.
So, the majority of the prophecies were fulfilled at Jesus’ first coming, but we’re in the time between the times, waiting, learning, yearning for the second coming of Jesus, and he is the fulfillment of prophesy.
JESUS IS THE CHRIST
He also says that Jesus is the “Christ.” And this may be strange language for some of us, but his name is Jesus Christ. Jesus means “God saves.” Back to my original point: We don’t save ourselves. God saves. Christ is actually a title. It means, “The Anointed One.” Your Jewish friends will call this “Messiah,” that he is the special one, the unique one, the chosen one. He is the Christ. He is the Messiah.
Inferred in this is this concept of Savior, one who is chosen to come and to make a difference and to save a people and to cause a kingdom to come into existence. And here’s why this is so important: you and I have a deep longing for Messiah. We do—someone who’s like us but better, come to save us and make it all better.
OK, you don’t believe me? I’ll give you some examples. So, every election year, it’s messiah time, all right? And here’s the narrative—just change the candidates names. Things are really bad. It kind of feels like hell. You want to live in heaven? Vote for the messiah. He’ll come and save us. He’s like us but better. He’ll put down our enemies, whoever they are, and he’ll cause us to have a kingdom of peace, and he’s going to take care of us. Vote for the messiah.
We vote for him—does it work? No, that’s why we keep having elections. And it’s going to be like that until Jesus comes back and he puts an end to all elections. We’ll just have a King. We don’t vote. This happens in business. Your company’s tanking, you know what it is? “We need a messiah. We need a new CEO. He’s going to save us. He’s going to fix all our problems. He’s going to usher in peace and prosperity. He’s going to turn it all around.” It happens in sports teams all the time, especially the Seattle Mariners.
Happens all the time, right? Oh, we’re dying. Oh my golly, right? Like, oh, the corpse is stench-filled and going into the ground. That’s OK, messiah’s coming and he’ll resurrect the dead. And it’s a veteran! No, it’s a rookie! It’s a first-round draft pick! He’s going to be the messiah. He’s going to do superhuman feats like hit, and then we’re going to resurrect from the dead, and we’re all going to gather around and eat hot dogs and sing his praises and be the church we were meant to be with eight dollar beers. That’s—so we’ve all got our messiah, the one who’s like us, but better and going to make it all better.
Have you seen the Superman movie? What is it, Man of Steel? Wow, OK, I went there on date night with Grace. Date night is always with Grace, by the way. And so I’m on date night with Grace, and I’m like, “Really, this is the story?” So, in a heavenly kingdom far away, a royal father has a one-of-a-kind son who is the only begotten son, born of basically a miracle, whom he loves with all his heart and sends to the earth as a messiah to reconcile the heavenly kingdom and the earthly people by vanquishing evil. But before that, he needs to be raised by a rural, peasant couple in poverty, and then he’s single, and he has superhuman powers, but he doesn’t really go public with them until he’s around thirty with a beard.
And then, around thirty-three, he sacrifices himself to vanquish evil, to deliver the people, and to reconcile the heavenly kingdom with the earthly kingdom so that there might be peace and prosperity. I was like, “Where have I heard this? I know I’ve heard this somewhere. I have heard—this sounds so familiar, this story. I swear I’ve heard—”
And then I read that the Superman narrative, this myth, was created by some Jewish guys who didn’t know Jesus or believe the New Testament, and their point was, “Well, we read the Old Testament, we started thinking about, ‘Hypothetically, someday, a messiah comes, what might he be like?’ and we wrote the Superman narrative.” I’m like, “Hey kids, keep reading that same book. Keep reading that same book. I have—woo, this is going to blow your mind. No cape or unitard—thank you Jesus—but similar story, very similar story, amen?” Amen.
There’s a deep groove in the human soul that wants a messiah, so deep that we keep making superhero movies and stories, where they’re like us but better than us and come to save us and give us a kingdom. Yeah, it says that he, Jesus, is our Messiah. He’s our Christ, amen? And so we don’t have myths; we have a Messiah, all right? We don’t have false kingdoms; we have a real kingdom.
JESUS IS A PROPHET LIKE MOSES
It also says that he is the prophet like Moses. Now, Moses was the first and greatest prophet. He gave us the first five books of the Old Testament. If you are a Hebrew boy growing up, collecting trading cards, a Moses rookie was a big deal, OK? Moses is a big deal for the Hebrew kids. Moses. I mean, God gave him the Ten Commandments twice, right? We’re going to get into that in the fall. It’s pretty crazy. Moses.
And Moses says, “There is coming a prophet who is greater than me.” Can you imagine that? Everybody’s gathered around, “All right, Moses. You’re the mouthpiece of God on the earth.” What’s he say? “Well, he says I’m not a big deal. Somebody’s coming who is.” “What?” You can imagine the speculation, right? All the Twitter polls, like, everybody’s trying to figure this out. “Who’s that? Who’s bigger than Moses?” Jesus comes.
After Moses, there’s a succession of prophets all leading up to Jesus who is—He’s the prophet. He’s God become a man, but he’s also a preacher from God to men. And he’s preaching and preaching and preaching—and you need to see this: in our culture, it’s popular to see Jesus as humble, marginalized Galilean peasant in a dress with long hair, hanging out with children, feeding people, and petting lambs, OK? Everybody’s like, “Oh, I love that Jesus.”
How about the preacher Jesus, OK? Because the preacher Jesus said some controversial things like, “I’m God. You’re a sinner. Repent, or I’ll send you to hell.” That’s why they killed him. Then he got up and said, “Back to my first point,” right? Jesus rarely got in trouble for what he did. He often got in trouble for what he said, OK? And so Jesus would preach, and some would believe, and some would disbelieve, and some would repent, and some would rebel, and some would submit, and others refused. And there was a conflict between Jesus and those who were unwilling to listen. And so it is in our day.
But friends, I need you not to just look at the example of Jesus, I need you to listen to the words of Jesus and let him be a prophet who tells you the truth, because that’s what a prophet does. A prophet tells you the truth. But hear me in this: a prophet tells you the truth because they love you and they know that living a life guided by lies is no life at all. So, just because they’re yelling doesn’t mean they’re angry. Just like a father yells at a child, “Move!” when the car is barreling down the street in their path, it’s not that the father is angry, it’s that the father is worried. And the cadence and the pitch and the tone of his voice is not one where he’s trying to scare the child, it’s one where he’s trying to move the child out of harm’s way. And that’s what the prophets do, and that’s what Jesus the Prophet did.
JESUS IS THE OFFSPRING OF ABRAHAM
He goes on, eighth point, to say that Jesus is the offspring of Abraham—the offspring of Abraham. And here, Peter goes all the way back to Genesis, the first book of the Bible. You don’t get too far in, and then you hit this guy named Abram, so he’s going back to that story.
Here’s a summary of the story: There’s an old man named Abram. His wife’s named Sarai. Their names are going to be changed to Abraham and Sarah. As far as we can tell, and I think, based upon a little further in Acts, I think Abraham was from a nation called Babylon. You heard of that one? Thumbs up, thumbs down—godly, ungodly? Ungodly, right? Babylon. Anytime the Rolling Stones names an album after a place, thumbs-down ungodly, OK? Babylon.
So, he’s from Babylon, and they created something called the Tower of Babylon in rebellion against God, and God judged them. And then the Bible says that God picked one of these rebellious, undeserving, pagan people like me, and showed up to him and said, “Abram, here’s what we’re going to do: I’m going to give you a son. Through that son will come a nation. Through that nation will come offspring, or seed, who is a blessing to the nations of the earth.” Abraham didn’t seek God; God sought Abraham. Abraham didn’t call out to God; first God called out to Abraham. Abraham didn’t deserve what he was going to receive; it was a gift of God’s grace. This a great portrait of sovereign election.
God then allows them to have a child, all right? He’s already mentioned this earlier—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, talking about generations. Through that son comes the nation of Israel. Through that nation of Israel comes a very important Son, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and he is the blessing to the nations of the earth. So the promise given to Abram was, “You’re from a pagan nation. I’m going to make you into a nation of my people, and from the nation of my people will come one person to bless all the nations, all the races, all the tribes, all the tongues, all the languages.”
And this is super important for you and me to realize, because in that day, they tended to have national gods. So, there are these people and these people. And these people have their god, and these people have their god. And they pray to their god for power to crush these people while these people pray to their god for power to crush these people.
And the real God shows up and says, “You all need to repent. I’m the Lord and King over all the nations. I’m the King of kings, I’m the Lord of lords, and you don’t get to war with me. You don’t get to war with one another. We’re going to make this new group called the church. You’re going to love one another like family and it’s going to be people from every language, and tribe and tongue and nation and class and race and gender and socioeconomic background and style of people because a promise was made that one person would be the blessing for all the people.” Good news, right? That’s what he’s saying and that’s our Jesus. He’s the offspring of Abraham and he’s the blessing to the nations.
WORDS FOR CHRISTIANS
That being said, I want to have a few words for you who are Christian and a few words for those of you who are not. Christians, number one, here’s what we see in the example of Peter.
1. FAITH IS TO BE PUBLIC, NOT PRIVATE
Number one, our faith is to be public, not just private. Peter’s faith at this moment, is it public or private? Very public. He stands up to a large group of people and says, “You killed Jesus. What are you going to do with that?” That’s very public.
We live in a day when everyone is OK with your Christian faith provided it is private, not public, OK? How many of you on social media are not really putting Jesus out there? Maybe you are a Christian or you’re just attending a church, Community Group, whatever the case may be—you’ve not really told your family because you know the backlash. You’re at work and, yet again, Christianity is the piñata getting the proverbial whack yet again on some moral or social issue. “I would say something, but no thanks.” You’re a student. You’re in class at the university, and all of a sudden they’re talking about Christianity again. Oh, oh, oh, and it’s not positive. Who saw that coming, right? This is where you raise your hand and you say, “Hey, since we’re talking about Jesus, as a Christian, I’d like to talk about Jesus since you brought it up. Since we all believe in tolerance and diversity, I thought I’d give you an opportunity to exercise that great kindness. You’re welcome. You’re welcome.”
See, some of us don’t go public with our faith because we don’t want to be persecuted for our faith. What did they do to Peter? Crucified him upside down. Who did he worship? A crucified Jesus. How’s it going to go for you? Probably really bad. This is not a sales pitch, right? There is no door-to-door salesman who does it this way. “Take this product and you will explode,” right?
But here’s the big idea: somebody went public for you, right? You didn’t know Jesus, and somebody who did know Jesus took the risk of telling you that they knew Jesus and talked to you about Jesus. And so somebody went public for you, you go public for someone else. Because the goal is not to escape this life without persecution, the goal is to escape this life with converts, to take as many people with us who love Jesus as we possibly can. So you can’t just have a private faith. It has to be a public faith. And you don’t need to be rude about it, but you need to be honest about it.
2. BE PREPARED
Number two, be prepared. You never know when you’re going to have an opportunity to talk to people about Jesus, OK? How many of you, if your teacher/professor in school, if they didn’t have tests, you wouldn’t have studied? If your teacher got up first day, “We don’t do tests,” you’d be like, “Then I don’t do study. Deal.” The reason teachers give us tests is they know we won’t study unless we have a test. How many of you hated pop quizzes? See, a pop quiz is a test you didn’t get to know was coming. Christian life is a series of pop quizzes. You don’t know when you’re going to have an opportunity to pray for somebody, to answer somebody’s question, to talk to somebody about Jesus. You don’t know, right?
Do you think Peter was prepared for this day? You think it was, you know, on his calendar, “Today, the man lame from birth will be healed, a large crowd will gather, and I will preach. Check, time to pull out my commentaries and get my sermon ready.” Do you think he was prepped? No. The Bible says he was just going to prayer, a guy lame from birth, “I don’t have silver or gold”—shazam!—“how about a healing? OK, great.” This is what happens.
Now, what I can tell you is, as far as I can tell, this is probably an extemporaneous sermon from Peter, and it may only be a summarized transcript, not the full sermon, but he packs quite a bit in, amen? I mean, for just like, “Well, hey, let me just talk about some stuff I’m thinking about as I’ve been studying the Bible.” He really is studied up. Here’s the big idea: Study, study, study. Pray, pray, pray. You never know when the opportunity will arise, but you want to be ready to serve.
See, there are opportunities all the time. Maybe you’re at work and somebody says, “I got diagnosed with cancer.” “Can I pray for you? Where are you at with God? How can I serve you? Do you know that we worship a God who suffered?” Like, walk through that door of open opportunity. But oftentimes, the door opens and we don’t walk through it because we haven’t been studying, so we’re not ready. We’re like, “Well, if they ask a question, I don’t think I can answer it. I’ve not really prepared myself. I’m not sure what to say or do.”
Friends, I would just encourage you, ministry opportunity is always there, prepared people aren’t. That’s when Jesus says that “The harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few.” There’s lots of people who need help, and there’s few Christians who are ready. Peter’s ready, and he’s a good example for us.
3. THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL EMPOWER YOU
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit will empower you to speak courageously about Jesus. Hey, would you agree with me? Peter, at this point, he’s acting in a way that is very courageous, right? He’s preaching publicly about Jesus at the temple to people who don’t agree with him, and some of them were there shouting, “Crucify him, crucify him,” complicit in the crucifixion of Jesus. Yes or no, courageous? Yes. Was Peter always courageous? Was he a guy, if you look at his life, you’re like, “Oh, of course Peter’s courageous. Look at him. His cape flies in the wind. He’s always ready for battle. He’s Peter the Courageous. He’s Peter the Lionhearted.”
No. For those of you who know the story of the Bible, he did not start courageous. He started as a coward, all right? They arrested Jesus, and they’re trying him, and they’re going to crucify him. Peter’s following him, right, and the Bible says from a long ways away, right? Here’s Peter. Jesus is way down there.
Why is Peter this far away from Jesus when he’s going to be crucified? Peter’s not signing up for suffering. The Bible says he’s warming himself by a fire at a distance, trying to remain anonymous, keep his faith private, not go public. They start chatting. There’s probably a teenage servant girl there, “Oh, that’s a weird accent. Where are you from? From the South? What’s up with the y’alls?” You know, she sees his Galilean accent. He’s rural, right? “Oh, isn’t that where Jesus is from—Galilee? You know what? In fact, I saw you with him. You’re one of Jesus’ guys.” What’s Peter say? Three times denies, “I don’t know Jesus. Never met him,” starts cursing, “Don’t know who you’re talking about,” because he’s a coward. Here, Peter’s courageous. What happened? Well, the Holy Spirit filled him, gave him courage.
Mars Hill, I believe even in the increasingly hostile culture in which we live, it’s more like the days of Peter, the Holy Spirit’s going to need to empower us to talk about Jesus. And some of you say, “That’s right, and as soon as I feel that courage, I will speak.”
Here’s the truth: speak and then the courage comes. The courage comes as you speak, not before, right? It’s by faith. “OK, I’m going to talk about Jesus now. I’m not sure I’m going to get it all right. I’m not sure I’m going to have the courage to finish it. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m going to open my mouth like the prophets used to and the children of God still do, and I’m going to talk about Jesus, and I’m going to trust that the Holy Spirit will empower me to say the right words and to have the courage to endure whatever happens as a result of talking about Jesus,” amen? That’s exactly what he demonstrates for us. And that’s what I want for you.
A WORD FOR NON-CHRISTIANS
Now, for those of you who are non-Christians, here’s his word to you: Acts 3:19, “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that the times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.” And when he’s talking about sins here, what can happen is some of us have a whole list of, oh yeah, here’s all the bad things you do.
He’s talking to religious people. It’s important to note, OK? These are people who believe in God. These are people who are moral. These are people who are well-behaved. These are people who are generous. Like, these are people that if, you know, if they’re in the Scouts, they got a lot of patches down their sleeves. Like, they obey the rules. These are people who play by the rules. But what he says to them is, “You delivered Jesus, you denied Jesus, you killed Jesus.” So when we think of sin, we can’t just think of those bad people. Sometimes the bad people are the most religious people, OK?
But what he’s saying is this, that if we repent, God forgives our sin. And the word picture’s important. In our day, we have, you know, paper. We use the paper, we throw it away. In their day, they would have parchment or sometimes animal skins, and it’s very valuable. And so they would write with an acid-free ink, and later on, if you wanted to clean it, you could reuse the proverbial paper. You could reuse it.
What he’s saying is, “This is how God works with us through Jesus’ cross, dealing with our sin.” Think of your sin as like a whole list, “You did this, you failed to do that. Here’s all your failures, faults, and flaws. Here’s all your shortcomings and sins.” Long list. And Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is like God putting it under water, scrubbing it clean, pulling it out, and saying, “See, it’s all gone. It’s clean.” Every time you do the laundry, just remind yourself Jesus does that too, all right? He makes us clean. We’re forgiven, but we need to repent.
Let me camp on this in my closing few moments. Christians and non-Christians, particularly in our current sort of moral, spiritual, cultural climate, there’s a list of issues that we disagree on, and there’s a bit of a war over the things that we disagree on. It’s actually deeper than that. Because a non-Christian begins with this assumption: “I’m basically a good person. I don’t need to change who I am. Maybe I need to improve a little of who I am, but I’m basically a good person. And what I desire are good things. So, my morality is a good thing. My sexuality is a good thing. My spirituality is a good thing because I’m a good person, and out of me will come good desires, good actions, and good thoughts. And I need to be loved, and I need to be accepted, and I need to be approved so that I can be the good person that I truly, deeply am.
“And if you would tell me that I’m wrong, that’s very hateful. If you would tell me that I need to change, that’s very intolerant. And if you would say that some of what I feel or some of what I like or some of what I believe or some of how I behave is unacceptable, that’s very unloving.”
Christians believe that the highest authority is God, not us, and the timeless Scriptures, not the timely preferences. We believe that who we are needs to change at the deepest level because what is natural is actually sinful, because we believe that sin has infected and affected everyone and everything, which means our nature is wrong and needs to change. It means that our mind is wrong, and it needs to change. It means that our desires are wrong and they need to change. It means that our actions are wrong and they need to change. It means that our mind is wrong and it needs to change. Not only what we think and what we feel and how we are and what we do, but who we are needs to change.
And the Bible summarizes that in the word “repentance.” Repentance. And it’s very loving. In fact, it’s the most loving thing. The God who made us—we rebelled against him and chose death. God then came for us and we killed him. God rose from death and said, “I will forgive you and embrace you and change you.” Well, that’s incredibly loving because otherwise, we’re living in the path of the wrath of God. We’re living separated from God and destined for judgment from God. And someone who feels very at home living on the train tracks with no sense of impending destruction might find it very loving that someone yells at them or shoves them, but as the train barrels by, they must realize, “That was a very loving thing to do because you got me out of the path of death, destruction, devastation, and danger, and that was an act of love.” And that’s what the call to repentance is: it’s an invitation to get out of the path of the wrath of God and to be embraced by the love of Jesus.
And here’s the truth about the love of Jesus: Jesus’ love takes you as you are but refuses to allow you to remain that way. So, you come to Jesus as you are, but coming to Jesus means you are acknowledging that you need to change, and that’s repentance. That’s what repentance is. That’s what repentance does. And then he gives us this great promise for those who repent. Have you repented and trusted in Jesus? For those who repent, God sends what? Refreshing. God wants you to be refreshed, OK?
For those of you who are dark Christians—and dark Christians are those who love their sin, they love their rebellion, they love their folly, they love their pain, they love their suffering, they always talk about it, they always think about it, they always are soberly reminiscent of it, they can’t get over it. It’s as if, “If I just suffer more, then I’m more godly.” No, Jesus already suffered, and he’s not looking for any help. We repent and God brings refreshing. If you had a hot day where you found some cool shade and a nice breeze, the Holy Spirit’s like that. You’ve been parched and thirsty and dry in your mouth, and somebody gives you a cold drink—the Holy Spirit is like that. You had an exhausting day where you could barely stand on your feet and your pillow felt majestic—the Holy Spirit’s like that. God wants you to be refreshed, but to do that, you must repent. And we set up the service to give you an opportunity to do that.
So we’ll collect our tithes and offerings. This is where we repent of worshiping money rather than worshiping God with our money. In a moment, we’ll partake of Communion. This is where we remember Jesus’ broken body and shed blood, how our sin is forgiven, why repentance is possible, and how refreshing comes. Then we’re going to sing and celebrate because that’s what refreshed people do. And as we prepare for that and as the stewards collect our offering, I want to share with you our mission and some of what the Holy Spirit’s doing up in Everett. Is that OK? All right. And men, plant your feet. Everett belongs to Jesus. Snohomish County belongs to Jesus. We belong to Jesus, and by the grace of God we will plant our feet here, and we will stand here, and we will tell the truth from here, and we will love and serve from here.
MARS HILL EVERETT
Hey Mars Hill, Pastor Ryan here, and welcome to the armory. This is the home of Mars Hill Everett. This place used to be used for so many years to hold guns and weapons of war, and now it’s an outpost for the gospel. It’s a place where Mars Hill Everett is going to equip the saints for the work of the ministry. We’ve got an amazing opportunity ahead of us.
Everett used to be known as this town where there were a lot of undesirables and a place where you didn’t really want to go. It was a blue collar, hard-working town, but it was a town that had no real attraction. Unlike Seattle, Everett was looked down upon, but all that is changing. Because Jesus loves Everett, because he loves the people and the city here, Jesus is changing the face of Everett right now for his glory. The navy is bringing more ships, which is going to bring more sailors, more commerce, and more to Everett.
Jesus is doing amazing things, and he’s put us in this building at this time. We have raised close to $400,000 of our $750,000 goal, and we are excited for the work that Jesus is doing. And we want to invite every household that calls Mars Hill home to pray with us and to invest in what Jesus is doing. And by the power of the gospel, we’re going to see life brought to this place. We’re going to see the kingdom of light break in as the kingdom of darkness is crushed here in Everett.
All right, let’s pray. Father God, thank you so much that we don’t just have an experience of you, we have an explanation of you in Scripture. Holy Spirit, after we repent—and I pray that we would each individually repent—that we would acknowledge the ways that we are wrong and the ways that we need you to help us change. Holy Spirit, I invite you for a season, a time, a moment of refreshing, that you would refresh your people, that as we leave here, we would leave here with gladness in our hearts and the mission in our gaze to see people know and love and meet Jesus, to have their sins forgiven, to have their destinies altered, to have their legacies rewritten. And we ask for this grace in Jesus’ good name, amen.
Note: The sermon transcript has been edited for readability.
Peter stands up in front of his adversaries and proclaims that the Jesus whom they killed was indeed the suffering servant and the Christ—the long-awaited Messiah, come to save them. Christian, despite inevitable backlash, follow Peter. Speak and the Holy Spirit will give you that courage. And by doing so, you’ll be helping bring people to God and bringing God much glory.