Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. Acts 2:36
We ordinarily think of Acts 2 in association with the celebration of Pentecost because it records that amazing day when God poured out his Holy Spirit on the waiting disciples. The result was the first time that the disciples, now Apostles, ‘went public’ with the gospel after the crucifixion of Jesus. This Easter I was drawn to the fact that their first public proclamation was about the resurrection. It points to just how central Jesus’ resurrection is to the gospel, and thus to Christianity.
Peter’s message is pretty simple. Jesus of Nazareth was a man, but you knew he was something special because God made it clear by working miracles, wonders and signs through him. Despite this, you put him to a shameful death on a cross. But God didn’t let you stop him, he raised Jesus up just like he had promised to do centuries ago through the prophet David. It’s not just that you put a good man to death, or even a prophet, but you can ‘be assured of this: God made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ’. This is big trouble!
He is a man. Shared our life. Experienced our sufferings. Resisted our temptations. Was fully identified with us.
He is Christ, Messiah. The one who is to redeem Israel. The only one able to offer a sacrifice to atone for our sin.
He is Lord. God has set him as his right hand, the place of rule over all things. There is nothing in heaven or on earth that is not under his dominion. He will put all enemies under his feet.
Using Psalm 16 and Psalm 110 Peter makes it clear that his hearers, and indeed all of us due to our sin and rebellion, are responsible for the crucifixion of ‘this Jesus, … Lord and Christ’.
What are we to do? On that day in Jerusalem Peter’s hearers asked, and the question rings down through the years to us today.
There is no justification or rationalization, no making it up to God somehow. There is only one response possible: ‘repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins’. We can only turn from own path, humble ourselves and align ourselves with this Jesus and gratefully receive the forgiveness he has purchased for us. Being united with his death and his resurrection through baptism ‘in the name’. We fought him, but he gives us new life united with him. More than pardon, he gives us the gift of his own Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to make this union possible.
The resurrection is the reality which ties together all the most basic truths of the Story of God: our sin; Jesus’ incarnation, atonement, resurrection, ascension, glorification; the gift of the Spirit; the hope of Glory. No wonder that Peter chose the resurrection for the theme of his first sermon. No wonder that we so joyfully celebrate every Easter:
The day of resurrection! Earth, tell it out abroad;
The Passover of gladness, the Passover of God.
From death to life eternal, from earth unto the sky,
Our Christ hath brought us over, with hymns of victory!