Because of the Fall, mankind is in a state of rebellion against the King. Humanity is alienated from our great and good Creator. We are dead in our trespasses and sins. The Three-In-One God, being gracious and merciful, did not leave us in this horrible, hopeless condition. He sent His eternal Son into this world as Israel’s Messiah – the ultimate Prophet, Priest and King. Rabbi Yeshua gave us the profoundest teachings, did great miracles that showed He was very close to His Father, and empowered by God, and that Yeshua was the One who would eventually restore a broken creation and heal sickened and dying humanity.
The majority of the Chosen People rejected Him, and Yeshua died a cruel and painful, and yet atoning death. Then the Savior rose from the dead, overcoming Satan, sin and death. After completing the education of His disciples, He ascended to Heaven, to the right hand of God.
He left a small, but well-taught, and then Holy Spirit-filled-community with 12 special leaders to carry on His great task to seek and save a lost a dying world – starting with the Jewish people first. The Risen Rabbi was in Heaven, in a place of great honor and authority, but His followers were His body on Earth! They were His hands and feet and heart and mouth. Their purpose was to be a loving and worshiping and witnessing fellowship that would continue the Messiah’s mission.
Starting with 120 in Jerusalem, after the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, they grew to 3000 on the Shavout following Messiah’s death on Passover. But, that was just the beginning. Something special was about to happen that would cause them to grow even more, and also enter into conflict with the leaders of the nation – like their Lord had before. Luke gives us the background.
Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer. It was 3:00 in the afternoon, approaching evening. According to the Torah, sacrifices were to be offered in the morning and in the evening (see Numbers 28) – beginning and ending Israel’s day with atonement and getting closer to God. These times became special times of prayer for the Jewish people – which they still are to this day.
And a man who had been lame from his mother’s womb was being carried along, whom they used to set down every day at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful (there still is a Yaffa gate!), in order to beg alms of those who were entering the temple. This was a strategic location to beg. Religious people are to be charitable to the poor and needy. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he began asking to receive alms.
But, these two were not ordinary men who were on their way into the temple and passing by that crippled man that day. These were two of the great leaders of the Israel of God! These were two of the most special men who ever lived! These were two of the Son of God’s chosen emissaries and representatives to this world. These were two who will sit on thrones, ruling over the nation of Israel. They were very close to Rabbi Yeshua, who was very close to God the Father.
But Peter, along with John, fixed his gaze on him and said, “Look at us!” And he began to give them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you: In the name of Messiah Yeshua the Nazarene (“in the name” means “because of who Yeshua is, and what He is able to do, and because of the authority He has given me”) – walk”! Peter seemed to know exactly what God wanted to happen in this situation, and he was given authority – Messianic authority, the Son of God’s divine authority, and he used it by commanding the crippled man to walk.
The strong fisherman did something else. And seizing him by the right hand, he raised him up. And, a great miracle happened to the lame man. And immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened. With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.
The miracle was immediate and it was very public – right at one of the entrances to the Jerusalem temple, and at the time when the religious Jewish people were entering to take part in the closing prayers of the day! And all the people saw him walking and praising God; and they were taking note of him as being the one who used to sit at the Yaffa gate (Beautiful gate) of the temple to beg alms, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he was clinging to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them at the so-called portico of Solomon, full of amazement.
Miracles were not everyday events for the Chosen People. There were only a couple of times and with only a few men when an outpouring of miracles took place in our history: Moses and Joshua and the Exodus from Egypt through our entry into the Land of Israel; then in the time of Elijah and Elisha. Other than those special time and those few men, miracles were a rarity.
Except that many great miracles had just happened the previous three or four years involving the young Rabbi from Nazareth. But He had died, and the miracles had stopped! Except, there were those unusual events that had taken place on the Shavuot following the Nazarene’s death, when a very loud noise had been heard when Yeshua’s followers had been meeting, and then a group of Yeshua’s Galilean Jewish followers spoke to the people of Jerusalem in the languages of the lands where many had come from, and those Galileans claimed that they had never learned those languages. And now, a great miracle of healing and restoration had just taken place through two of Yeshua’s closest followers. What did it mean?
Peter knew exactly what it meant, and wanting to fulfill his mission, and tell these people the Good News about the final atonement and salvation made possible by the Crucified-Yet-Risen Messiah, Simon Peter used this God-given opportunity to give his second great sermon. And, like Peter, we constantly need to use our God-given opportunities to tell people the Good News about the Messiah!
But when Peter saw this, he replied to the people, “Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? Peter and John were not the source of the miracle. They were only humble earthen vessels, but representatives of the true Powers – God the Father and God the Son.
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers (God the Father), has glorified His Servant Yeshua (the Son of God, who serves the Father in all things. As to His nature, the Son is equal to the Father – fully God. As to His position, the Son is inferior to the Father. He is the Father’s Servant. But this choice Servant, this unique Son, this dead-yet-risen-and-ascended Savior, is now and forever greatly esteemed and honored by God the Father).
Peter spoke the truth about God – about the Father and the Son. But, this truth, this reality, presented a very difficult problem for the majority of the Jewish people. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His Servant Yeshua, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him.
The majority of the Chosen People had dishonored the Son of God! They rejected the true King of Israel. They disowned the long-awaited Messiah! And, to make matters worse, they caused Him to be handed over to the Roman governor for execution. And, to make things worse, they pressured the Roman governor to execute Yeshua when he didn’t want to.
And, to make matters worse, there was more! But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you. The irony was incredible! Yeshua was holy, set apart from sin, the only perfect human being, sinless. He always did the right thing. And, when Pilate gave them the opportunity to chose the holiest and most righteous man who ever lived, or a murderer, they chose the murderer!
But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of life. It was as if they had supported Pharaoh, and executed Moses; killed Mordecai, and saved Haman! But, Yeshua is far greater than Moses and Mordecai. He is the Sar Chaim – the Prince of Life. A prince is a leader who has great authority. The Son of God has authority over matters of life and death. The Prince Of Life has eternal life in Himself and He has the power and authority to give His eternal life to others – and He willingly does so for those who know Him and follow Him. What an incredible mistake the majority had made! What an ironic sin! What a self-destructive crime! They had rejected the Holy and Righteous Messiah who alone could provide them with eternal life!
But, God the Father knew better, and had over-ruled their horrible mistake. You put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. God had vindicated the Prince of Life, and resurrected His holy and innocent and sinless Son – and Peter who had just been used to do a great miracle, and his friend John who was with him, were eyewitnesses that Yeshua had been resurrected. They had seen Him! And, according to Torah, two reliable witnesses are enough to establish a matter as something that should be believed. Peter and John should be believed, especially in light of this notable miracle that had just taken place.
That meant that Yeshua is alive! He is the long awaited Redeemer! He is the Savior! He is the Giver of Life! He is the Healer of humanity! One day Yeshua will completely heal those who know Him and join themselves to Him by means of their faith and allegiance. That is what this miracle meant! These Jewish people needed to know this, and respond positively, with faith in these realities. And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Yeshua which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all. Humanity is like this crippled beggar – crippled from birth, crippled from our earliest days of creation in the Garden of Eden, unable to walk right, live right, serve God right. We are spiritually poor. We are not what we should be or can be. But the Son of God, and the Son of God working through His Community of believers on Earth, are working to bring healing to impoverished, crippled humanity! Genuine closeness to God, salvation from Satan, sin and death, blessing and healing come to human beings when we realize who Yeshua really is. There are so many eternal benefits to be gain by coming to God on His terms – which is having confidence and trust in Yeshua, the God-sent King Messiah and Savior!
It is true that the majority of the nation of Israel were responsible for the sins of rejecting the long-awaited Messiah, and pressuring the Roman governor to execute Him. But that sin was not intentional, and praise the Lord, missing the mark in that great way could be forgiven! And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. The majority of the Chosen People acted in ignorance, not knowing that they were killing the Messiah. But, what they meant for evil, God meant for good! God had used this error of errors to accomplish His plan of messianic salvation through the Messiah!
It was necessary for the Messiah to come and suffer and die. That was the message of all the Jewish prophets. But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Messiah would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. The Lord had used their ignorance and their sin to make salvation possible for the entire world – including them, and starting with them. They needed to respond in the right way to the offer of Messianic salvation.
Therefore repent (change your thinking, turn from your wrong ideas and wrong ways, to right thinking and the right ways) and return (return to God, to the Father and to the Son, return to the true meaning of the Tenach and of Judaism).
If they turned to God and Messiah, three things would happen. First, their sins would be completely forgiven, and that is a fantastic thing! So that your sins (which were many and very very serious) may be wiped away (completely forgiven, completely atoned for, like a little dirt is wiped away by a large, clean cloth, or like a dirty chalkboard or slate is made clean by a wet sponge or cloth).
Full and final atonement, the complete forgiveness of all sins is very good! But even more was being offered! Second, they would experience spiritual refreshment. In order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord. They would be genuinely close to God, and receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Their spiritual thirst would be quenched, their hunger for God and salvation and life would be satisfied.
But even more was being offered! Third, eventually, at the right time, God the Father would send them Yeshua, who would return bringing great salvation and the promised Messianic restoration. And that He may send Yeshua, the Messiah appointed for you, whom Heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. The prophets predicted the Messiah’s First Coming, and His suffering and death and resurrection and ascension to Heaven. They also predicted His Second Coming, saving and restoring Israel, and the nations, and the entire world.
There was so much to be gained by coming to God on His terms – having faith in Yeshua the Messiah! And, there were terrible consequences for continued rejection of Him! Moses himself, in Deuteronomy 18, spelled out the consequences that would come to those who rejected the greatest prophet of all – the prophet like Moses – the Messiah. Moses said, ‘the Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers; to Him you shall give heed to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people’. Yeshua is that great prophet like Moses. That was now clear. If they continued to deny Yeshua, their rejection would no longer be due to ignorance. Their rejection would be wilful and intentional. The Chosen People needed to listen to the prophet Yeshua, and trust Yeshua like they trusted the prophet Moses – or they would be utterly and completely destroyed!
And, it wasn’t just Moses who talked about the Messiah. After Moses came Samuel and the other prophets, and they said the same thing that Moses said about the Messiah – that Messiah was coming and He would bless those who believed in Him, and punishment would come to those who rejected Him. And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days.
These Jewish people were part of the special nation that God had created to bring the Messiah into the world. God especially wanted them, first before everyone, to experience Messianic salvation and blessing! It is you who are the sons of the prophets (and that is a great thing, to be connected to God’s prophets by heritage and blood and continuity of the faith) and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘and in your seed all the families of the Earth shall be blessed’ (and that is a great thing, to be connected to God’s great and ancient covenant made with father Abraham, promising that first through the Chosen People, and then through the Messiah, Messianic salvation would come to Israel and the nations). These Jewish people were special to God because of their connection to Abraham, and the Abrahamic Covenant, and because of their connection to the prophets.
When the Messiah came, because of the special place that God has in His heart for this special chosen nation, the Messiah came first, offering the Chosen People Messianic salvation first – before anyone else! To the Jewish people first! For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways”. The only right conclusion was that they desperately and immediately needed to respond to God’s special love for them, and His desire to bless them and do good things to them and for them, and turn from their wrong ways of acting and thinking, and accept the Resurrected Rabbi!
It seems that about 2,000 did so, as Lord willing, we will see next week. And, with great proclamation of the truth, and with a great response, there is great opposition, which is to be expected – as well we see, Lord willing, next week!