This is How it Was Done

Jesus crucified

They all came rushing over to Solomon's Colonnade! Everyone wanted to see what had happened. There was no big riot. No one was fighting and there were no Roman soldiers involved. Actually it was all over, there was nothing left to see -- just three guys standing there talking together . . . or was there more?

Peter and John had just healed a beggar who was well-known, widely recognized as the lame man who begged near the temple. Now he was jumping and walking around and praising God with newfound strength in his legs. Everyone was amazed and a lot of people came to see what was going on. 

Jesus suffersWhen Peter saw the crowd that had gathered he called out, "Why does this surprise you?" "Why do you stare at us as if we had done something by our own power or that by our own godliness we had made this man walk?" "God did this!" "He has glorified His servant Jesus--the one you handed over to be killed . . . the one you disowned before Pilate." Peter went on to further accuse them saying, "You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murder be released to you." "You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead and we are witness of this."

He went on and a few sentences later Peter made this amazing comment. "This is how God fulfilled what He had foretold through all the prophets, saying that His Christ would suffer." (emphasis is mine) 

I hope you can take some time to linger over this amazing point.

God deliberately planned on using the unreasoning, unrighteous and even irrational and cruel behavior of men in His foreknowledge and plan for the suffering and death of His Son, Jesus and in this way He provided for their salvation, for their adoption as His own children.

"This is how God fulfilled what He had foretold . . . "

Peter's comments to the crowd are a long way from what we now call, "Friendship" or "Lifestyle" evangelism where we seek to share the love of Christ, His message of salvation through relationships we build in order to gain trust with people. We who practice friendship evangelism believe that it is through these friendships that God provides opportunities not only for us to share the message but for genuine interactions to take place with people who have never before heard about Jesus. But here in Acts Peter seems to rashly break all the tenants of friendship evangelism . . . or of any kind of modern evangelistic outreach. He pointed directly to their guilt and strongly accused them of murdering Jesus. The only indication of any sort of personal connection that Peter made with the crowd was when, in verse 17 when he said, "I know you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders." 

Should we take this as a model for our ministry today? Should we boldly preach to crowds at the train stations or in shopping areas about sin and the death of Jesus? The things Peter shared are true today too. And as we sin we participate in the death of Jesus. It would be biblically true to shout that out to the crowds gathered around the Shibuya train station. And I could certainly tell students who come into Jlodge that through their sin they have take part in the crucifixion of the Holy one of God. I definitely have the sense that I have taken part in His death.

But, in fact, I don't believe that Peter's ministry is the same as what God has given to me . . . to us. Peter spoke as the Holy Spirit led him to speak to those people at that time. The Holy Spirit also gave him an astonishing miracle to attract the crowd. So far God has not given astonishing miracles to or through me. Those people were also very aware of Jesus and His life. They knew of the Law and of the prophets. They had witnessed Jesus' life and they were there for his death. And they had heard of his resurrection. It made sense for Peter to follow up the recent events of Jesus crucifixion and resurrection with such a powerful message of condemnation and hope--of guilt and of cleansing. These truths that Peter spoke so boldly and forcefully about are the same kind of truths we speak of today. But our task is to speak these truths to people who have never heard of Jesus, never heard of the prophets or the Law or any of it. Our task is to lead people from darkness toward and ultimately into the light. Ours is a ministry largely of sowing seeds whereas Peter had much more harvesting to do. 

For now I will spend some time dwelling on the incredible truth that God intended from the beginning to use the cruelty of man--the unfairness of it all and the irrational, unthinking hate in order to accomplish His most heartbreaking task of the brutal crucifixion of Jesus. And all this so He could save those from whom the hate spilled out onto His Holy and righteous and dearly beloved Son.