Why Did Jesus Come?
Summary: Peter seizes the opportunity to speak to a crowd gathering in response to a miracle; he explains that faith in Jesus’ name enabled the miracle, explains who Jesus is, and calls the crowd to respond to this news by turning from their sin and embracing the salvation found in Christ.
This morning we jump back into the Scriptures where we left off last week: in the middle of a miracle that happened one afternoon as the disciples, Peter and John, were on their way to the Temple to pray. A beggar asked them for money, a man born with a physical handicap, unable to walk for forty years. And instead of giving him some change, God used Peter and John to change his life, forever – to heal him instantly.
We talked about that last week. We said miracles do happen and we talked about this particular miracle. It was a surprise – to both the disciples and the man, neither of them was expecting this. And, that it was unusual. God doesn’t do miracles all the time. The Apostles didn’t go around healing all the lame beggars in the city the next day. And we said that was because, the miracle wasn’t really the point. God did the miracle to get people’s attention so something even more miraculous could happen – people could be born again as they heard the good news of who Jesus was and what He had done.
That’s where we jump back into the story now, the miracle has happened, everyone is stunned – people want to know what’s going on over there, what’s all the ruckus?
Acts 3:11 Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is
called Solomon’s, greatly amazed.
Now you have to remember, the Temple complex was big
– roughly the size of five football fields – it could hold a lot
of people. Solomons’s porch, or Solomon’s Portico – ran
along the eastern side of the wall across from the temple
building. And it’s here that the crowd is now gathering around the disciples asking what’s going on.
12 So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?
Peter tells the crowd – ‘Look, we didn’t do this. God did it to get your attention, there’s nothing special about us.’
Now, that’s super important for us to see – because it reminds us everything really is about Jesus. If you see a church or a ministry making a big deal about themselves, or their pastor or their leader – watch out! That’s not what you see in Scripture. There are streams, there are tribes, in the Church that get this wrong today. You see them making a big deal of their leaders, you see them wearing fancy clothes, parading around on the platform, posing with celebrities, and they’ve got all these followers on Instagram. Or you see them wearing fancy robes with all sorts of ornamentation.
That’s not what you see in Scripture – instead Peter is like Captain America with a vibranium shied deflecting everything that comes his way, refusing to be admired.
It might help you to know the big picture though – Peter was recently humiliated. He’s about to lay some serious accusations on this crowd – to tell them they denied God and let Jesus, who was perfectly innocent be betrayed and murdered. But Peter knows what that’s all about, because he did the same thing.
Remember, on the night before Jesus was crucified they were celebrating Passover, a religious feast and they all had this big meal – the last Supper – imagine it’s like Thanksgiving or Christmas for us. And Peter does this big man thing; he says, “Oh Jesus, I’m so loyal to you. You’re the greatest. Even if everyone else deserts you, I’ll always be with you. You’re the man!”
And Jesus told him, “that’s nice and all Peter, but actually, in less than twelve hours you’re going to deny that you ever had anything to do with Me.” And he did. Not long after the meal, Jesus was arrested, put to a hasty trial, and crucified within hours. During the trial Peter stood outside to watch and three times people asked if he was one of the guys that hung with Jesus and all three times, he said no.
So then Jesus is crucified, dies, and His body is put in the grave, and three days later He rises from the dead. But then He meets up with Peter and totally forgives him. And not just forgives him, He says, “Peter, feed my sheep – love My lambs.”
In other words, even though you totally blew it, I’m willing to forgive you, restore you, and appoint you as a leader in this new thing called the church.
So, yeah, Peter has learned a few hard lessons in life and is eager to make sure no one thinks he’s anything special.
Friends, this is a good lesson for all of us. Don’t heap praise and admiration up for yourself. And when you have the chance to do good for others, don’t let their praise stick to you. Don’t linger too long over their words. Humbly defer it wherever possible.
This has some very specific application to giving and receiving Christmas gifts, doesn’t it? Are you going to give that great gift and then let people praise you? Let them think how awesome you are? Be careful. Or, are you going to look to someone in your life and expect them to give you some great and amazing, some mind-bogglingly spectacular gift? Are you
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expecting them to make all your dreams come true? Be careful. People aren’t made to bear that kind of burden. They will let you down.
We all need to turn our eyes toward Jesus and that’s exactly what Peter is about to say. He tells the crowd, don’t look at us as though we’re special – God just did this through us. He says:
Acts 3:13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. 14 But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. 16 And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
Peter is very clear here – this miracle wasn’t the result of anyone’s personal power or piety, it wasn’t the result of their might or merit – it was independent of himself, John, and the even the man who was healed. It was God choosing to do a work. And when God chooses to do something, nothing can stop it.
Which is GREAT news for us, because it means you don’t have to pass a certain test, you don’t have to achieve a certain level to do things for God. We have a young lady in the congregation who just earned her black belt in Tae Kwon Do, it’s a pretty cool accomplishment. She had to work on it for a long time. And then there’s this whole evaluation, and you don’t know exactly how you did, so you’re waiting to get the final report – to know, am I good enough? And she was, so watch out when you’re with our youth group.
Some of you have earned your CPA or graduated from fight school, passed the bar, or your nursing boards, your medical boards, or you’ve defended your thesis. And it took a long time, there was a lot of study and research and practical experience that went into qualifying for your profession. Some of you weren’t allowed to practice your profession without supervision until you had passed those boards – until you proved you were well trained.
But listen to what I’m telling you: there’s none of that when it comes to being used by God.
God doesn’t have white belts and green belts, brown belts and black belts, because it doesn’t all depend on you. Now, you can grow, you can improve – if you’re a musician you can hone your skills, if you’re going to be a teacher or a preacher you can grow in your knowledge and practice your delivery style, but ultimately, it’s God who works in and through you to accomplish anything with eternal results – as Peter says, don’t look at us, this was God working through us – it was all about faith in His name.
But look too at the accusation Peter makes. He says God sent His Son, His servant, Jesus – Copyright 2019 The City Gates Church – No Distribution Beyond Personal Use Permitted 3
the Holy One who was perfectly just and you killed Him.
Now, let me ask you a question: can anyone make a charge against Jesus?
Here’s the problem we have today – I can give you a long list of pastors and ministry leaders who have stumbled and fallen and been an embarrassment to themselves, their families, and left great stains on the honor and name of the church. But I can give you a similar list of politicians, business leaders, military leaders, entertainers and athletes. It seems like almost anyone you look up to will eventually let you down. But not Jesus. He was holy. He was Just. And no one in the crowd could say, “Oh yeah, well what about the time back in Capernaum when He…”. Or, “What about a few years ago when He was a part of that…” No one had a charge that could stick to Jesus.
And that’s what was so infuriating to some people. He was perfect, noble, honorable, pure. He was holy and just. Which sounds great, but let’s be honest – we’ve all been around someone who was a little more noble than we are, and we felt a little condemned or judged when we wanted to do something we knew was a little shady because their very presence or existence made us feel guilty or ashamed. It pricked our conscience. And they don’t even have to mean it. They don’t have to try. They don’t have to say anything or give you a look – you just know. They’re right, but we want to flex things a bit, and look, we probably shouldn’t, but still…
That’s what happened with Jesus. People in power wanted to get rid of Him because they felt convicted by His holiness and justice. But then, when they arrested Him and put Him on trial, they couldn’t find any charges that would stick. So, they cooked something up and took Him over to Pontius Pilate the political leader who had the authority to order executions and Pilate conducted his own little investigation. He couldn’t find any charges either so he was ready to let Jesus go, but then some people put political pressure on Pilate to just trust them and go ahead and order the execution anyway, and he caved and did it.
But the thing is: there’s no stopping God’s plan. So, even though Jesus was put to death, God raised Him from the dead and Peter has hundreds of witnesses he could bring out to testify to the fact.
Now, remember, these events were only a few months old at the time, no doubt some of the people listening to Peter speak were there and saw it all happen. So he’s kind of painted them into a dark corner – God tried to do something good for us all, but we missed it or we resisted it. And remember, he counts himself as part of that – He also denied Jesus. They were all guilty; they had all resisted God’s plan in different ways.
But, Peter says, I know you didn’t fully understand what you were doing – none of us did. Listen to:
Acts 3:17 “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers.
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When Jesus was being nailed to the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
God can take a horrible evil done for selfish motives and still redeem it and use it for good. In fact, Peter says God knew all of this was going to happen, none of it took Him by surprise, it was all a part of His magnificent plan. He says look, go back to our earliest Scriptures and you’ll find God has been sending us messages about this all along:
18 But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled.
Here’s the point of it all Peter says – you blew it, we blew it, God was here, in our midst, and we didn’t like it, or we didn’t see it, so we resisted. God was trying to do good for us, and we resisted it.
But He’s doing it again right now. God is here, in our midst, He just did this amazing miracle to get your attention, to tell you He is working for your good. Will you see it this time? Will you accept it, and will you receive Him? Listen as Peter presses them for a response – he says
19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. 22 For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ 24 Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. 25 You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.”
God has been announcing this all along – He has been proclaiming salvation, purpose, and identity for the people of God all the way back in the covenant He made with Abraham; working it out by using Moses to lead the people out of slavery and into the freedom and opportunity of the Promised Land and then promising that someone even better than Moses would eventually come along; clarifying what that meant through the voices and writings of all the prophets. And now He has come – the Promised One that everyone and everything was pointing to – it’s Jesus of Nazareth, and to prove it to you, God has just done this miracle.
You missed it the first time, but God raised Him from the dead, and is reaching out to you again because He wants to turn you – every one of you, (notice how inclusive that is) – away
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from your iniquities.
So here’s what you need to do: repent, be converted, so that your sins can be blotted out, and times of refreshing may come to you from the presence of the Lord.
Now, I don’t know about you – but here’s what absolutely blows my mind about all of this: it’s the incredible, utterly unthinkable mercy of God. That God is coming to people who voted for the death of Jesus and offering them a new life. You can trace a direct line between some of these guys’ chests and the cross of Christ – they voted for His death, or they thought it was a good idea, they heard about it, knew about it, or they were there – and these are the people that God is giving a second chance, saying you didn’t really understand what you were doing, and so now I’m targeting you – specifically targeting you with a call to repent, be converted, let Me wipe out all the charges against you and then, let Me come and be with you – that you might enjoy My presence and discover times of refreshing. I want to bless you by turning every one of you away from your wicked ways.
Now look, I can get this if you add a little time and distance. Look, if you want to take the good news of the sacrifice and forgiveness of God over to Ireland in the 5th century, or China in the 7th century, I’m good with that. If you want to bring it to North America in the 16th century, I’m good with that. If you want to proclaim today, I’m good with that. But to proclaim it to the very people who were a part of the process? It just feels a little too raw to me, a little too recent.
And that’s why I’m not God.
But I marvel at Him. Because, this is stunning grace, magnificent grace. And you know what this does? It totally, and completely disarms you and me from having any excuse or reason why it couldn’t also apply to us.
Look, if God is willing to forgive, and not just forgive, but aggressively reach out to these people, then who, really are you? Remind me once again why God wouldn’t or couldn’t be calling out to you? Remind me of what you’ve done that’s so terrible that God wouldn’t or couldn’t forgive it?
Did you cast a vote for the murder of His Son? Well, there’s a pardon for that. So what else have you got?
Friends, listen! God can, and will, forgive you if you will stop resisting and ask.
God is working, even right now; even this very moment while you’ve been listening to all of this, God is working trying to get your attention. Now, He might not have performed some spectacular miracle to draw you in as part of a crowd, but you’re hearing the same message they heard. And you’ve got some things you could point to in your own life as evidence of the supernatural – evidence that God or angels or something have been there and tried to get your attention.
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The question is: how will you respond? Will you resist what God is trying to do in your life, or will you respond and receive?
You see, we all need to be saved. We all need to be converted. That’s what Peter told the crowd: you need to repent and be converted. There has to be a before and after picture of your soul. You need to move from what you were to what you are, and you do that by repenting of your sins and being born again.
As the apostle Paul put it later speaking of his own experience:
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Without Christ, you are guilty. You are guilty before God of the wrongs you have done – the moral crimes you have committed by doing things you should not have done and by ignoring or avoiding things you should have done. You might not have cast a vote for the death of Jesus, but you’ve told lies, you’ve lusted after things and people, you’ve said things you should not have said. You can try to explain some of it away, you can try to diminish it and say it wasn’t that bad, or it was so long ago – but all of us know – we all know – we have committed moral crimes against God and against others.
And so God calls us to repent – to confess, to agree: yes, I did that and it was wrong, and I want to be forgiven, I need to be forgiven.
Luke 5:31 … “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”
But listen, repentance is more than just regret or remorse; it’s change. It’s a sincere desire that by God’s grace and with His strength and help, I hope never to do that again. I hope to become a new person.
And if you do that, your sins are blotted out – the record is erased, the hard drive is wiped, it’s a factory reset, you cannot recover your data, and there’s no backup on God’s eternal cloud based servers – the record of your wrongs is gone from His files.
You might have a hard time believing that, but it doesn’t mean it’s not true.
Instead of guilt, you now have the presence of the Lord. And the times of refreshing that come from Him. If you are born again, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside you and He promises never to leave you or forsake you – you are never, ever, truly and entirely alone. God is with you.
And some of you know that – you can testify to that – you have a story to tell about your Copyright 2019 The City Gates Church – No Distribution Beyond Personal Use Permitted 7
experience of the times of refreshing that come from the presence of the Lord in your life. There’s a rest and relief when you confess and receive forgiveness. There’s a release that happens when you think of your past sin. You acknowledgement that yes, that happened. It was real. I was a part of it. But it’s forgiven. It’s behind me. It doesn’t own me any more. It’s not who I am any more. It doesn’t define me anymore. I’ve been forgiven. I’ve been made new. It’s a great experience, and it’s made possible by an even greater God.
So, here’s what I want to do this morning – I want to invite you to respond to Peter’s message. I want to invite you to repent. The Scripture say:
Isaiah 55:6 Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
So here’s what we’re going to do – we’re going to take a moment and respond to the Lord. Right there in your seat. We’re going to call upon Him, we’re going to confess our sins, and we’re going to ask for forgiveness. We’re going to admit that we need this just as much as the crowds two thousand years ago at the Temple. And then, we’re going to sing another song of worship and leave this place in a better condition than when we walked in because our sins have been blotted out and times of refreshing have come to us from the presence of the Lord. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, you are good to us. Stunningly good to us. You are better to us than we deserve. We cannot understand Your ways.
You have called us here this morning, just like You called the crowd together in the Temple and you have spoken to us about our sin, just like You spoke to them. You have called us to repent, but even more than that, You have made our repentance possible and so we praise You.
We sit before You as the God of the universe and the judge of souls and we repent. We repent of
– our sins – those that are grievous and gross and those that seem small and trivial
– we repent of making too much of ourselves – thinking too highly and too often of us
– of thinking too much about our career, or our plans, or our little place in the world
– we repent of listening too long to the opinions of other people and allowing them to shape us instead of listening to You
– we repent of putting our hope in and our expectations on others instead of bringing them to You
– we repent for treating others poorly, for making judgments about people, and thinking we are somehow better than them. We confess our superiority complex and our inferiority
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complex and that both come from looking at the world through the eyes of people instead of through the eyes of God.
– Father, please bring to mind anything else we need to repent of now – bring to mind the sins we have committed, the wrongs we have done, bring them out of the shadows and into the light and help us to confess. Help us to see and to agree that these things are wrong and we have to see them that way, we have to own them that way, we have to accept our guilt, our blame.
And once we understand, help us to also understand and apply the forgiveness and salvation you offer us in Christ.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Now my friends, the Scripture says:
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
You just had the chance at a power washing for your soul. And if you took it, you are made clean. God pours out His mercy on you – you should expect to experience times of refreshing that come from His presence, you have something to rejoice about – a reason to leave here with hope. So let’s sing a song of praise to our God, and then, if you like, go to the foyer, pick up some Christmas gifts for a donation, and take some cards so you can invite others to come back next Sunday and on Christmas Eve so they can discover and enjoy some of what you’ve got in Christ.