Sermons, Uncategorized

Bear Fruits in Keeping with Repentance

4x5 original
“St. John the Baptist Preaching” by Luca Giordano

Click here to listen to this sermon.

He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:7-8a).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

The world gets ready for this season on one level, Christians on another. The world gets ready for just one great big blockbuster of a day on Christmas, kind of an annual consumer feeding frenzy, indulging itself in stuff and more stuff. Then when it’s over, it’s over. And all that’s left of Christmas on December 26 is a credit card hangover, a big pile of wrapping paper, and trips to the store for returns and after-Christmas sales.

Not so in the Church. For us, when Christmas comes, it stays. It lingers on through Epiphany, the Gentiles’ Christmas, and all the way clear through till Lent. We continue to ponder the great glad news that God has become man to redeem all humankind out from under the iron grip of death and hell. And we will sing our Christmas praises well into January and beyond. We make Christmas last.

But let’s not rush it. Christmas hasn’t yet begun. We’re still in Advent. We’re still getting ready. Yet our readiness is much more than just sending cards and decorating our homes, baking Christmas goodies and going to parties. It is a readiness of the heart that God desires at His coming. That’s why in our collect for today we pray: “Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of Your only-begotten Son.”

In our text, God gives us exactly that: a ready heart, through the prophet of Advent—John the Baptist. He is the very prophet whom the Lord appointed to clear the way for His coming. And believe me, He cleared the way.

Nothing mealymouthed about John, and no tiptoeing around for him. “You brood of vipers!” he shouted to the crowd coming out for baptism. “Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

The people coming out to hear John’s message and be baptized by him, sense the coming judgment but are like sheep without a shepherd. They don’t know how to escape the wrath to come. John points the way: produce fruit in keeping with repentance. The fruits of faith show the genuineness of repentance.

John marched right in where angels feared to tread and laid it on the line to all who heard him: “And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid at the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

In other words, “Straighten up! Judgment is coming!” Being the physical children of Abraham is no guarantee that you will escape the axe and fire of judgment. All the dead wood will be cut out and thrown into the fire.

Now that’s a little unsettling if we have the ears to hear it. And it should be. For the sad truth is, you and I don’t bear the good fruit our Lord expects. We’re barren trees! We’re dead wood! We don’t love God with all our heart and soul and strength, much less love our neighbor as ourselves. Despite our best efforts, there are those we have hurt and those we have failed to help. Our thoughts and desires are soiled with sin. There is nothing good within us, in our sinful nature. We are indeed poor miserable sinners who justly deserve God’s wrath and condemnation.

That’s how preparing the way for the Lord’s coming begins, when you and I are laid low by the hammer blows of God’s Law, when we are brought to know the seriousness of our sinful condition, and the eternal consequences of remaining in that sin—God’s righteous wrath. Only then can we be lifted up and comforted by the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ Jesus, His Son.

The way of the Lord is the way of repentance, you see. That is, it calls for change—a change of heart and mind. A change, which only God can work within us by the power of His Spirit working through His Word. That’s what we need this Advent season: a change so that we repent, clean out our lives, littered with shame and death, so that they might be filled with the life of Jesus Christ instead.

Not that such a change comes easy, mind you. It means the death of the habits of the sinful heart. And such habits always die hard. It’s always much easier to love and serve ourselves than it is to love and serve God and our neighbor for Jesus’ sake. It always comes naturally to the sinful heart to lash out with anger when we’re hurt, to return evil for evil, to repay injury with injury. It is much easier to cut down other people than to love them and build them up. It’s easier for the sinful heart to curse and swear, to lie and deceive by God’s name, than to pray, praise, and give Him thanks.

That’s why the way of the Lord leads first to the cross before it leads to joy. That’s why the Christian life is a life of constant repentance, a continuing vigil for change in mind and heart. First, we confess our sins, then God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). First the cross and then the crown. Such is the way, the road, we walk.

And that road often takes some unexpected twists and turns. It might take us through some rocky terrain and rugged territory, places we would rather not go. The road of faith may lead us out even into desert lands, where it seems we walk alone all by ourselves. But we are not alone even there. The very God who washed away our sins and gave us life will not abandon us in those desert times. He who gave up His life for us on His cross and shed His blood to wash our robes and make them white will never let us go. “My sheep know Me,” says Jesus, “and I know them. And they follow Me. And I will give them eternal life. And no man will ever snatch them out of My hand” (see John 10:1-15).

The path you walk might seem rugged at times and very steep, the pathway long and hard, but it is the path of the Lord’s own coming. As we just sang in our sermon, the voice of John, the Lord’s prophet, cries out to one and all: “Then cleansed by ev’ry Christian breast and furnished for so great a Guest. Yea, let us each our hearts prepare for Christ to come and enter there.”

So let’s stir up our hearts this Advent season. It’s time for a change, a new way. Let’s lift up the valleys of our deep despair, bring down the mountain peaks of our lofty pride, and straighten out our crooked ways.

“How is this done? What does this mean?” you ask.

What this means for you I cannot tell. It means different things for different people, depending on who they are and where they are in life. You can tell that from John’s instructions to those who heard his preaching. For tax collectors, the way of the Lord meant to be fair and honest; for soldiers, it meant to be content and not take what didn’t belong to them. For everyone, it meant generosity and mercy, giving food and clothing to those who had none, for Jesus’ sake.

Notice that John suggests fruits of repentance which bring benefits to other people. But they are not the results of plans and programs. Many of them are what are often known today as “random acts of kindness.” Most are just simple acts of service performed in the regular daily activities of your vocations, your current calling or station in life. What this means for you I can’t say.

But how is this done? That I can most certainly tell you: by the grace of God, that’s how—through His means of grace. In His Word and Sacraments, the Son of God, who came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, will change your hearts and make them new. He who left the Father’s throne in lowly meekness to be cradled in a cattle trough and wrapped in swaddling clothes is closer to you in His Word than your little child with his arms wrapped around your neck.

In Holy Baptism, God, the Holy Trinity receives you into communion or fellowship with Himself. Baptism works forgiveness of sins, rescues you from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. In Baptism, the Holy Spirit works faith and so creates in you new spiritual life with the power to overcome sin. By Baptism you have been made to share in Christ’s death and resurrection. As He has buried your sin, so you can and must daily overcome and bury it. And as He is risen from the dead and lives, so you too can and must daily live a new life in Him, bearing fruits in keeping with repentance.

Then, there’s confession and absolution. As you confess your sins and receive the absolution spoken by the pastor you may receive it as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it your sins are forgiven before God in heaven.

In the Lord’s Supper, you receive the forgiveness of sins which Christ’s body and blood have won for you on the cross. Together with forgiveness, God gives all other blessings as well, that is, “life and salvation.” In this sacrament Christ gives victory over sin and hell and the strength for new life in Him. As Christians partake of this sacrament together, you make a solemn public confession of Christ and of unity in the truth of His Gospel.

As you receive these means of grace, the Lord Jesus will sweep the cobwebs out of your hearts and make them fit for His coming. He will straighten up the crooked paths by which you have wandered far away from our Father’s house and bring you home again. He will tear down your stubborn pride and melt your hardened hearts to enfold you in His love. He will lift you up out of the pits of your despair and grief to comfort you with the presence of His Holy Spirit and restore to you the joy of His salvation. He will enable you to bear fruits in keeping with repentance.

So get ready. Get ready for Christmas most certainly, but above all else prepare your hearts for the coming of Christ. Let this holy Advent season be your comfort and your joy as deep within takes root the reality that Christ has actually come in the flesh and will come again at the end of time. But He comes this very day in His Gospel and Sacrament to make you new and whole and free.

So prepare the way for His coming. Let this be your constant Advent prayer: “Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of your only-begotten Son.” And let these words bring you comfort and peace: You are forgiven of all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

Sermons, Uncategorized

A Not-So-Sentimental Journey

Jesus procession in the streets of Jerusalem
“Procession in the Streets of Jerusalem” by James Tissot

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And as [Jesus] rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road. As He was drawing near—already on the way down the Mount of Olives—the whole multitude of His disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:35-38).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Have you ever felt like you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time? Or like you know where you are but can’t figure out how you got there? So it seems today? Everything is out of whack.

It’s December, and it’s Advent, the preparation for Christmas. We expect to be transported to Bethlehem, to a manger, surrounded by animals. Instead, our Gospel takes us to Jerusalem with Jesus riding on a donkey.

Strangely enough, the traditional Gospel for the First Sunday in Advent is the same as that of Palm Sunday—Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It seems, in a way, wrong. Out of place. Say what you will about Christ’s coming at the end of time, but Advent’s all about preparing our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child. Children everywhere are already rehearsing for Christmas programs, getting ready to reenact the story of Mary, with Child, riding on a donkey into Bethlehem to give birth. And instead, we’re saddled with a story about Jesus riding on a donkey into Jerusalem to His death.

But maybe there’s something we can learn—something that, like Mary, we can take with us and ponder in our hearts. Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. “Ride on, ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die” (LSB 441:2). For this reason, our Lord came from heaven. For this reason, the Son of God became the Son of Mary. The story that gives Christmas its meaning and lasting value.

The peace and joy of Bethlehem’s cradle is won for us at Jerusalem’s cross.

Indeed, Christmas seems, for so many, to be a holiday about nothing. Or else, about the things of this world. Many, I think, have completely lost their bearings. Imagine going to someone’s house for Christmas. Watch as everyone unwraps present after present. The next one bigger and better than the one before.

At first you might be a little jealous—maybe more than a little jealous. But as the day wears on, you start to get this feeling that something just isn’t quite right. Something is missing. Or more precisely, someone is missing. For all the gifts and celebration, there is nothing to it. No substance. There is no Christ and no Mass. No mention of our Lord’s birth and no celebration of His birth in the church service. It’s hollow and leaves you feeling empty inside. Or, at least, it should.

In our society, Christmas has become a largely secular, worldly affair. We celebrate Christmas, and we even fight for the right to say “Merry Christmas” at places like Wal-Mart, but we rarely talk about why Christmas is merry. The absence of Christ has left for many a big hold, an emptiness that needs to be filled. And so many folks try to fill the void with manmade traditions, songs, and stories.

Rather than tell the story of Christ, the world tells countless other stories. Off the top of my head, I can think of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, “The Little Match Girl,” How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, The Year Without a Santa Claus, The Nutcracker, “The Night Before Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Frosty the Snowman,” not to mention It’s a Wonderful Life, A Miracle on 34th Street, Santa Clause 1, 2, and 3, and Elf.

The world has its own hymnal as well, with Christmas “hymns” ranging from Elvis’s “Blue Christmas,” to Bing’s “White Christmas.” Nat King Cole sings about chestnuts roasting in “The Christmas Song.” Gene Autry can still be heard singing of the advent of Santa Claus, coming down Santa Claus Lane. Mariah Carey assures us of her love, because “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

I like a lot of those stories, enjoy a couple of those songs. But if that’s all there is, we don’t have much to celebrate. Just not a lot there. No wonder Christmas tends to fall flat.

But if we’re to be honest, even for us Christians, Christmas often falls flat. Perhaps we should blame the angels for raising our expectations. “It came upon the midnight clear, That glorious song of old, From angels bending near the earth To touch their harps of gold: ‘Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,” (LSB 366:1). A beautiful song and a beautiful sentiment. But whatever did the angels mean by singing, “Peace on the earth”?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see much peace on earth, nor, for that matter, good will to men. So many folks become cynical. Do you remember that old Coca Cola commercial in which young people joined in chorus to “teach the world to sing in perfect harmony”? The hippies of the sixties really thought that with a good attitude and few folk songs, peace was just around the corner. Silly, but we still pray for peace. And for two thousand years, we’ve had nothing but wars and rumors of wars.

Again and again, the angels said, “Don’t be afraid.” Yet we live in what seems to be an age of anxiety; a low-level fear lurks just below the surface. Some of us have relatives or neighbors serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. Some fret over global warming; others worry the President is a war-monger, fascist, crony capitalist, globalist or communist (depending upon who is in office and which party you belong). Social media is listening in on all our conversation, shaping our opinions, and blocking our free speech. What if Iran or North Korea gets nuclear weapons? And, God forbid, actually use them? A while back, Stephen Hawking said that the human races should already be planning for life on another planet in preparation for the time when our own planet will become uninhabitable. Peace on earth? I don’t think so. Doom seems, if not imminent, inevitable.

And so, at Christmas, when peace on earth seems unattainable on a large, global scale, we attempt it on a smaller scale, at home with family and friends. Many folks, even Christian folks, will say that Christmas at its heart is about friends and family. And this side of heaven, the family is about the best gift there is. But families, too, can be turned into idols. Indeed, many Christians don’t even go to church on Christmas because they want to be with their families.

And even at home, there is not always peace. Throw in anxieties over work, your children’s struggles at school, ailing parents, a chronic medical condition, a dispute with the in-laws, the loss of a loved one, or broken relationship, and there’s a lot of strife and sadness. Some of this of our own making—bad choices we’ve made, people we’ve hurt, relationships we’ve damaged. Our families are a mess, and often, we’re part of the problem.

Where, then, is peace to be found? Nowhere else than in the Christ Child. Not in some Precious Moments Christ Child, but in the Child who was born to die. A real-world Savior for a world with real problems. The Babe of Bethlehem who would set His sights on Jerusalem. The One whose birth was lit by a star and whose death would be met with darkness.

And so at our Lord’s birth, the angels sang, “Peace on the earth, goodwill to men.” But there is still another song to sing, and we sing it as Jesus is riding on a donkey into Jerusalem: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38).

Peace in heaven? What do we mean by that? There’s always peace in heaven. Heaven is the place where angels ride upon the clouds, strumming along on their harps, isn’t it? Heaven is where we escape the evils of this world.

Well, there’s more to it. Peace in heaven is not just a description; it’s good news. There’s peace in heaven because God is at peace with us.

We have to ask: “How could God be at peace with us? How could He be at peace with a world that is constantly at war? How could He be at peace with a world that disregards Him, ignores Him, and takes His blessings for granted? How could He be at peace with a world that blatantly disregards His will? How could He be at peace with a world that has taken the celebration of the birth of His Son and turned it into just another time to eat, drink, and be merry? How could He be at peace with me, a sinner?”

If we are to recover Christmas, we must, I think, recover Advent. Advent is a season of preparation—not simply of our homes, meals, and presents, but a time of preparation for our hearts. A time of assessment and acknowledgment and a time to recognize why our Lord came in the first place. A time to recognize why that Infant Child, born to be King, would one day receive a crown of thorns. A time for repentance.

“Hark! A thrilling voice is sounding! ‘Christ is near,’ we hear it say. ‘Cast away the works of darkness, All you children of the day!’” (LSB 345:1).

“Cast away the works of darkness.” Look at your lives, and turn once more from sin. Think about your lives. Your hopes. Your dreams. What are you looking forward to? Are your hearts set merely on the things of this world? On new cars and new homes? On toys and vacations? On a stable financial future? What are your goals? Are they the goals that God would have for you? Are you thinking of the life to come, or are you setting your sights only on the things of this world? Are you putting your time and money in things to please yourself, or are you giving a generous portion to the Church, and thereby investing in eternity?

The season of Advent is one of assessment. It’s a time to remember that the things of this world are indeed already passing away, a time to set our hearts, once more upon things above. A time to look at the Child who came to die, a time to crucify our sinful passions.

And so we sing, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” And we recognize that He comes to die for our sins. We remember that we have been baptized into the name of the Lord. Returning to our Baptism, we renounce, once more, the devil, all His works, and all His sinful ways. We don’t simply cry out against all the evils of this world, but we repent of the evils of our heart. We recognize the troubles we have caused, the damage we have done, the friends we have hurt, and the responsibilities we have not met.

Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, and we who also bear His name now also take up our crosses and follow Him.

Yes, Advent is a time for repentance, a time of sadness over sin. But it also a time of hope. For if we are sinners, we have Savior. And if the end is near, so also, in Christ, is there a new beginning. If we have made a mess with our lives, Christ has come to make things right. And He will come again.

For the world, Christmas is a big game of pretend—of creating an idyllic world that does not exist. But for us, Christmas is life itself. Therefore, in this season of Advent, let us prepare our hearts once more for our Lord’s coming. Let us cast away the works of darkness and be adorned with every good work and with acts of charity and generosity. Let us forgive as we have been forgiven. And let us embrace the Child who came to embrace us. And let is offer up our lives as gifts to the One who came to offer up His life as His gift of salvation for us all. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

This sermon is an adaptation of a sermon by Peter J. Scaer in Concordia Pulpit Supply, Volume 20, Part 1, pp 13-15.

Uncategorized

That He May Send the Christ Appointed for You

peter-and-john-healing-the-cripple-at-the-gate-of-the-temple-1659.jpg!Large“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” (Acts 3:19-21).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

We need to set the stage a little bit, before we discuss our text.

Shortly after Pentecost, Peter and John are heading up to the temple for afternoon prayer. A man who has been lame from birth is being carried to the Beautiful Gate of the temple court, a prime location for begging alms. Seeing Peter and John, he asks them for alms. “Look at us,” Peter directs. So the man fixes his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.

And so, he does—just not what he was expecting. But something even better. Peter says, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And Peter takes him by the right hand and raises him up, and immediately the man’s feet and ankles are made strong. And leaping up he stands and begin to walk, and enters the temple with the men, walking and leaping and praising God.

And all the people see him walking and praising God, and recognize him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they are filled with wonder and amazement at what has happened to him.

Peter, takes advantage of the flash mob and preaches an impromptu sermon on the complete sufficiency of Christ. “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?”

As he had done on Pentecost, Peter addresses his hearers as “Men of Israel.” This is to remind them of their responsibility as people who had been especially blessed in receiving God’s written Word and God’s revealed religion. It is to challenge them to act responsibly to the miracle they have witnessed and the message Peter will preach.

The healing has not taken place through the power and godliness of Peter and John. They do not want their countrymen to admire them. They want Israel to acknowledge its Savior. Peter’s message proclaims Jesus as Lord and Christ in much the same way and for the same purpose as did his sermon on Pentecost. You see, all of them in Jerusalem had heard of Jesus. They are not ignorant of Him and His crucifixion. That was just too big of news to keep quiet. The question now is a matter of interpretation. Just what does all this mean?

There were two competing interpretations of the crucifixion: 1) Jesus had failed, and 2) it was part of God’s plan, prophesied in the Scripture. Peter argues that the resurrection is God’s proof that the second explanation is the true one, and therefore Jesus has the authority to speak as God’s servant.

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, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses (Acts 3:13-15).

In saying, “the God of our fathers,” Peter identifies with his hearers and insists that he and John are also true Israelites. He will not wash his hands of his people, but will try to give them faith in Christ, showing them from Scripture that Jesus is the Christ foretold by the prophets.

The prophet Isaiah had spoken of God’s servant who would suffer and be glorified (52:13, 53:11-12):

Behold, My servant shall act wisely; He shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted… Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous one, My servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Surely the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could not deny the one who God had glorified. But they had! Through their representatives they had. Upon hearing Jesus’ answer to the question of His identity, the high priest, Caiaphas, had torn his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death” (Matthew 26:65-66).

Israel’s Messiah was holy, dedicated to do the will of His Father and blameless in carrying it out. He was righteous, conforming perfectly to the standard of God’s law. The centurion who witnessed Jesus’ last breath, praised God and declared, “Certainly this man was innocent!” Even Pontius Pilate could see that Jesus had done nothing deserving death. When they brought Him to trial, “Pilate sought to release [Jesus], but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar’” (John 19:12). Nevertheless, when Pilate offered to release Jesus or a notorious prisoner named Barabbas, the crowd, persuaded by the chief priest and the elders, chose Barabbas. And when Pilate had asked, “What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They said, “Let him be crucified!” (Matthew 27:20–23).

Again, it was not only the Pharisees or the chief priests or the Sanhedrin who did this. Peter charged his hearers with complicity and responsibility in the crime: “You killed the Author of life.” What a devastating preaching of the law!

“You killed the Author of life.” Let’s not go past this statement too quickly. Here is a great paradox and mystery. The divine originator and guardian of life was put to death so that you might have life. Peter is saying, “That man is God and God died as that man.” What man was required to do and could not do—keep God’s law—God came and did for us. He came as a man to do it. The work of salvation is divine work, and He who lived and died for our salvation is divine. The God-man’s work was successful and accepted by God, for “God raised [Him] from the dead.”

Peter and John are witnesses that God has done this, and the healing of the lame man is further testimony. It is a further attestation to the fact that Christ is alive and that He acts in grace and power. “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 in the presence of you all” (Acts 3:16).

The name of Jesus is the revelation of His grace and power. Jesus’ holy name works not by magic but through trust, or faith. That name, or revelation, created faith in the lame man. It created the faith that enabled the man to receive the complete healing which had filled the crowd with wonder and amazement. Jesus’ grace and power to make him strong were there before the man believed. The man’s faith had laid hold of them. Twice Peter mentions “name” and “faith” to emphasize that no power in him and John or in the lame man had been responsible for this miracle of healing.

To emphasize this is all a part of God’s plan of salvation, Peter continues:

“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He thus fulfilled” (Acts 3:18).

Peter does not mean to say that ignorance is innocence. The people could not be excused for disowning God’s servant and killing the Author of life. But Peter is leading into the thought that God has used their evil act for His good purpose and that the gracious Lord is ready to forgive their sins. His words are in the spirit of Jesus, who prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). No, God did not order the people to act as they did, or will that they do it. He did not cause their ignorance. But through their ignorant actions, God accomplished what had to occur because His Word had prophesied it.

Popular Jewish belief did not think of the Messiah as suffering. It still does not. But God foretold it and God fulfilled it and His Christ did suffer.

But Jesus’ suffering was not an accident or tragic mistake. It was God’s way of delivering all sinners from eternal suffering. Therefore, Peter calls them to repentance and opens a grand prospect to his hearers, which is far beyond his own former conception and that of all other Jews and their earthly Messianic kingdom:

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 (Acts 3:19-20).

In other words, “Repent of your past sins and turn to God by confessing that He whom you killed is, in fact God’s Anointed and your Savior. Then your sins shall be blotted out; then you shall enjoy seasons of spiritual refreshing; finally, you will experience Christ’s glorious return, and the fulfillment of all prophecies concerning the final restoration of all things. All this will be yours.”

All that the prophets preached and foretold spoke of Christ and His coming to restore everything. The healing of the lame man is an example and a foretaste of what God will do when His appointed time comes.

The Christ who came as a baby, as one of us, God in human flesh, the Savior who comes to the hearts of sinners and makes them saints, the Lamb of God who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification, this Jesus, who was taken up into heaven will come again on the day that God has set as the time to restore everything. As heaven received Him visibly, so will He return visibly.

The results of the Fall will be reversed, and then “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). Years after he preached these words, Peter wrote: “But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). John received this revelation from the Lord: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Revelation 21:1).

Until that great and glorious day, the Christ appointed for you comes in His Word and Sacraments. In Holy Baptism, He gives you faith and forgiveness by the power of His triune name. Through His called and ordained servant, the Lord preaches the same message of repentance and forgiveness spoken by Peter in the temple courts. The real presence of the Lord is with you in the Lord’s Supper: In, with, and under the bread and wine, you receive Christ’s very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. Through these means of grace, He brings you times of healing and refreshing.

Repent therefore, and turn again that your sins may be blotted out. Hear and believe this Good News: For Jesus’ sake, you are forgiven for all of your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.