Acts 2:22-41 Our Gracious King

Sun, 18/06/2017 - 10:30 -- James Oakley

Heaven and earth revolve around Jesus. Life and death revolve around Jesus.

If you were here last time, we looked at these same verses in Acts, and I said two really quite shocking things about how central Jesus needs to be to life.

Number 1: Jesus does not call us to have him as a hobby or an interest, but to have our entire lives revolve around him, his priorities and his purposes.

Number 2: Not one us does this. We all treat Jesus as less important than he really is. And this is the number one thing wrong with the world today.

Those are big claims, so they need examining. They cut across how we assume the world works, and what the media tells us. There are so many things wrong with the world. Profiteering landlords. Violent terrorists. Drought and hunger in parts of Africa. Is a failure to treat Jesus as the one around whom everything revolves really our biggest problem?

And is Jesus so important that we need to shape our lives around him? Many people are happy to read the Bible, live by some of Jesus moral teaching and even go to church. Maybe even every week. Life is so full of pressures. Work. School. Home. Ageing parents. Kids who play football 8 days a week. Why can’t Jesus be one hobby amongst many? What right does he have to be the one around whom all the rest of life is organised?

They’re big claims. So let’s examine them.

The Bible reading we heard makes the case that Jesus really is as big as all that. It’s a speech made by Peter, one of Jesus’ first disciples, 7 weeks after Jesus rose from the dead. And the crowd that’s listening to him get the point. They can see how this turns life on its head. Life can never be the same again.

Peter is showing the crowd how Jesus is the Messiah. That’s the title for the king that the Jewish people were expecting. They looked back to the greatest king in their history, King David. God had promised that one of David’s descendants would rule, not just over Israel, but over the world. Peter wants to show them that Jesus is that king that they were waiting for. Because if it’s true, it’s massive.

Let me take us through his case. He points to 4 events which all show that Jesus is the Messiah.


Number 1, his miracles. Jesus did miracles, and so is the Messiah.

The crowd he was talking to were Jewish, and most of them lived in Jerusalem. They would have heard of Jesus and his miracles, because they were famous. Even the non-Christian historian, Josephus, wrote this: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works.”

Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, gave sight to the blind and even on three occasions raised the dead. Here’s verse 22: “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.”

Do you see? “… a man accredited by God to you by miracles”. Jesus’ miracles were his credentials. They’re how God in heaven was showing us that he’s the Messiah.

A man called John the Baptist preached in public before Jesus arrived. From his prison cell, he wondered if Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus sent a message to him that his miracles would answer his question. He is the Messiah. And this is how you can see.

The Messiah wasn’t just going to come and give the Jewish people a slightly better life. He was going to come and reverse everything that’s wrong with this world. We live in a world that’s broken, full of pain. The Messiah would make everything bad come untrue. And those miracles prove that he’s the Messiah, because that wonderful new future is breaking in. We get little glimpses of what it will be like when he’s finished fixing things. One day the whole world will be mended. And those miracles show that he’s starting to get us there.

The BBC reported this week on funds raised to help Chris Parker, a homeless man who had helped many of the injured in Manchester. The person who raised the funds was overwhelmed by the amount. He was aiming for £1000, but hit over £52,000. It’s harder than you’d expect to spend that amount of money. In the end, a trust fund was set up, and he’ll get help long-term. But the article ended with a heart-warming sentence: The organiser negotiated with the funding website “to release a small amount of money so Chris’s needs can be met in the meantime.”

The money’s been raised. Chris will get his help. His life, we hope, will improve. So here’s some help for the short-term, a foretaste of what’s to come.

Number 1, his miracles.


Number 2, his death. Jesus was crucified, and so is the Messiah.

The New York Times magazine conducted a survey last June of their 2,500 subscribers. Each week, they publish the results of one question. Here was last week’s question: “If you could go back in time, would you try to save Jesus from being crucified?”. 65% said “no”; 35% said “yes”. What would you say?

It’s hard to decide whether the death of Jesus was a good thing or a bad thing.

Of course it’s a bad thing. He was innocent of any crime, yet put to death in the cruellest way ever devised. As Peter says in verse 23: “you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross”.

But on the other hand, Christians are not ashamed of the death of Jesus. We’re proud of it. It’s the most wonderful event ever to have taken place. People wear crosses round their necks, build churches in the shape of the cross, and stick another cross on the top for good measure.

Why? Because God did not lose his grip when Jesus died the cross.

Do you ever see photos online with the caption, “you had one job”. The builders installing security bollards who barricaded their own van. The supermarket advertising lemons using their sign that read “perfect for orange juice”. People look at the death of Jesus and laugh at God. They imagine God the Father telling Jesus that he had come to earth with one job to do, and he blew it.

But nothing could be further from the truth. Look again at verse 23: “This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge.” God knew exactly what he was doing. He planned it long ago. This was actually the way that Jesus would save the world.

Far from proving that God’s finally lost it, Jesus’ death proves that God’s finally done it! The rescue plan he formed in eternity past, the rescue plan he foretold throughout the Old Testament, has finally come to fruition. Jesus was crucified, and so is the Messiah.

Number 2, his death.


Number 3, his resurrection. Jesus rose to life, and so is the Messiah.

There are two steps to this argument. Firstly, the Old Testament said that the Messiah would rise from the dead. Second, Jesus rose from the dead. Therefore, Jesus must be the promised Messiah.

Step 1, the Old Testament said that the Messiah would rise from the dead.

Peter quotes a prayer from the Old Testament written by King David, Psalm 16, which Peter quotes. Look at verse 26 of our reading in Acts 2: “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your holy one see decay.”

Peter explains this. David appears to be confident that he wouldn’t stay dead. But the problem is: He did. We don’t know today where David’s tomb is, but it was a regular tourist attraction in those days. Still there. Still sealed.

But David hadn’t made a massive mistake. He’d remembered the promise God had made him. One day, one of his descendants would rule the whole world forever. He knew that this could only happen if there was resurrection involved. So he was absolutely certain that God would bring one of his descendants back from the dead.

Listen to Peter, verse 29: “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay.”

Step 1, the Old Testament said that the Messiah would rise from the dead. Next comes step 2, Jesus rose from the dead, so he’s the Messiah.

Peter goes on: “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.” Jesus rose from the dead. His tomb was empty. The authorities couldn’t produce a body. His disciples were later to die for their conviction that they’d met him alive on many occasions when they least expected it. They ate and drank with him, they laughed and talked, they’d touched his risen body. He was real. He was back. He was really back.

So Jesus is the promised Messiah.

Jesus rising from the dead is the all-important one. If he didn’t, he’s a complete fraud. He can’t solve any of our problems lying in his grave. Death gets the last laugh, and Jesus is powerless.

But if Jesus really did conquer death, then he’s the one we’re waiting for. He can solve anything!

You can pour billions of pounds into the NHS if you like. All kinds of illnesses may become curable by drugs we get for free. We might even get free parking when we go to be treated. But all they can do is delay what will still happen. Added years and greater comfort are wonderful, but there is no cure to death.

But then along comes Jesus. He’s back from the dead and here to stay. He’s such a powerful king, so effectively in charge, that he’s taken on death itself in a head to head battle. And he’s won.

Jesus rose to life, and so is the Messiah.

Number 3, his resurrection.


And lastly, number 4, his ascension. Jesus returned to heaven, and so is the Messiah.

I’ll be brief here. It’s the same argument as for the resurrection.

Step one, the Old Testament said that the Messiah would return to heaven. This time, it’s Psalm 110. Verse 34: “For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’”

God, the Lord, invites David’s lord, the Messiah, to come and take a seat next to him in heaven.

You go to visit to Buckingham as a tourist. The royal throne room is open. In you go, taking in the lavish paintings and upholstery. Your eye is drawn to the twin thrones at one end of the room. Her Majesty the Queen is actually seated on one of them, where she’d normally only be for a royal audience. She invites you to join her, with the simplicity of an airline pilot from the old days inviting a child to look at the cockpit. Would you like to come and sit on the other throne.

That’s where Jesus is now. Not Buckingham Palace, but heaven. Seated next to God the Father, sovereign over the kingdoms of the earth, ruling earth and heaven. The crowd he’s talking have just watched the wonderful and unique event of Jesus pouring our his Spirit on his people for the very first time. That’s how they can see that Jesus is there, in heaven.

Jesus is now in charge. On the throne.

Jesus returned to heaven, and so is the Messiah.


Jesus did great miracles. Jesus died on the cross. Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus returned to heaven. Jesus is the Messiah, the king they were all waiting for, the one who will make everything sad and broken in this world good again. It means both those claims I started with are true.

Jesus does not call us to have him as a hobby or an interest, but to have our entire lives revolve around him, his priorities and his purposes.

There is nothing more important than how we and Jesus relate to each other.

So let’s think about how we treat him, and he treats us.

The crowd he was talking to realise how they had treated Jesus. They had had him put to death. Wished him out of the way. Pushed away the one who rules the universe, to make him disappear.

We can’t literally kill Jesus. We’re too late. Other people have already done it. But we can push him away, wish he wasn’t around, live our lives without reference to him. In fact, we all do.

We all treat Jesus as less important than he really is. And this is the number one thing wrong with the world today.

That’s how they treat him. It’s how we all treat him.

How does he treat us?

They realise they’re in deep trouble. The one they killed is now the one who decides the number of breaths they each take before they die. In desperation, they cry: “What shall we do?” How do we fix this mess?

Extraordinarily, Jesus is not looking to punish them, but to forgive them. To do this, they do have to change. Jesus does not call them to make themselves better, to earn his love. He calls them to repent. That’s to turn your life around so that it is going in the opposite direction. To stop running away from Jesus and to run towards him. To stop pushing him away, and to allow him to take charge.

If they do that, they’ll know the forgiveness of their sins, and the gift of God’s Holy Spirit. God will wipe out the past, and he’ll come and live within them to change and transform them for the future.

That’s how Jesus longs to treat them, and it’s how he longs to treat us as well. Jesus is the king. We do not treat him as though he is. But he’s a forgiving king. A kind king. A gracious king.


There is no better news than that Jesus is the one in charge of this world. We can be sure he is. His miracles, his death, his resurrection and his return to heaven all confirm it. Not only is the world in the hands of the most loving ruler we could wish for. But also, even though we all treat him appallingly, he wants us to turn back to him so that he can shower us with forgiveness and new life.

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