“This Jesus”Categories: Sermons
This morning, all of us are aware that this Wednesday, December 25th, is Christmas, a day on which people across the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Most of us also are aware that there is nothing in the Bible that says that Jesus’ birth should be celebrated on December 25th, or, indeed, on any other day. Nonetheless, it is true that at this time of year, more than any other, people are talking about Jesus.
What’s the big deal? What’s so important about a baby born in a stable in a backwater of the Roman Empire that we should still be talking about it 2000 years later? Certainly, the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin is impressive, but if that were the most noteworthy thing that Jesus ever did, He would be nothing more than an obscure historical footnote. This morning, then, let’s turn to the Scriptures to see why we should care about this Jesus.
I had the idea for this sermon about six weeks ago, when Mike Young preached for us on Acts 2 and the first gospel sermon. As I was following along in my Bible with him, I noticed something I’d never seen before. At least in the ESV, the phrase “this Jesus” occurs three times in Peter’s sermon, and the three uses of the phrase highlight the most important things about Jesus’ life.
The first “this Jesus” phrase points out that He WAS CRUCIFIED. Let’s read together from Acts 2:23. There are three things in this verse that I want us to focus on. The first is that Jesus was killed on the cross. This might seem like a duh point, but believe it or not, there are plenty of folks who want to argue about this. Muslims believe that Jesus only appeared to be crucified and was brought up alive into heaven. Many skeptics argue that Jesus only passed out on the cross and came back to His senses in Joseph’s tomb.
Not so. As Peter says here, and as everyone in Jerusalem at that point knew, Jesus died. He breathed His last on the cross, and he was taken down dead from the cross. Even extrabiblical writers like Suetonius and Josephus confirm that Jesus was killed.
Second, Jesus was delivered to crucifixion and death by the plan of God. Around this time of year, people like to put up nativity scenes, and even though I don’t think that the shepherds and wise men came to visit Jesus and Mary at the same time, there they all are, gathered around the manger.
Though of course it wouldn’t be historically accurate either, I think it would be thematically appropriate if all those nativity scenes also included a cross, because Jesus was quite literally born to die on that cross. Indeed, the Bible tells us that even before the world was created, God had determined that Jesus had to die. His death was the culmination of a plan that was older than the universe.
Third, let’s pay attention to “you”. None of the people in the crowd that day were directly involved in Jesus’ death, but Peter tells them that they were responsible anyway. This morning, I want us to consider our own responsibility. Before anything else existed, God looked into the future and knew that He would have to send His sinless Son to die, and it was our sin that made His death inevitable. We didn’t nail Jesus to the cross either, but neither can we walk away from our share in His suffering.
The second “this Jesus” statement in Acts 2 reports that He WAS RAISED UP. Look at Acts 2:32. Let’s pause for a moment to acknowledge how extraordinary a statement this is. In my time as a preacher, I’ve preached many funerals and attended many more, but never once have I seen the body in the casket come back to life. We know that dead people don’t rise from the dead, but Peter here is insisting that Jesus did exactly that.
In order to back up this extraordinary statement, Peter says that “we all are witnesses.” There are a couple of senses in which I want us to consider his words. First, he is obviously talking about himself and the other apostles who are standing next to him. They saw the risen Jesus, they talked with the risen Jesus, they ate with the risen Jesus, and they even touched the risen Jesus.
They were so sure that Jesus had risen that they spent the rest of their lives proclaiming that He had, and many of them even died because of their testimony. Indeed, our word “martyr” comes from the Greek martus, which means “witness”. Because they were willing to go to torture and death rather than take back their testimony, we can know that they were completely convinced Jesus had risen.
However, besides the human witness of the apostles, Peter’s sermon points out two other kinds of witness. The first is the witness of prophecy. Just before v. 32, Peter quotes from Psalm 16, which is only one of many prophetic passages in the Old Testament that foretold that God would raise His Holy One from the dead. Today, we know that weather forecasters can’t correctly predict the weather next week, but the prophets of the Old Testament looked into the future and predicted the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Christ, right down to the tiniest detail. This proves that both the prophecy and its fulfillment are the handiwork of God.
The third witness in this text is the witness of miracles. The apostles confirmed the word they preached with signs and wonders. In Acts 2, they display the miraculous ability to speak in foreign languages. Other miracles that are even more impressive appear throughout the New Testament. If somebody says they saw a dead man come back to life, you can safely ignore them. If they claim that, then raise a man from the dead themselves, then you’d better start listening!
Our third “this Jesus” phrase reveals that He WAS MADE LORD AND CHRIST. Consider Acts 2:36. Let’s begin by talking about what “Lord” and “Christ” mean. “Lord” is straightforward. God put Jesus in control of everything. “Christ” is less so. I suspect that most Americans believe that “Christ” is Jesus’ last name. It isn’t. It’s a title, like “King”. It means “Anointed One”, and it carries with it the idea that Jesus is God’s anointed prophet, priest, and king. In short, Jesus was the fulfillment of everything the prophets had told the Jews to expect.
Second, notice that Peter says that we can “know for certain” that Jesus is Lord and Christ. This is the consequence of the witnesses we talked about in the last section. If you accept the eyewitnesses, the prophecies, and the miracles, you also must accept the pre-eminence of Jesus. As the next verse shows, the people who saw these things certainly were convinced!
That, in turn, is a belief with consequences. We can’t accept that Jesus is Lord and go on living the way we used to live. That would be like acknowledging that we live in the United States of America, yet refusing to obey any of its laws. Like the Jews in v. 37, we also have to ask, “What shall we do?” Sometimes, the answer is the answer of v. 38. We have to obey the gospel. We have to become Christians through baptism for the forgiveness of our sins. Always, though, the answer must be that we will devote our lives to the One we call “Lord”.