Peter preaches Jesus

Scripture: Acts 3:12-19

Title: Peter preaches Jesus


  • Introduction
  • Peter preaches the death & resurrection of Jesus
  • Peter preaches to heal the crowd
  • Conclusion


On the wall here we have a picture of a small child with his head in the mouth of a camel

  • – Now, what would you say was more important here?
  • – Taking a photo to capture the moment? (as it appears is happening)
  • – Or coming to the rescue of the child? Hmmm.
  • – If I were ever unfortunate enough to find myself in that situation I hope that my first response would not be to take a photo


Today is two Sundays since Easter

  • – As we are still in the season of Easter our message this morning comes from the lectionary – Acts chapter 3, verses 12-19
  • – These verses peel back the skin of the Easter story and look within it to find its meaning and application


Acts 3 is set at the gate of the Jewish temple in Jerusalem

  • – Two of the apostles, Peter & John, have just healed a man who has been unable to walk since birth
  • – It’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon, a traditional time of prayer, and therefore a busy time at the temple
  • – Everyone who saw the miracle is gob smacked in amazement – they crowd around Peter & John utterly astounded
  • – Seeing the opportunity God has provided Peter preaches to the crowd
  • – From Acts chapter 3, verse 12 (in the NIV) we read…


When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see. “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,


May the Spirit of Jesus illuminate this Scripture for us


In this reading we hear Peter’s sermon to a crowd of Jewish worshippers coming to the temple for prayer. Two things about Peter’s message

–         Peter preaches the death & resurrection of Jesus

–         And Peter preaches to heal the crowd


Peter preaches the death & resurrection of Jesus:

I have here a banana

  • – What would you say was more important – the skin of the banana or the flesh inside? [Wait for people to respond]
  • – Well, both are important aren’t they
  • – The skin protects the flesh of the banana – without the skin we wouldn’t have a banana we could eat
  • – But without the flesh the skin has no purpose really and could in fact become a hazard – something that slips people up
  • – At the end of the day the most important part is the part we eat, inside


Thinking of Acts 3, what would you say was more important – the miracle of healing or Peter’s message explaining the miracle? [Wait for people to respond]

–         Well, both are important

–         Without Peter’s explanation the meaning of the miracle is lost

–         But without the miracle Peter would not have had opportunity to explain the meaning of Easter in the first place

–         Peter’s message peeled the skin of the miracle back to reveal the real power behind the healing – the death & resurrection of Jesus


On the wall here we have a picture of a groom polishing the wheels of his car… with his new wife’s wedding dress

–         Probably not the best start to their marriage

–         What would you say was more important here – a happy wife or clean mags?  [Wait for people to respond]

–         The right answer is a happy wife – and if I have to explain that then you are in trouble


In verse 12 of Acts 3, Peter is quick to clear up any misunderstanding, saying…

–         ‘People of Israel, why does this [miracle] surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?’

–         Then he gives Jesus the credit

–         Peter isn’t going to use this miracle to polish his own reputation – that would be like using a wedding dress to polish the wheels of his chariot, if he had a chariot (which I don’t think he did)

–         No, Peter puts Jesus front & centre because Jesus is the most important


Peter describes Jesus in four ways…

–         As God’s servant (in verse 13)

–         As the Holy and Righteous One (in verse 14)

–         As the author of life (in verse 15)

–         And as the Christ (in verse 18)


The over-arching point here is that Jesus is someone very special & unique


Christ is a word that means the same thing as Messiah – ‘anointed one’

–         Jesus is the one chosen by God to be our King & Saviour


Author of life means that life comes from Jesus – Jesus is the Word of God through whom God created the universe – we find life in Jesus


Holy & Righteous One is a reference to Jesus’ innocence

–         Holy means set apart for a sacred or divine purpose

–         And righteous means being in right relationship with others, doing the right thing, acting justly and loving our neighbour


Peter’s description of Jesus as God’s servant is probably a reference to the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. We find the same Greek word in Acts 3 as we do in the passage from Isaiah


For those not familiar with Isaiah 53, Christians read it as a foretelling of Jesus’ suffering, death & resurrection. Here’s a sample of verses to give you the idea…


See, my servant will act wisely; [1]     he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted… He was despised and rejected by humankind,     a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces     he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him and by his wounds we are healed…

By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living…     He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…     11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied…

The content of Peter’s speech indicates that Jesus is the suffering servant of Isaiah 53. Although Jesus was innocent, he suffered & died that we might live


Albrecht Durer was a famous 16th Century Renaissance artist

–         Albrecht was German and a contemporary of Leonardo da Vinci

–         This is a self-portrait of Albrecht


According to legend Albrecht’s family was poor [2]

–         Although his father was a skilled and hard-working goldsmith, there were 18 children to feed and not much money to go around

–         Albrecht and one of his brothers had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art

–         The problem was they knew their father could never afford to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the academy there


After many long discussions at night the two boys finally worked out a pact.

–         They would toss a coin. The loser would go to work in the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy.

–         Then, in four years, when the brother who won the toss completed his studies, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by labouring in the mines.


They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church.

–         Albrecht won the toss and went off to Nuremberg, while his brother went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed Albrecht to study at the Academy

–         Albrecht’s etchings, his woodcuts and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.


When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a special dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht’s triumphant homecoming.

–         After a long meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honoured position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfil his ambition.

–         His closing words were, “And now, my brother, it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”


All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albrecht’s brother sat, tears streaming down his face,

–         Shaking his head from side to side he sobbed and repeated, over and over, “No, no, no.”

–         Finally, the boy who had spent 4 years in the mines rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then said softly…

–         “No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look what the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, my brother, for me it is too late.”


500 years have passed since that time.

–         Albrecht Durer’s hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolours, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world

–         But perhaps the work most people are familiar with is, “Praying Hands.”


Some believe that Albrecht Durer drew these hands in honour of his brother who had sacrificed so much for him


What would you say was more important, the drawing of the hands or the brother’s sacrifice?

–         Difficult to separate the two really

–         Without the brother’s sacrifice the drawing loses its meaning

–         But without the drawing the brother’s sacrifice is forgotten


The point is, Jesus is like the brother who went to the mines

–         Jesus went to the cross, suffered & died that we might have abundant life

–         Jesus gives our lives meaning and we makes sure his sacrifice is not forgotten


Peter preaches to heal the crowd:

In verses 13-15 Peter recaps the Easter story, of Jesus’ death & resurrection

–         The startling thing here is the way Peter tells his audience, quite bluntly, how they caused Jesus’ death. Peter says…

o   You handed him over to be killed

o   You disowned him before Pilate (that is, you rejected him and didn’t advocate for him even though it was clear he was innocent)

o   You asked that a murderer be released to you instead

o   You killed the author of life


We might wonder why Peter is so strong in convicting the people of their injustice against Jesus – after all, no one likes to be blamed or told off

–         There’s a risk the crowd might become defensive and turn on Peter & John at this point

–         Well, it seems to me that Peter is hoping to heal the crowd – but before they can be healed they have to realise they are not well

–         In some ways (although not in every way) the crowd are little bit like the man who had been born lame [3]

–         By killing the author of life the people of Jerusalem have disabled their relationship with God – they are no longer able to walk with God

–         But God wants to heal that relationship so they can walk with him again

–         Before that healing can take place though, the people have to recognise what they’ve done wrong

–         Peter makes the crowd aware of their wrong doing by intentionally putting his finger on the sore spot, where it hurts – in much the same way a doctor does when diagnosing an ailment


Having shown the crowd that their relationship with God is broken, Peter then explains how things can be healed

–         Peter says (in verse 16) that the man born lame was healed by faith in Jesus. His healing is a pattern for their healing. They too can be healed by putting their faith in Jesus’ name.

–         From verse 17 Peter continues: Now, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders… Repent then and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out…


In a nutshell Peter’s message is this: your relationship with God is broken, it’s lame but it can be healed (as this man has been healed) through faith in Jesus

–         And in case you’re not sure what faith in Jesus looks like, it begins with repentance


Faith & repentance go together in the Bible

–         Faith is not exactly the same as repentance

–         Christian faith means believing in Jesus – putting our trust in him

–         While repentance is about change – changing our mind (or our way of thinking) and changing our behaviour (our way of living)


Now what would you say was more important – faith or repentance?

–         Well, we can’t really have one without the other

–         Repentance is to faith what clean sheets are to a bed – it helps us to sleep better at night

–         Repentance is to faith what food is to our stomach – it satisfies something in our soul and gives us strength

–         Repentance is to faith what legs are to walking – without repentance our faith has no legs, its going nowhere

–         Repentance is to faith what training is to an athlete – without repentance we’re just not that serious


Repentance is not the only expression of genuine faith – but it is perhaps the primary expression of faith


Before our relationship with God can be healed we have to realise we are not well – we have to realise we all share responsibility for Jesus’ death

–         We may not have been there in the crowd that day shouting ‘crucify him’ but we all needed Jesus to die in our place, so we are all responsible for Jesus’ death – not just the Jews


I listened to someone recently who had spent time in Africa teaching new Christians

–         There was this one man who heard about Jesus & started believing in him

–         Everything was great, fantastic, wonderful – as it usually is when we first become a Christian

–         And then the penny dropped for this man – believing in Jesus would mean a change in occupation for him

–         You see, this guy was a contract killer – he went across the border from one country to the next to kill people for money

–         I suppose if you are poor and live in a country with high unemployment then becoming a hit man is more attractive than begging or starving

–         Now that he was a follower of Jesus though, he had to repent – he had to stop killing people and trust Jesus to provide him with other work

–         That’s an extreme example but the principle is the same for other sins like greed or slander or sex outside of marriage or resentment or whatever your sore point is. Faith in Jesus and repentance go together


In commenting on verse 19 of Acts 3, William Barclay points out that repentance affects both the past and the future [4]


It affects the past in that sins are wiped out

–         Ancient writing was on papyrus and the ink used was different to the ink we use these days. If you made a mistake with your writing in the ancient world the ink could be removed with a wet sponge – sort of like we might wipe ink off a white board today

–         Peter is saying that with repentance and faith in Jesus our sins are erased


Repentance also affects the future in that it brings times of refreshing

–         ‘Times of refreshing’ speaks of Sabbath rest

–         It speaks of the light burden and the easy yoke that Jesus promised

–         With our sins removed we walk freely, without the burden of guilt



This morning we’ve heard how Peter preached Jesus

–         Peter boldly preached the death & resurrection of Jesus

–         And with courage he preached to heal the crowd’s relationship with God

Peter’s brave preaching in Acts 3 stands in stark contrast to his denial of Jesus in Luke 22, which we heard about last week

–         In many ways though Peter’s denial of Jesus made his message more authentic, for Peter was preaching to the crowd as someone like them

–         Someone who had realised how lame he was before God and found healing and forgiveness through repentance & faith in Jesus


Questions for discussion &/or reflection

1.)    What stands out for you in reading this Scripture and/or in listening to the sermon?

2.)    Discuss the meaning / significance of the four titles Peter ascribes to Jesus. That is: God’s servant, the holy & righteous one, the author of life and the Christ.

3.)    What similarities do we notice between Peter’s sermon, in Acts 3:12-19, and the passage describing the suffering servant in Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12?

4.)    Who is responsible for Jesus’ death?

5.)    Why does Peter convict the crowd so strongly of their injustice toward Jesus?

6.)    What pathway does Peter offer for healing the relationship between us and God?

7.)    What is the relationship between repentance and faith in Jesus?

8.)    Take some time this week to consider if the Holy Spirit is touching any sore points in your life? What healing does God want to bring?


[1] The word ‘servant’ actually comes from Isaiah 52:13, which forms part of the picture painted of the suffering servant from 52:13 – 53:12.


[3] This is not to imply that the man born lame had a bad relationship with God. For all we know he may have been closer to God than most. Also, the man born lame was well aware he couldn’t walk, whereas the crowd weren’t yet aware of their condition before God.

[4] From William Barclay’s commentary on Acts, page 32.