Christ is risen! Repent!
What an interesting Easter greeting. Not quite what we expect to hear during this season as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. But there it is in Peter’s sermon. Repent!
But Peter was just saying what Jesus told him to say. After all, Jesus explained the scriptures to his disciples after the resurrection. He gave them the directive to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all the world.
Peter and John had been heading to the temple in Jerusalem. Pentecost had happened a few days before, and they had been filled with the Holy Spirit Ð the Spirit of the Living God. When they arrived at the entrance of the temple, they noticed a man being carried up the steps. This man, who had been lame from birth, would be left at the entrance of the temple and each day beg for people’s spare change.
When Peter and John walked by this individual, they looked at him, and then Peter said, “Look at us!” The man looked up expecting some coins. Instead he got the surprise of his life as he heard Peter say, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Then Peter took him by the hand and raised him up. And as he was being raised up, he felt something surging through him. He jumped to his feet and began to walk.
He entered the Temple with Peter and John, dancing and leaping about, shouting praises to God. What a sight it must have been! Imagine them walking arm in arm with one another as this man, totally out of his mind with joy and wonder, smiled and said, “Look what God did for me. Praise God, I am walking!”
Of course the crowds already in the Temple murmured in absolute astonishment because they recognized this man as the one who had been lame as far back as they could remember. “What’s going on here?” they must have said to one another.
As everyone ran to see this miracle and wondered about these miracle workers, Peter went to work and began to preach an Easter sermon. It was a powerful sermon with both law and gospel.
He told the crowd,
This isn’t about us. Don’t give us credit for this. This is just a sign from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who is glorifying his servant, Jesus. This man was healed in the exalted name of Jesus.
JESUS! You remember him, don’t you? It was not that long ago that you handed him over to Pilate to be killed. You rejected the Holy and Righteous One of God. You killed the Author of Life who came to give you life.
But God raised him from the dead! And we’re witnesses. We saw him in the days that followed again and again, and we know that he is risen from the dead. This man’s healing is just a sign to get your attention that God had something big in store for you. This man was healed in Christ’s powerful name.
In your blindness, in your ignorance you killed the Son of God. But it was all a part of God’s plan. All that the prophets like Isaiah had said about the suffering servant and so on, was fulfilled at that time. They said that the Messiah would come and suffer and die. And now it has happened. And God raised him. He is risen. Therefore, repent! Turn to God, for forgiveness and times of refreshing in the presence of the Lord are waiting for you.
As I said earlier in this message, Peter’s talk had both law and gospel. He convicted them with the words, “You killed the author of life. You killed the Holy and Righteous one of God, even though you didn’t know what you were doing. But God raised him from the dead and vindicated him.” But then he adds, “Repent for forgiveness and the times of refreshing God wants to give you.”
Peter called for a response! We hear this word repentance and are not quite sure what to do with it. It’s not a word that’s used often enough, even in the church today.
When the Bible talks of repentance, it’s talking about doing a U-turn. When you drive down the road and come to a realization that you’ve been traveling in the wrong direction, you turn around. That’s what repentance is Ð doing an about-face in life.
As Martin Luther said, “To do so no more is true repentance.” It’s turning away from what you have committed your life to and turning to God’s way. No more running your own life, but instead yielding to His control and surrendering your life to the conquering King of heaven, Jesus Christ.
General Douglas MacArthur was the official representative of the United States when the Japanese surrendered to the US at the end of WWII. He and a highly decorated Japanese admiral met on the deck of the battleship Missouri for the surrendering ceremony. As the ceremony came to the actual moment of surrender, the Japanese admiral extended his hand in the familiar gesture of friendship and peace. However, General MacArthur refused to take it and kept his right hand at his side. Sternly he said, “Sir, your sword first, please.” Then, when the defeated admiral handed over his sword, he extended his hand and grasped the Japanese officer’s hand.
Why did MacArthur ask for the sword first? Because the formal disarming of the enemy was the symbol of surrender. Until the weapon was handed over, hostilities had not formally ceased.
God is seeking a similar response Ð it’s called SURRENDER. Repentance is more than simply feeling sorry for what you’ve done. It’s recognizing Christ’s authority and bowing to him.
Peter was telling the people that it was time to turn away from the direction they were going and follow Jesus Christ. God made this clear by raising Jesus from the dead.
Peter then goes on to make a refreshing promise to those who turn to Christ. Forgiveness for your sins is the picture of something being erased, wiped clean. We have a clean slate to start over again.
A popular toy when we were kids was a thing called Etch A Sketch. When you made a picture that just did not seem quite right, you would shake it and the picture would be gone. The slate would be wiped clean to start over again.
It’s like the old repentance hymn, “Just as I Am” says:
Just as I am and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot.
To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O lamb of God, I come, I come.”
Christ’s sacrifice for sin wipes the past clean for the sinner and gives a start-over in your relationship with God. It opens the door of heaven for us. We have no hope of entering heaven without being made clean by Jesus, which leads to times of refreshing.
What a wonderful promise!
When I think of refreshing, I often think about images such as a cold drink of water on a blazing hot summer afternoon, a quiet afternoon on the beach listening to the ocean’s roar, or a warm shower after being out on a cold day. Refreshing images.
It is interesting to note that, oftentimes when Jesus described himself to people, it was with refreshing images: “I am the bread of life. Come to me, you will never hunger.” To the women at the well he said, “If you drink of me, you will never thirst again.” At the feast of tabernacles he said, “If any person comes to me, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Jesus was talking about the spiritual refreshment the person receives when they are involved with him.
Why would I want to be involved with him? Because, according to Jesus and Peter, times of refreshing are waiting for us when we repent. What does that look like in a life?
I am reminded of a story about the famous sports announcer, Pat Summerall, who overcame alcoholism and became a follower of Jesus Christ in his late sixties. After he came up out of the water during his baptism, he wrote that it felt like a 40 pound weight had been lifted from him. He has been living a happier and healthier life and feels more positive about life than ever before.
Another story is from Rob, a friend of mine at church. He testifies to the fear that plagued him most of his earlier years until he met Christ. He writes, “The fears that have plagued me for years have left, and I can say that God has given me a full and abundant life. His grace and forgiveness have become real and freeing.”
Pat and Rob have experienced times of refreshing in their lives!
Christ is risen. Repent! Ask him to take over your life. Get involved with him and you will see for yourself that refreshing times are waiting for you.