Times of Refreshing in the Risen Christ”

(Acts 3:12-21 – Easter 2 – April 11, 2021)

Acts 3:12-21 – 12So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: “Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. 14But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. 16And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all. 17Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.

Dear Redeemed in our risen Savior, Jesus Christ,

“Why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently at us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?” Peter asked the crowd (vs. 12). If you and I had been in that crowd, we would have been amazed too. Imagine if in Klamath Falls there was a man everyone knew, who had been lame from birth. Since he was unable to walk or work, every day he was carried to a place where many people passed by, from whom he could beg for a living. But one day two ordinary men named Peter and John walk up to him, and Peter says: “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). Immediately, the lame man’s feet and ankles are made strong and he jumps up. He goes with these men into God’s house, where everyone sees him walking and leaping and praising God. Surely, you and I would marvel at this too. We would wonder, “What kind of power do these men have to make the lame walk?”

But as Peter explains to the crowd, this man had been healed and restored by the power of Jesus Christ – the same Jesus who only recently had been crucified here at Jerusalem, and had risen in power as the Savior. As Peter tells the astonished onlookers: “And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all” (vs. 16).

The healing of the lame man showed but a small sample of the power of God’s risen Son to restore fallen man from the effects of sin and to make all things new in His Kingdom. Let us consider as the theme of Peter’s sermon, and ours: Times of Refreshing in the Risen Christ.” 1) He died for your sins, 2) He rose for your salvation.

1) He died for your sins

As Peter and John testified to the saving name of Jesus, the point of their message was not that Jesus promised immediate healing from every physical ailment. The Savior who died on the cross for our sins, and rose again from the grave, came first and foremost to give us spiritual healing and restoration. Peter makes this clear as he tells the crowd: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (vs. 19).

In order that we may see our need for refreshing in the Lord’s forgiveness and salvation, first we must be shown our desperate condition as sinners. We must see that we are the lame ones, spiritually speaking, who from birth are unable to walk before God in righteousness. We are the spiritual beggars, with nothing to bring before the Lord except our unrighteousness, who by the grace of God alone can only hold out our hand in faith to receive His forgiveness and healing.

Peter demonstrates this point effectively to the crowd. He tells them basically: “Do you see the power of Jesus’ name by which this man was healed? Well, now you see that Jesus was not a fake. He is the real Christ who was to come. He is that Servant whom the Lord prophesied in Isaiah 52:13-53:12, the Servant who humbled Himself unto death for sinners. As Isaiah wrote: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.” Jesus is that Servant, whom God has glorified by raising Him from the dead. He is that Savior, through whom God gives forgiveness and healing for eternal life.”

Now here, Peter really lays down the Law as he tells his fellow Jews what they had done to their Lord and Messiah: “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses” (vs. 13-15).

This is pretty strong Law, convicting and condemning in a few points. Here at last, God had sent among the Jews His chosen Servant, their promised Messiah. But what had they done? They had turned Him over to a Gentile governor to have Him killed. Pontius Pilate had wanted to let Jesus go, knowing He was innocent. But though Jesus is the Holy and Just One, the Jews had cried out for a guilty criminal Barabbas to be released instead of Jesus. They had chosen to set free the murderer, who was guilty of taking life; and though Jesus is the Prince of life, who gives life to all, sinners chose to have Him condemned and put to death on a cross. What a shock it must have been for Peter’s hearers, to think they had been guilty of such a crime!

Isn’t it painful to be looked in the face and have the finger of guilt pointed at us? Maybe it is like the time as a child when a parent looked us in the eye and said: “I told you not to do that!” Or maybe a friend had to tell us: “What you did really hurt me!” Or maybe it was our conscience saying: “You haven’t done what you should have. You haven’t been there for your spouse and children. You have been selfish and hurtful. You have done what was shameful in the sight of God.” The truth hurt. The shame was unbearable. We felt cornered in our guilt.

When we are confronted with the Law, which shows us our sin against God and people, our first instinct is to employ defense mechanisms. Maybe the flight mechanism kicks in, and we try to run from the problem with excuses, self pity, and self-justification: “Everyone was doing it. I wasn’t hurting anyone. I was having a hard time in life and I couldn’t help my behavior.” Or maybe the fight mechanism kicks in, and we lash out in anger, fighting back with accusations of our own: “Who are you to tell me how I should live? It’s not like you are perfect!”

The reason we so quickly employ such defense mechanisms is because guilt smells of death. It is a matter of self-preservation. To face the truth and accept full responsibility for the wrong we have done is to feel the pain of a dying pride, and to confess our deserved condemnation.

This was the condemnation and death Peter’s listeners felt when faced with the shocking truth: “You crucified the Lord Jesus Christ!” No defense mechanism would work now. One might be able to fight against or flee from accusations of guilt with people; but one cannot fight against God or flee from Him. The Law of God traps and condemns sinners to death.

We must come to the same realization. After all, it was not just the sin of people back then – both Jews and Gentiles – that put Jesus on the cross. It was our own sin and guilt. As Isaiah said: “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities… All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5, 6). This leaves no one out.

But here, Peter introduces a new thought about Christ’s crucifixion. Despite sinner’s guilt, the God of grace and mercy had fulfilled all His promises and worked out His plan to save sinners. As Peter declares: “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled” (vs. 17-18). During Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, they truly had not realized how guilty they were of the very blood of the Lord. As Jesus Himself prayed from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Since God’s Son had come in such humility, they honestly had not realized that He was the Christ of God. But what they did not know in their ignorance, God had worked in their favor. Through their very act of sin, God had fulfilled His promise that His Servant would suffer and die to take away the sins of the world. And now, through His sacrifice, sinners are now saved.

2) He rose for your salvation

Thus, having preached the stern Law of God that convicts sinners, Peter now preached the sweet Gospel of God that sets us free. For not only did the Prince of life die on the cross for our sins; He also rose again to bring us His forgiveness, salvation, and everlasting life. Here, Peter declares how God brings forgiveness and restoration to sinners, in the name of the risen Christ: “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (vs. 19).

In daily repentance, the Holy Spirit leads us to forsake the defense mechanisms of falsehood. We say: “I will not try to fight against God’s Word or flee from His truth. I will not try to save my life and thus lose it apart from Christ (Matthew 16:25). I would rather die with Christ to sin, and rise with Him in the forgiveness and newness of life He gives me.” In repentance, we say with David: “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

Thus in repentance, we turn in sorrow from sin; and we turn in faith to Jesus’ blood sacrifice on the cross. By that holy and precious blood of His Son, God has blotted out all our sins. In Christ, God forgives us and sets us free from all condemnation. Here is where true healing is found; here is where we can go forth in newness of life. Through faith in His Holy and Just Son, God the Father justifies us and calls us His holy children. Through faith in the Prince of life, God has written our names in His Book of Life (Revelation 3:5) as heirs of eternal life in Christ.

In the name of our crucified and risen Savior, times of refreshing have come from the presence of the Lord. Jesus lives and reigns at His Father’s right hand to intercede for us. Together with His Father and the Holy Spirit, the Lord blesses us and keeps us; the Lord makes His face to shine upon us and be gracious unto us; the Lord lifts up His countenance upon us and gives us peace (Numbers 6:24-26). Each and every day, we live in His grace and blessing.

And as Peter tells his listeners, these times of refreshing for believers will reach fulfillment when Jesus comes again: “that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (vs. 20-21).

Just think of what that final restoration of all things will be like in heaven. We get a little glimpse of it here. In Jesus’ name, Peter and John healed the man who was lame from birth. That man responded by entering the temple, leaping and praising God. Even now, with that same spirit of refreshment in the Lord’s healing forgiveness, we are inspired to walk before the Lord in newness of life, rejoicing and praising God for His salvation. But how much greater will be our joy in heaven! There, Jesus will heal us of every effect from sin that has touched our lives from birth. Not only will He remove every physical defect, illness, and pain; He will also restore in us a perfect, sinless heart. He will remove death itself, and we will feel the refreshment of eternal life in our body and soul. Truly in the Lord’s heavenly temple, we will leap for joy and praise God forevermore!

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.