Have you ever been so excited about something that you couldn’t wait to tell the whole world? It could have been something that happened to you personally, or it may have been something that you’d heard that you believed to be true. But whatever it was, it was something that you just couldn’t keep to yourself. You needed to tell someone, anyone, of what it was that had happened.
Now I’m sure that we’ve all had times like that. And not just once, but many times. And yet how often—when we did get excited and had something to share—were we cut off at every attempt to tell our story, or simply received the reaction “So what?”?
Yes, I’m sure that for all of us there have been times when we’ve had some exciting news—news we wanted to share with anyone and everyone—but the response we received from those we tried to tell was a little disappointing and very frustrating too.
B. PETER’S GOOD NEWS
And one of the people who had good news to tell was the Apostle Peter. And for him, what he had to be excited about was the culmination of events over several years.
He’d left his career as a fisherman. He’d embarked on a nomadic life following a man called Jesus—a man he believed to be very special indeed. And for Peter, this Jesus was more than just a human being; he was the Son of God. And he’d dedicated three years of his life to him. He’d followed him closely; he’d listened to his every word; he’d watched him show great compassion for the poor and the needy; and he’d been truly amazed at his miracles.
All exciting enough on their own. And yet despite the fact that Jesus had been persecuted and hung out to dry like a common criminal, he’d also risen from the dead. And over several weeks had appeared to his followers many times.
So you can imagine the excitement of Peter and the other followers. Even if Jesus hadn’t told them to tell others about what they had seen and heard, how could they possibly have kept what they knew and what they had experienced to themselves?
Jesus had claimed to be the Son of God; Jesus had claimed that his purpose in life was to substitute himself for us by dying the death of a common criminal—to take on the punishment we deserve for choosing to distance ourselves from God; and Jesus had claimed that he would die, but that God would bring him back to life as proof that all his claims were true. And that was exactly what had happened.
Now I ask you, if you’d been there, if you’d experienced all that Peter had experienced, wouldn’t you have been excited too? And wouldn’t you have wanted to tell the whole world what had happened?
I’m sure you would. And in this passage from the Acts of the Apostles, we have an instance of Peter taking the opportunity to tell a crowd all his wonderful, exciting news.
C. PETER’S TALE
And the gist of the good news that Peter had to say falls into three parts.
1. The Gospel: Open to All (34-35)
Because, firstly, as far as Peter was concerned, this wasn’t just his good news he was telling, it was good news for anyone who accepted it for themselves. It didn’t matter whether they were a Jew or Gentile. (In modern terms: an American, African, European, Asian, or Australian.) Whatever their background, it didn’t matter. And it didn’t matter if they were poor, rich, or anything in between. The good news was available to everyone. God would accept anybody who believed in him and what he had done, regardless of any racial, social, or economic barriers that presented themselves.
As far as God was concerned, he didn’t show favours, he didn’t have favourites. And on the basis of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the good news was available to all people who were willing to receive it for themselves.
2. Jesus: The Subject of Faith (36-38)
Secondly, as far as Peter was concerned, accepting the good news was not complicated. People simply needed to have faith in the person of Jesus himself. You didn’t have to do anything else—indeed you couldn’t. It was simply a matter of faith.
And from Peter’s personal eyewitness account, he said something about the person of Jesus—the person to whom faith should be directed. For it was Jesus who had preached peace from Galilee and throughout Judea. And what Jesus offered was not only the absence of strife and hostility between man and God, but it was the positive blessings that come through a state of being united with our Father and creator. Indeed, it was through faith in Jesus, that an ongoing and fulfilling relationship with God could be attained.
In addition, it was Jesus who had been anointed by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, he had been given great power by God (at his baptism), which demonstrated not only who he was, but revealed the love and compassion of the creator God who had sent him. And it was Jesus who had gone around doing good, healing people, rescuing them from their suffering, and showing himself to be the true helper of people.
So faith was simple, and it was in the person of Jesus that faith needed to be channelled.
3. The Importance of the Death and Resurrection (39-41)
And, thirdly, as far as Peter was concerned, the death and resurrection of Jesus was the crunch of the good news. Someone had to pay the penalty for our mistakes—to pay the price for our sins—and the person who had shown that he was willingly to do that was Jesus himself. And the resurrection within three days proved, once and for all, that the price that Jesus paid was acceptable to the creator.
Not only that, but Jesus’s resurrection, was the assurance of our own resurrection and judgement. And that believers (and believers only) would inherit eternal life with God.
And the proof of what he was saying, Peter said, was not just that he was an eyewitness to the resurrection, but that there were many eye witnesses. This wasn’t just a story that the apostles had heard second hand, they were there. They were there during Jesus’s ministry; they were there after his death. And this Jesus, who was crucified and whom God raised on third day, wasn’t a phantom because they had seen him many times—and had even eaten and drank with him.
4. The Need to Share the Good News (42-43)
As a consequence, as far as Peter was concerned, the disciples may have been commanded by Jesus to pass on everything that they had seen and heard. But that didn’t detract from the fact that they were so excited about the good news that they couldn’t help telling others anyway.
Now you can imagine the excitement of Peter and the other followers, with what they had seen and witnessed personally. With such exciting news how could they possibly have kept it to themselves?
But in this instance, unlike many of our own experiences, Peter’s message did not fall on deaf ears. It wasn’t told to a crowd who were disinterested. Indeed, in this one instance alone we are told that a great number were so convinced of what Peter had to say, that they too were filled with the Holy Spirit. Which was a very satisfactory outcome as far as Peter and the other apostles were concerned.
D. RESPONSES TO GOOD NEWS
1. The Response Today
And this, of course, brings us to today. Because if you’ve ever had something exciting to pass on—something that happened that you wanted to share—I’m sure that you, like me, have not always received the same attention that Peter enjoyed that day. On the contrary, as I said at the outset, our experience may well have been the reverse. Because people don’t always want to hear our good news. Indeed, they may not always understand what we are excited about at all.
And in times like that, it would be quite understandable if we were to turn an envious eye to this instance in Peter’s life. But then Peter didn’t always receive a favourable reception either. Yes, he had some good news, some very good news, and in this instance that I’ve just described the news was accepted with open minds and very open hearts by a large number of people. But I assure you that wasn’t always the case. Indeed, Peter on a number of occasions met crowds who were very resistant to what he had to say. Some wanted him to water the message down to make it more palatable, and others were just plain antagonistic to him and his message.
As a consequence, we shouldn’t be surprised if our good news meets a blank or negative response. And we shouldn’t be surprised when the good news of the gospel—indeed, the same good news that Peter tried to deliver—meets indifference or rejection too.
2. The Church/Gospel Today
Because despite the good news of the gospel being still something to get excited about, how often do we see that same good news, falling on deaf ears or exacting a negative response? And how often do we see the message of the gospel being twisted to make it more palatable?
And the evidence of that can be clearly seen in the number of people who fill in their census forms and proclaim to have an allegiance to the Christian faith, while rejecting God’s command to meet as a community of faith on a regular, if not weekly, basis.
It can be seen in the belief that the church has major role in marrying and burying people. And as a consequence, needs to have appropriately sized and located buildings kept open and maintained for those purposes. Ideas which are quite foreign to the pages of the bible.
And it can be seen in the number of people who pay allegiance to the church as the keeper of historic buildings, while paying scant regard to the burden on the church in maintaining them, and who find that the buildings no longer meet the needs (or the size) of those who are active in the faith.
As a consequence, it is very easy to conclude, that contrary to Peter’s experience in our story, not only are people (generally) no longer listening to the church and the gospel, but it no longer interests them. Furthermore, that the whole church/gospel thing has been so twisted in many people’s minds, that Peter’s original good news has become totally unrecognisable.
And that is far from good news. Because in reality we do still have something to get excited about. And we do still have something that is worth listening to and doing something about.
E. THE GOOD NEWS
After all, can you imagine what it would be like if people did accept the gospel, that is, in its pure unadulterated form? Can you imagine what it would be like if people lived as though they were looking forward to eternal life with God? Can you imagine what the church and the community would be like if people returned—en masse—to worshipping God? And can you imagine what it would be like if people actively tried to follow in the steps of Jesus? Indeed, can you imagine what a difference it would make to our town, our society, and our world?
But if you can, how do we get there? How do we return to the good news that Peter was so excited about?
Well we need to listen; we need to pay attention to Peter’s good news. (Not what we think is the good news, but what Peter said was the good news.) Because what Jesus did was nothing short of mind boggling; something for us all to get excited about. And it is something that should have an influence on every one of us, every minute of every day.
After all, without Jesus we are lost; we are destined to the eternal scrap heap. Because not one of us can put up our hand and say we have never made a mistake in our life, that we have never put ourselves before God or our fellow man.
Only with Jesus can our destination change; only with Jesus will our future change from eternal destruction to eternal life with God. And that is the good news we should be excited about.
So have you ever had something you got really excited about and wanted to tell the world, only to be disappointed with the response that you got? Have you ever been cut off at every attempt to tell your good news, or simply got the reaction, “So what?”? Well, if you have, you are not alone.
The importance of Easter in the Christian faith is paramount. The whole Christian faith hinges on the death and resurrection of Jesus. And while in this passage it is good to see Peter receive such a positive reaction, unfortunately, only too often, the end result was quite different. And sadly it is usually very different today too.
Which means that, today, we can lament about the responses of others to the good news. But then what have we done with it too? What have we done to Peter’s story? Have we truly listened to it, has it fallen on deaf ears, or have we changed it to make it more palatable?
Is Peter’s good news, our good news? Does it make a difference in our daily lives? Or have we missed the whole point of the lengths that God has gone to, to rescue us from ourselves?
Posted: 16th April 2021
© 2021, Brian A Curtis