“This man (Jesus) was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” (Acts 2:23,24).
In our daily verse Peter is preaching to the curious crowd on the day of Pentecost. Fifty days earlier he was among the first witnesses to the greatest event in history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“This man (Jesus) was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge.” The redemption plan was a plan from the very beginning. Pastor Steven Cole comments, “Peter shows that Jesus was not killed because He was a victim of His enemies. He was killed because God predetermined before the world began that Jesus would die as the Savior of His people. Isaiah 53:10ff prophesied, “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief.” And so rather than invalidating Jesus as Lord and Messiah, His death actually validated Him, since it was a fulfillment of God’s eternal decree.
“And you, with the help of wicked men.” What a convicting statement the two words “and you” must have been to the initial hearers, for ultimately it was the sin of the human race and each individual sinner which “put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross”. Stuart Townend captures this sentiment in his song “How Deep The Father’s Love For Us” with these words.
Behold the Man upon a cross My sin upon His shoulders Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice Call out among the scoffers It was my sin that held Him there Until it was accomplished His dying breath has brought me life I know that it is finished
In Peter’s message one verse was devoted to Jesus’ life/incarnation (Acts 2:22) and one verse on His death/crucifixion (Acts 2:23), but Peter then expounds on Christ’s resurrection for the next nine verses. In fact the resurrection of Christ could well be called the main theme of the apostolic preaching in Acts.
“But God raised Him from the dead” is the first reference to the resurrection in apostolic preaching in the book of Acts. Apostolic preaching consistently emphasized the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was and ever will be at the very heart of the Gospel. A faithful witness will always, “earnestly contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).
“Freeing Him from the agony of death.” Peter, who infamously denied the Lord at His trial, had been a witness to this agony, although at a distance due to his denial and shame. But the resurrection freed Him and the gripping chains of death were broken.
“Because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.” Peter surely recalled the teaching of Jesus he had heard time after time. These teachings made sense to him now. Early in His ministry Jesus had said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19). After Peter had made his great confession of faith, Jesus clearly taught that He would “suffer many things, be killed, and be raised again the third day”. Even his enemies were aware of the claim and made provision for a guard at the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). But no paltry Roman guard was going to stop this glorious, supernatural event! Death had forever lost its sting.
Today we rejoice in this truth and live for the One who once for all died for our sins and now lives forevermore, for it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him! It is for this truth that we must earnestly, faithfully and vigorously contend!
Death could not hold You, the veil tore before You You silenced the boast, of sin and grave The heavens are roaring, the praise of Your glory For You are raised to life again!
Dr Anthony Orji is a Ph.D holder in Economics and a lecturer at the Department of Economics, University of Nigeria Nsukka.
He obtained his B.Sc, Msc and Ph.D Degrees from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and a Post Graduate Diploma in Sustainable Local Economic Development (SLED) from Erasmus University, Rotterdam Netherlands.