Let’s continue our look at the various features of Peter’s sermon. As we already noted, it is Christ-centered. And in speaking about Jesus Peter is inevitably biblical. I say inevitably because this sermon is not as obviously biblical as the previous one. When we were studying the sermon Peter gave at Pentecost, I pointed out that it focuses on three great texts: Joel 2:28-32 (which concerned the giving of the Holy Spirit in the last days), Psalm 16:8-11 (which dealt with the resurrection), and finally, Psalm 110:1 (which speaks of God’s exaltation of Jesus to a position of ultimate power at His right hand). These texts are prominent. The way Peter preached that sermon was to quote each text at length and then explain it. The fact that he is biblical is not so obvious in this second sermon. Although, as we will see when we get to the end, Peter does quote from the eighteenth chapter of Deuteronomy and from the twenty-second chapter of Genesis. Nevertheless, Peter is biblical and, as I said, this is almost inevitable for him.
I emphasize this because of Peter’s choice of words. When Peter refers to Jesus as “God’s servant,” as he does in verse 13, he uses the word for “servant” which occurs in the Septuagint (Greek) translation of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, where the coming “servant of God” is described as the one who would be “pierced for our transgressions [and] bruised for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). I think that is what Peter had in mind. The concept of the “servant of the Lord” was well known in Israel because of Isaiah 53 and other chapters that deal with it. So when Peter used this word and then went on to speak of “the Holy and Righteous One,” using titles for the Christ that also appear in Isaiah—it is pretty clear that he was thinking of these great chapters of Isaiah. He was thinking that Jesus suffered in our place, as Isaiah said He would do.
Then when Peter talked about Jesus, he had a number of important facts to mention. One is that he was referring to a real man. Earlier when he spoke to the man who was paralyzed, he referred to Jesus as “the Christ of Nazareth” (v. 6). It was not some imaginary, philosophical Jesus that Peter was proclaiming. It was a Jesus they all knew, a Jesus who had lived in Nazareth and who had traveled about the country teaching and doing good. It was that Jesus. But notice: that Jesus was also the same Jesus who had died for sin and then had been raised from death by the power of God. Peter was not retreating into philosophy, nor was he de-supernaturalizing the Gospel, as some modern Bible critics have done. He was preaching a biblical Jesus who was both the Son of God and fully man.
When you think about Christianity, do you think primarily about Jesus Christ? And do you understand who Jesus is by the words and doctrines of the Bible? There is a lot more that Christians talk about, of course. But properly understood, those other things all relate to Jesus in some measure. Without Jesus you do not have Christianity, and the Jesus of Christianity is the Bible’s Jesus. To be a Christian is to have a personal relationship with Him. Therefore Peter was preaching about Him in this sermon.
2. Peter’s sermon is also direct in speaking about sin. Even more than in his earlier sermon, Peter emphasizes the sin of the people in disowning Jesus and handing him over to Pilate to be crucified.
He does it in a personal way. I notice that in this section, where Peter begins to talk about the sin of the people, he uses the word “you” (the second person plural pronoun) four times. In the previous sermon he only used it in that way once: “You, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23). That is pretty blunt. But I suppose that as Peter reflected on it (and even got a little better with practice), he figured that when he got around to preaching a second time he would give that point emphasis. So now he says, “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” (vv. 13-15).
Peter was doing this in the very city where the people had cried out against Jesus, saying, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” He is speaking to these same people, perhaps with the very same leaders who had urged them to cry out looking on, and he is saying, “You did it; you crucified him.” The verbs are powerful, too. “You handed him over to be killed. You disowned Him. You killed the author of life.”