Peter said to the people: "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in Pilate's presence when he had decided to release him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what He had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away."(P) The word of the Lord.
When I call, answer me, O my just God, you who relieve me when I am in distress; have pity on me, and hear my prayer! (R)
Know that the Lord does wonders for His faithful one; the Lord will hear me when I call upon Him. (R)
O Lord, let the light of your countenance shine upon us! You put gladness into my heart. (R)
As soon as I lie down, I fall peacefully asleep; for you alone, O Lord, bring security to my dwelling. (R)
My children, I am writing this to you so that you may not commit sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocated with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world.
The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments. Those who say, "I know him," but do not keep his commandments are liars, and the truth is not in them. But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is truly perfected in him.(P) The word of the Lord.
The two disciples recounted what had taken place on the way, and how Jesus was made known to them in the breaking of bread.
While they were still speaking about this, Jesus stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, "Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.
He said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in the prophets and psalms must be fulfilled." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
Today's first reading recounts a part of St. Peter's second sermon. Some reckon that it was one of the two powerful sermons delivered by Peter. But first, to better understand the text, let us look at the context. According to the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, once sometime after Pentecost, Jesus' apostles, Peter and John, were going to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray. On the way, they met a lame man who asked them for money. Peter responded by saying that he had neither gold, nor silver to give but something else. Then, He commanded the man to "rise up and walk" in Jesus' name. Notice that Peter did not pray. Jesus had already bestowed on Peter and other disciples both authority and power to "heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons", Matthew (10:1-8); Luke (9:1-6).
Peter knew he had power and, so, he freely gave it, just as he had seen Jesus do so on many occasions. At once, the man jumped up and, praising God, walked with Peter and John into the temple. All the people were astounded for they knew this was the man who had been lame since birth and used to beg at the entrance of the temple for many years. As the crowd gathered around the disciples, which was so unexpected, Peter gave a clear testimony as to who the Power Source was behind this miracle, Acts (3:1-11). He told them about Jesus, Luke (3:12-26).
This was, in fact, Peter's second preaching. He had preached the first sermon on the day of Pentecost and, as a result, three thousand people became Christians, Acts (2). At that time, Peter had openly accused the Israelites of being the murderers of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. He told them that the Jesus, whom they had rejected and crucified, is alive again and, He is now seated on the throne of God, with all power in His hands. After hearing Peter's preaching, the people were overwhelmed with shame, fear, embarrassment, and guilt and led to ask Peter and the other apostles what they should do. Peter exhorted them to repent of their sins and receive baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. Thus, by professing their faith in Jesus, they would receive forgiveness for their sins plus the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, Acts (2:37-38).
Peter repeated the same message this time to the crowd which gathered at the temple in response to the healing of the lame man. First, he told them that they did not have to be amazed because it was not by their own power that the miracle was done but by God's power. It was not they who healed this man but Jesus Christ who did so from the throne of heaven. For this reason, Peter talked to them about Jesus. He said to them, "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in Pilate's presence when he decided to release him", Acts (3:13).
Here, Peter used a phrase the Jews were very familiar with - "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob". They commonly used this formula in the times of daily prayers. We, too, are quite familiar with the phrase for it is mentioned throughout both the Old and New Testament of the Bible. The phrase was first used when God spoke to Moses from the burning bush at Mount Sinai. God had identified Himself to Moses as "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob", and then commanded him to deliver Israelites from their oppression and bondage in Egypt, Exodus (3:6). Since then God spoke to the Israelites through the prophets, saying many times, "I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob".
According to the Scriptures, Moses lived around 1400 years before Christ and lived for one hundred and twenty years. The time period between Moses and Abraham was five hundred years, and the time period between Moses and Jesus was one thousand and six hundred eighty years.
So, when Peter said, "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", all the people would have surely remembered God's promises of land, many descendants, and blessings to three different generations, and their ancestors' exodus from Egypt, and the long and historical relationship which they had enjoyed with Yahweh despite their unfaithfulness and disobedience. And now, Peter linked the miracle they had just witnessed to the one and only true God - the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their ancestors - and said to them that the same God was at work in their midst, and that He has glorified His servant Jesus.
Jesus was no ordinary human being, like you and me, even though He manifested Himself to us in human form and attributed to Himself human characteristics. In the following verses, Peter elaborates just that, i.e., he describes who Jesus is. "Jesus" or yeshua in Hebrew literally means "God saves" or "salvation" or "Saviour God." Jesus was their Messiah, the promised Saviour and Redeemer of Israel, but whom they had denied before Pilate - a pagan, a non-Jew or a Gentile ruler - who, in fact, recognized the innocence of Jesus and had wanted Him to be released by the choice of an unholy and unrighteous man, Barabbas, over Jesus who was Holy and Righteous and; yet, they put to death the author of life, Luke (3:15).
Thus, Peter charged them of denying and killing their Saviour, the Innocent, Holy, Righteous person and the Lord of life. But he reminded them that, in contrast to what they had done to Jesus, God has "glorified" Him in His resurrection.
And then, though he had condemned them as guilty of the most heinous crime against God, Peter said to them with full compassion and courtesy that they, not only the crowd, but also their rulers - the chief priests, the elders, the Sanhedrin - and all those who opposed Jesus plus all those who were responsible for His crucifixion, had "acted out of ignorance". God used their ignorance to fulfil all His promises in Christ, as foretold by the prophets. It does not mean that they were innocent in having put Jesus to death but rather their offence was mitigated by the fact that they were ignorant about Jesus as the Messiah.
This was the same thing our Lord Jesus Himself affirmed when dying on the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do", Luke (23:34). However, their ignorance was not sufficient to remove their guilt. Repentance was required. Therefore, Peter urged them to repent of what they had done, and be converted, so that all their sins may be forgiven, Acts (3:19). The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross makes up for any and all sins, including their killing of the Son of God, and so offers an opportunity for their forgiveness. It shows that Peter's preaching was not condemnation, but rather an invitation to simply accept God's free offer of forgiveness, shown by His Son Jesus Christ's resurrection.
What is the message for us?
We all worship the same God whom Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and our Lord Jesus Himself worshipped. He is the God who shows us mercy. He is the God who keeps his promises for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments, Deuteronomy (7:9); Psalm (105:8); Exodus (20:6). He is the God who forgives, reconciles and restores our relationship with Him through His Son Jesus. He is the God who has made total forgiveness freely available to all who admit their sinfulness and place their faith in Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and, He will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness, as Saint John says, 1 John (1:9). Yes indeed! It is as if God takes the list of sins we have committed and, using His "heavenly eraser" deletes all our sins instantly and completely. The ONLY thing that we need to do is to truly repent of whatever sin we commit against God and call on the name of the Lord. When we do, He will permanently forgive us, even if we are murderers of the Son of God. He will no longer remember our sin, Psalm (51:9); Jeremiah (31:34).
Besides, as Peter said to the people on the Pentecost day, God is willing to give us the gift of the Holy Spirit. In other words, God will not only blot out our transgressions but also will come and live with us, and guide us, and change us, and empower us. God's grace is so great that it can cleanse us from all our sins so that we can become His children and have true life now and eternally in heaven.
If you have been struggling with embarrassment, shame, humiliation and guilt, because of your sin, remember today that God wants to set you free from all these through His Son Jesus' death on the cross. You don't have to hide because there is no more shame in Christ Jesus. Repent of your sins, big and small, believe in Christ, and commit the rest of your life to Him as Lord. "Come near to God, and He will come near to you" and He can embrace you and restore you to your dignity as His beloved child, James (4:8).(P) Amen.
God Bless You!