What would they think of him back in Jerusalem?
The thought swirled around in his head as he stood there in a very large living room. This was a very large house. And clearly the man who owned it had a large family. The expansive space was filled with people: kids, teenagers, women, servants, babies, other men. But the room was dead silent. And at that moment they were all staring at him. A guest. Waiting. The man who owned the big house with the big family was named Cornelius. He was a centurion soldier with the Italian Regiment, and he was clearly a man who understood authority. He stood in the middle of his extensive family, silent, and keeping his eyes fixed on his guest – a man whom only a few days before he sent for because of a vision from God. Cornelius’ expression was serious, but, his anticipation was radiating through, like he was ready for some great assignment or instruction from his commanding officer. And at that moment it was going to come from his guest, whose name was Simon. Known also as the Apostle Peter.
Peter stood there, taking it all in, in the presence Cornelius – a Gentile. All those Gentiles. In their home. What are they going to think back in Jerusalem? He knew the Jews will disown him for this. He’ll never be allowed to set his foot on Jerusalem’s holy soil again. Not after setting foot in a Gentile’s home.
But, then the thought came to him, as it had been more and more recently: this is what you’ve been called to. This is you assignment from your commanding officer, the Lord Jesus Christ. They can say what they want, the old Jewish ways were being left behind. The whole world lay ahead. “Go!” he remembered Him saying, “into all the world”. Ah, yes. It was becoming clearer now: God has had salvation in mind for the Gentiles this whole time. It’s a whole new world now. It’s a world that must hear about what they have seen.
You may recognize this scene if you’ve read Acts 10 in the Bible where the Apostle Peter is summonsed by a Gentile soldier named Cornelius. Cornelius worshipped God and was told in a vision to send for Peter because Peter had a message he and his family needed to hear. Cornelius needed to hear what Peter and the other Apostles saw. Have you heard what they have seen? Listen to what it is that they have seen.
#1: They Saw Jesus Christ’s in Action (v39a)
These men saw Jesus live His life. Notice the first part of verse 39, “We are witnesses of everything He did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.” They were eyewitnesses who everyday for 3 years saw the impeccable character of the Son of God, the countless powerful miracles He performed, and the unmatched authority of His preaching. It was this eyewitness testimony that formed the basis of Apostolic preaching in the first generation of the Church. The Apostle John in 1 John 1:1 says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have heard which we have looked at, which we have touched. This we proclaim to you.” He is speaking like someone on a witness stand about what he witnessed. The Apostle Peter said in 2 Peter 1:16-18, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him…” Eyewitness testimony. They saw it all.
Why is this important to point out? These men saw with their own eyes the perfect man. No man had ever lived perfect. They witnessed the perfection of humanity in Jesus Christ. The unequalled life of Jesus Christ they witnessed in their time has been the testimony of history ever since. There is no one who ever lived who comes close to Jesus. Listen to the words of great men who have reflected on the life of Jesus Christ:
The great poet Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke of the greatness of Jesus when he said, “Jesus is the most perfect of all men that have yet appeared.”
Historian and skeptic, William Lecky observed, “Jesus has been not only the highest pattern of virtue, but the strongest incentive to its practice”
W.S. Peake said, “How was it that a carpenter, of no special training, ignorant of the culture and learning of the Greeks, born of a people whose great teachers were narrow, sour, intolerant, pedantic legalists, was the supreme religious Teacher the world has known, whose supremacy here makes Him the most important figure in the world’s history?”
In light of that, consider with the great historian Kenneth Scott Latourette said, “As the centuries pass the evidence is accumulating that, measured by His effect of history, Jesus is the most influential life that ever lived on this planet.
Historian Philip Schaff comments with these words, “This Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of schools, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, He set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise, than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.”
Have you ever truly considered His life? His was the perfect life. His is the perfect life. Jesus Christ is the crown of mankind. He is the Man who is unequalled in all of history. The reason is because Jesus was more than a man. He is the God-Man, God in human flesh. And as God’s Man He came to be the perfect man to die on the cross for the sins of all the rest of mankind. Which leads us to our next point.
#2: They Saw Jesus Christ Accused (v39b)
Have you heard? They saw Jesus Christ accused. Then crucified and buried. They knew He was dead. They knew where He was buried. They knew He, like everyone else, doesn’t get out of a crucifixion alive. Notice the last half of verse 39, “They killed Him by hanging him on a tree”.
Peter never shied away from accusing the Jews of this colossal blunder. In Acts 2:23 he said, “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.” Peter and the others saw with their own eyes the greatest failure of justice in human history. The most innocent man who ever lived – the only truly innocent man – was condemned as guiltiest man whoever lived. Peter highlights this irony in his lacerating sermon in Acts 3:13-15 [read].
But the world’s condemnation of Jesus Christ was the eternal purpose of God. Acts 2:23 says, “This man [Jesus] was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge.” He was not a victim or a martyr. He willingly suffered these things and let them put Him to death (John 10:18). But the reason why He would do that is what you must grasp today: He died for you so that you could live. His death was on your behalf. It was planned by God before the world ever began that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would enter into this world a man and die for mankind. That includes you today.
#3: They Saw Jesus Christ Alive! (v40-41)
Have you heard? They saw Jesus Christ alive after He was dead! Notice verses 40 and 41, “But God raised Him from the dead on the third day and caused Him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.” The eyewitness testimony is that Jesus Christ left an empty tomb behind and was seen for 40 days by more than 500 people. The women. The 2 disciples going to Emmaus. Peter. The Apostles. James. Over 500 brothers at one time. Then Paul. They ate fish and bread with Him. They talked with Him. They touched His scars. He truly appeared to them.
Notice it says that He appeared to some but not to all. Skeptics criticize the fact that Jesus didn’t go and appear to his enemies and the rest of the Jewish population after He was raised up. After all this would have surely settled the matter once for all. Let me suggest 3 points in response.
First of all, seeing someone alive after they were dead will not change anyone’s mind. In Luke 16 Jesus describes a man in Hades undergoing intense suffering. The man does not want his family to die and go there too so he asks if someone can go back to his family from the dead to warn them. The response to this request is found in Luke 16:31, “If they do not believe Moses or the Prophets, they will not believe even if someone comes back from the dead”. In other words, miracles, including resurrections do not sway unbelievers from their stubborn unbelief.
This is seen clearly when Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus in John 11. Rather than the Jewish leaders realizing that Jesus is God’s Son and believing in Him they instead plot to kill Him because of Lazarus. But not only Him, they also plan to get rid of Lazarus too! John 12:10-11 says, “So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus too because on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in Him.”
Contrary to popular belief, seeing is not believing. Seeing someone alive from the dead is not going to change someone’s mind. Instead, the Bible says faith comes a different way than by seeing. It comes by hearing. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” That is why Jesus did not show Himself to people. And that is why He sent the Apostles to preach. Verse 42 says, “He commanded us to preach”. A person comes to faith when they hear God’s Word. Do you hear what they saw?
Secondly, people would explain it away as mass hallucinations or visions. That’s one of the theories given by skeptics today in regards to so many people saying they saw Jesus alive in those 40 days. It is a very untenable theory.
Thirdly, there is a theological reason why Jesus only appeared to His disciples: they believed in Him. In John 14, before He was crucified, Jesus was asked why He only intended to show Himself to the disciples and not the world. It’s the same question asked today by skeptics, except without the cynicism. Here’s Jesus’ answer in verses 22-23, “If anyone loves me, He will obey my teaching. My Father will love Him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Notice how Jesus answered the question: He will show Himself only to those who love Him and believe in Him. It’s a fellowship thing. That’s the disicples. Then in the next sentence He talks about those who didn’t believe in Him, “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” The clear implication is that those who do not love or obey Jesus, or believe in Him, those who are not His disciples, they don’t get the privilege of seeing Him resurrected. They saw Him for 3 years as He travelled and preached and did miracles publicly and they rejected Him after seeing all that? They sentenced Him to be crucified after all that? They shouted “Crucify! Crucify!” after all that? Then they will not see anymore of Him, certainly not after He has come back from the dead.
Jesus is alive. His tomb was empty. There is no body. He does not occupy a tomb right now. “He is not here” the angel said at the tomb, “He is risen!” And now He occupies the throne in heaven at His Father’s right hand. People want Him to be dead but He is alive. And it is actually you who are dead. Only He who is alive can make you alive today.
#4: They Saw Jesus Christ Appointed (V42)
Do you hear what they saw? Fourthly they saw Jesus appointed. Appointed to what? To Judge. Look seriously at verse 42, “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.” Paul corroborated this in Acts 17:31 when He tied Jesus’ resurrection to Jesus’ judgeship, “For God has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the mane He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.” Jesus is appointed as Judge of the living and the dead. He said in John 5:22, “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son.”
This is why in Revelation Jesus appeared spectacularly with “eyes blazing like fire”. They are the eyes of the Almighty Judge. They are the eyes Hebrews 4:13 speak of when it warns, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” The Apostles and prophets, the word of God, the preacher today, all proclaim to you that Jesus has been appointed as your Judge. And you must know that you too have been appointed! How? You ask? Hebrews 9:27 says, “It is appointed for everyone to die once and after that to face judgement”.
When you die you will see Him alive from the dead. He is not in a grave – He is on a throne. And you stand before Him. If you have not believed in Him then neighbor you are NOT ready to face Him. Which brings us to our last point:
#5: Jesus Christ is the Answer (v43)
If you only stopped at verse 42 you should be terrified. But verse 43 comes next. The bad news first, and then the good news: “All the prophets testify about Him that everyone who believes in Him receives the forgiveness of sins through His name.” That is the response to the resurrection of Jesus Christ: receive forgiveness for your sins by putting your faith in Him!
It is not by living a better life…
You must choose. You cannot NOT choose, for to do so is the decision to reject Him. You must make your decision. The great OT Prophet Elijah told the rebellious Israelites that they had a choice: “you must choose this day whom you will serve – idols, or the Living God”. Other people were told, “If you hear His voice today do not harden your hearts”. In other words, you must choose if you will open your heart to what you are hearing. God pleaded with, practically begged people to choose the right way in Ezekiel 33:11, “As surely as I live I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their evil ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die , O house of Israel?” Still Jesus Himself said in John 3:18, “Whoever chooses to believe in Me will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not chosen to believe in the name of God’s one and only Son.” You must choose. Do you believe in the Son of God who was raised from the dead by God’s power? Do you believe? Choose today.
Have you heard what they have seen? Don’t dismiss that question because hearing means more than your ears and brain simply registering the sound I’m making. Hearing in the Bible is a response that you make to God’s message spoken to you. When someone is said to hear in the Bible it means that they believe in what they are hearing. Do you hear what they saw?
Today we celebrate the day Jesus stepped out of the grave alive, victorious over death. He is your victory (1 Cor. 15:57). But you must go to Him. If you came to church today because it’s the thing to do on Easter you are only half way there. Do not come so far only to stop short of salvation. We are telling you today that Jesus is the One you must go to. You have come here today so that you can be pointed to Him. Turn to Him. Believe on His name. Put your faith in Him.