Tuesday, 21 December 2021
But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, Acts 3:14
Note: You can listen to today’s commentary courtesy of our friends at “Bible in Ten” podcast. (Click Here to listen)
Peter just noted to those gathered before him. They, men of Israel who should have known better, had delivered up Jesus when even a Gentile, Pilate, was determined to let Him go. To continue describing the guilt that rested upon them, he next says, “But you denied the Holy One.”
When considered, the irony is palpable. Israel denied the Holy One, something even the demons acknowledged –
Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” Mark 1:23, 24
Despite even the demons knowing who Christ was, the men of Israel rejected him and denied His position as their Messiah – a title which includes the thought of kingship –
When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus out and sat down in the judgment seat in a place that is called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the Preparation Day of the Passover, and about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, “Behold your King!”
15 But they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him! Crucify Him!”
Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?”
The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar!”
16 Then he delivered Him to them to be crucified. Then they took Jesus and led Him away. John 19:13-16
Peter is standing before them and is defending who Christ Jesus is, preparing to explicitly state that it is He who healed the beggar. But before he does this, he wants them to understand the guilt they bear. What he has said so far cannot be denied. He was there, they were there, and they had called out the words rejecting Jesus. Peter next adds in another set of words to increase the accusation. Not only is He the Holy One, but Peter next says, “and the Just.”
The word signifies “righteous” or “just in the sight of God.” A righteous person is one who conforms to the will of God and meets His standards of uprightness. Peter claims that Jesus fits this description. But more, and again showing the irony of the matter, both Pilate and his wife recognized this quality in Him –
While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.” Matthew 27:19
When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.”
25 And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.” Matthew 27:24, 25
But even worse than this obvious fact is that Israel went a step further. Not only did they deny Christ who is both the Holy One and the Just, but they added to their guilt by violating the Law of Moses in an open and direct way. Peter explicitly states this by saying, “and asked for a murderer to be granted to you.”
The Greek reads, “and asked for a man, a murderer, to be granted to you.” In this, there is a hint of Christ’s deity being conveyed by Peter without explicitly stating it. The Scriptures implicitly reveal the deity of the coming Messiah. Without getting into a long theological discussion about the matter, Peter sets Barabbas – a mere man – against the Holy One and the Just. But along with this contrast, Peter identifies Barabbas as a murderer. This fact, along with the request for his return, is recorded in Mark 15 –
Now at the feast he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. 7 And there was one named Barabbas, who was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion. 8 Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them. 9 But Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.
11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them. 12 Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?”
13 So they cried out again, “Crucify Him!”
14 Then Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?”
But they cried out all the more, “Crucify Him!”
15 So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified. Mark 15:6-15
Israel had called out for a murderer to be released to them while calling out for One who was clearly innocent to be led away for crucifixion. This is in direct violation of their own law –
“Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death.” Numbers 35:31
And again –
‘Cursed is the one who takes a bribe to slay an innocent person.’
“And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’ Deuteronomy 27:25
Those guilty of murder were not to be allowed to live, and those who were innocent were not to be slain for the price of a bribe, which is essentially what occurred when they took Barabbas over Jesus. A bribe is a type of inducement which is given, normally illegally or through dishonesty, in order to act favorably towards one party over another. Israel looked for the favor (which is the meaning of the word used) of ridding them of this Man in exchange for a known criminal.
The testimony is recorded for the world to see, but while Peter stood before the men of Israel it was clearly evident that it was true. The events had only happened a short time earlier. There could be no denying what had transpired. The burden of guilt rested (and continues to rest) upon the nation who betrayed its Messiah.
Life application: Today, something unexpected has come upon the world. Within the past generation, the nation of Israel has been reestablished. This is an amazing miracle that confirms the words of Scripture which stated this would come about. Only a short time ago in relation to their time of exile, it would never have even been imagined possible.
Because this has occurred, many churches and individuals take this as a sign of God’s divine favor upon them and that their time of punishment is over. This is incorrect. The national guilt of Israel remains, and it will not be cleansed until they acknowledge Jesus as their rightful Messiah. That is explicitly stated by the Lord –
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! 35 See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Luke 13:34, 35
God has returned the people to the land in preparation for this event, and it is right that Christians support this and pray for their restoration. But this does not mean that Israel is to be given a blanket approval for their actions. They, like all of the nations, are immersed in approving immorality. Their abortion laws are more liberal than most nations and they are working to make them even looser. As a nation, they do not acknowledge the hand of the Lord in their restoration, nor in their continued existence. They are filled with pride and self-righteousness, just like all of the nations of the world.
This must all be purged from them before they are a people prepared for their God. Let us take a balanced look at Israel and understand that what God has done, is doing, and will continue to do the miraculous in and through them. And yet, they continue to reject Him and act indecently before Him. To this day, the words of Ezekiel 36 remain true of this peculiar nation –
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. 23 And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.” Ezekiel 36:22, 23
Let us consider Israel in the light in which God does, just as any sinner. We evangelize the lost while condemning their actions. We hope for restoration and new life to be found in them, and we pray for their healing. So it should be in our attitude towards this wayward nation. Remember to pray for Israel.
Lord God, help us to have a right and proper understanding of the events unfolding in the world today. A people under sentence for their past actions are being prepared for a time where their guilt will be atoned for, and they will stand purified in Your presence. May that day be soon. Until then, we pray for Israel the people and for each within the nation. May Your Spirit continue to call them to Yourself through the cleansing power of the shed blood of Christ. Amen.