Meditations in Acts : 24 : The Work of Jesus
Acts 2:22 “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.
Peter has explained the context of what has just happened – the fulfilment of prophetic Scripture. Now he moves on to take the opportunity to preach about Jesus. There was nothing to indicate that he had to do this but it was the natural working of the Spirit to bear witness to Jesus. In what follows, in the next three verses he is going to lay down the three basic facts about Jesus – his work, his death, and his resurrection. Thereafter, again using prophetic Scripture to justify what he says, he will go on to point out how the resurrection was there in Scripture, how it has happened, what it says about Jesus, and what their response should be to it.
But let’s not rush these things. We just said that the next three verses spell out the work of Jesus, his death and his resurrection. Our verse today focuses solely on Jesus’ work. Peter calls the crowd to listen to what he says and then focuses completely on Jesus. Note what he says about him.
First he identifies him as the one they all knew about, Jesus who had come from Nazareth. He had been born in Bethlehem but Nazareth had been his home town and it was there that he was identified with. He was an Israelite, one of them. That’s the starting place. But no, there is something more basic – he was a man. He came in the form of a human being who lived the same sort of human lives that they did. That was the ordinary side of him. The prophet Isaiah had described the coming one as: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isa 53:3). The apostle Paul was later to describe him, saying he, “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself.” (Phil 2:7,8). The writer to the Hebrews quoted the prophetic word, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me… Then I said, `Here I am–it is written about me in the scroll– I have come to do your will, O God.’” (Heb 10:5,7). All of these Scriptures emphasise the point that Jesus came in human form and as such it was easy to miss who he was.
Well it would be if it hadn’t been for what followed: God had accredited him. I am told that when an ambassador freshly arrives in a foreign country, he has to go to the government or ruler of that country and present his credentials, letters from his government back home to say that he will represent them in that land. He is accredited by his home government to be their representative. What were the ‘letters of accreditation’ that God gave His Son? They were the signs and wonders he performed. We have to wait until the fourth Gospel is written by John many years later than the others, to see the recognition that the things Jesus did were signs from heaven, signs pointing out who he was, signs pointing out where he came from. First and foremost Jesus’ signs and wonders were signs to whoever would see that point out who he is. No mere human could do these things; this was more that the mere works of a man, these were the works of heaven.
To see those signs and wonders described more fully we turn to two Gospels. First of all at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus in the local synagogue reads out the Isaiah prophecy that declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Lk 4:18,19) That was Jesus’ activity in spiritual terms. In practical terms we have to look to Jesus’ own words, “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Mt 11:5) There it was, the works of the kingdom laid out bare to be seen. Jesus came to heal and declare freedom and God’s love.
In summarising Jesus’ work we should always start with what he did in those three years for these works are his ‘accreditation papers’. He will get additional ones in the form of his resurrection, but they come later. For now we must not miss the significance of these things and that is why Peter declares them. The Gospel is about believing who Jesus is and what he has done. That is our starting place.
Now as to what this tells us about our preaching. Christian preaching focuses on Jesus for it recognizes that without him we have no message worth while. It declares Jesus as he was and is and will be. It points out that he came in the form of a man but was nevertheless God in human form, a part of the Trinity that had always existed in heaven before with his Father and the Spirit. It reveals him as the Saviour of the world, the only means by which men and women can be saved. It reveals him as the risen one, as we shall go on to see and also the ascended one. If we preach anything less than we find about Jesus in the gospels and the entire New Testament, we fail in our task as New Testament preachers.