Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon this morning comes from the First Reading, which was read earlier.
Just a couple of weeks ago we celebrated one of the most important days in the Church year. This day for us is a day that if it were not a part of Christ’s life, then Christianity would be radically different, probably not even Christianity at all. The day I’m referring to is Good Friday. Without Good Friday, without the crucifixion, there would be no resurrection. There would be no salvation of sins. There would be no Christianity.
Hear these words from St. Peter again: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Let me put it another way: “You crucified your Savior!” That’s pretty much what Peter says to the crowd wondering what all the fire and wind and commotion of Pentecost are about. Everything you’re seeing and hearing – it’s because of something you did when you killed Jesus!
Imagine what that must have felt like when they heard it. The disciples were Christ’s most trusted friends. With the exception of Judas, the disciples could never think of doing anything to harm Christ. And now Peter is telling them that it was they who crucified Christ. A large portion of the crowd might have been present at Christ’s crucifixion, but none of them hammered the nails into Christ themselves. What Peter meant by his statement was that it was their sins that sent Christ to the cross. It was their sins that hammered the nails. It was their sins that kept him on the cross.
More importantly, it was our sins that sent Christ to the cross. It was our sins that hammered the nails. And it was our sins that kept him on the cross.
They felt a huge amount of pain at the words of Peter. “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”” They were willing to do whatever it took to right the situation. They wanted to feel better, if not for Christ’s sake, for their own. The shame they felt was enough to kill them. The disciples, especially, had the utmost respect for their Teacher. There was so much that He taught them, so much more they could have learned. But when they saw their Master crucified, they ran. They hid. They were ashamed and afraid. Now they are together. Feelings of shame and fear overtake them and the crowd. They were greatly troubled that they had sinned against God and killed the Christ.
The feelings that they felt 2000 years ago we feel today as well. It is hard not to. What if I told you that you alone were the cause of death of the Savior? What would you feel? If only your sins were present, Christ would have died for your sins. Why? Death entered through the craftiness of Satan and ruined what God had created, what had been deemed “ good” and “very good.” There was only one way to purge that death: through the death of an innocent.
An African convert put it this way: “When the story of Christ’s death was first read to me, I cursed Judas and Pilate, the Jews and the soldiers. But when I understood it, I cursed myself, for I, too, have crucified Christ.” No truer words have been spoken. It is easy to place the blame on someone else, as he originally did, though it is very hard to accept one’s own actions, especially if we “didn’t” do it. We don’t want to be on the hook for Christ’s crucifixion. We love Jesus. We would never want to hurt Him, much less kill Him. Surely this can’t be us! But it is us. We are guilty of Christ’s death.
Luther put the blame of killing Christ squarely where it belongs – on himself, on you, and on me. Who killed Jesus? You did. I did. We all did. Confess it, because it is true. What Peter said on the first Pentecost is spoken rightly to us all this morning: “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
So what is left to the Christian, both then and now to do? We’ve already ran in shame. We’ve already mourned and now are taking responsibility for our actions, that we have crucified Christ. There is only one thing left for us: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Peter here uses the word “repent” simply to mean “believe.” This involves a changing of the mind effected by the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel in which an unbeliever becomes a believer. Peter invites the crowd to trust the forgiveness Jesus had already accomplished.
This repentance is not a condition for receiving forgiveness as the text implies: “for the forgiveness of your sins.” Such a thought would make forgiveness dependent upon human action. We are “dead in [our] transgressions and sins.” This repentance is all God’s doing by grace. Peter ties the forgiveness of sins to faith, baptism, and the Holy Spirit. When God empowers believers to share the Gospel, the Holy Spirit works through it to create faith in the hearts of unbelievers and to nourish the faith of those who already believe.
Unless you are willing to take the rap and be in the company of the real and hardened sinners who killed Jesus, then you are putting yourself outside that astonished group of killers whom He justified by His blood. If you will not confess your crime with the crowd that Peter preached to, if you will not admit “God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified”, then you simply will not know the power of His forgiveness, because forgiveness of sin is what Peter proclaims to those who crucified Jesus.
What about the ones who are not guilty of His death, not guilty of any sins? What about them? Listen to these words from 1 John – they should sound very familiar to you: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” We’re all guilty, whether we want to admit it or not. We are guilty to the very fiber of our being, guilty of crucifying our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, by our sins. But even for as guilty as we are, there’s forgiveness. The psalmist writes, “If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness; therefore You are feared.” You and I, as guilty as we are, have been forgiven of murder. In fact, Christ death brought about the resurrection of our death, because we are born spiritually dead because of our sin. Through His life, death, and resurrection, you and I have been given this wonderful gift of forgiveness, given to us in our Baptism into Christ.
We have heeded the words of Peter through our baptism. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith….” Through our baptism, we have been marked as children of God. Through the Lord’s Supper, we continue to sustain our faith by the food which Christ gave to the disciples and to His Church.
Take heart, for “this Jesus whom you crucified”, has taken your sin from you. You have died in Christ and have been forgiven all of your sins through His death and resurrection. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.