Grace in the Portico

Acts 3:17-26 (NLT)

“Friends, I realize that what you and your leaders did to Jesus was done in ignorance. But God was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah—that he must suffer these things. Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. For he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets. Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything he tells you.’ Then Moses said, ‘Anyone who will not listen to that Prophet will be completely cut off from God’s people.’

“Starting with Samuel, every prophet spoke about what is happening today. You are the children of those prophets, and you are included in the covenant God promised to your ancestors. For God said to Abraham, ‘Through your descendants all the families on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up his servant, Jesus, he sent him first to you people of Israel, to bless you by turning each of you back from your sinful ways.”

By Chuck Griffin

Just as Jesus had done during his earthly ministry, the Apostle Peter was able to teach and preach in conjunction with powerful signs that drew in the people. In this case, Peter and John had brought healing to a man lame from birth, a man who had sat in one of the temple gates for decades to beg.

The miraculous healing was enough for a crowd of Jews to gather and hear what Peter had to say, similar to the way thousands had gathered earlier at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit fell on the first disciples of Jesus Christ. On this day, the crowd gathered in an eastern wing of the temple called “Solomon’s Portico.” (You’ll also see the space called a “porch” or “collonade.”)

What’s remarkable about Peter’s sermon is the degree to which grace was once again offered. The people’s participation in Christ’s death, either directly with cries of “Crucify him!” or through association with their leaders, was not a sin so great that it could not be expunged. Redemption through Christ was available even for those who initiated the crucifixion.

Repentance was still required, of course, just as it is necessary today. But the gift of salvation truly is available to all.

Peter did not require these people to reject their Jewish heritage. In fact, his sermon was designed to help them embrace fully the work of their ancestors, accepting that what their prophets had declared for centuries was actually fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Despite the magnitude of the grace offered, many struggled with the message, as many struggle today. Tomorrow, we’ll look at the resilience of these preachers when faced with brutal threats.

Lord, thank you for the torrent of forgiving grace poured upon us from the earliest days of the church until today. Help us to accept your forgiving grace and the grace that continues to shape us into the images of God you made us to be. Amen.