Acts 3:12-17

12 And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?

13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go.

14 But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;

15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

16 And His name through faith in His name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by Him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

17 And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.

Why were the Jews so astonished by the miracle when Christ Himself had so recently walked among them doing miracles? Peter explains that the same Christ empowered him to do this miracle.

answered (v.12) — not their spoken question, but in response to their wonder

earnestly on us (v.12) — emphasis on “on us”

Son (v.13) — should be “Servant — The word “servant” is a designation of the Messiah, as found in Isaiah 42:1-4 and following chapters (c.f. Matthew 12:17-21). This special usage of the word is peculiar to the Acts (3:26; 4:27, 30). It implies the teaching about the sufferings of Christ as contained in Isaiah chapters 1-53, where the “Servant of the Lord” is spoken of. He was to be God’s “salvation unto the ends of the earth.” In Him were perfectly exemplified all those attributes of obedience, devotion, earnestness and diligence which go to  make up ideal service. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, page 72.

whom ye delivered (v.13) — emphasis on “ye”

Pilate (v.13) — Pontius Pilate was the fifth Roman procurator of Judaea, which he administered from a.d. 26 for ten years. He was then recalled to Rome to answer complaints brought against him by the Samaritans, and forthwith disappears from authentic history. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Thomas Walker, page 72.

Holy (v.14) — consecrated to God’s service

Just (v.14) — righteous — integrity of character and conduct

killed (v.15) — murdered — strong contrast with “Holy One and the Just” — Barabbas (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:18-19). They had a murderer released and became murderers.

Prince of Live (v.15) = Author of live — lit. “originator of life”

His name (v.16) — the name stands for the person — His authority and power

whom ye see and know (v.16) — the miracle was undeniable

faith (v.16) — The faith the lame man exercised to be healed by Christ also came from Christ.

perfect soundness (v.16) = wholeness and entireness in all parts. — one word in Greek

brethren (v.17) — Peter was formal when making his accusation but now becomes more familiar for the appeal.

ignorance (v.17) — They didn’t know Jesus was the Christ, but they should have known, so they were no less guilty.

rulers (v.17) — chief priest and Sanhedrin

You will remember in the Old Testament God made special provision for any guilty of putting another man to death unintentionally or through ignorance. “And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge.” Scriptures illustrates it like this: If a man, for instance, is chopping wood and his neighbor is near and the axe head flies off and hits the neighbor and the man falls dead, the one who slew him is not to be treated as a murderer. He is guilty of manslaughter, but is not a murderer. God commanded that there be six cities located at different points, with good roads to them. For the man who unintentionally slays his neighbor is immediately to flee to the nearest city and abide there until the death of the high priest (Numbers 35:32), and the revenger of blood is not to seek him out nor treat him as a murderer.

Now as God looked on a man as guilty of putting His Son to death, the Apostle Peter shows that He is wiling to treat him as a manslayer. Peter says, “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.” You did not understand; you did not know Jesus was really the Messiah and Servant of God. You thought you were fulfilling God’s purpose perhaps in putting Jesus to death. You did it through ignorance. You see, Peter is opening a door to a city of refuge. He is saying, God is ready to treat you not as a murderer, but as one guilty of manslaughter, and as long as the high priest lives you are safe if you enter the place of refuge. Our High Priest is the Lord Jesus and He lives forever; and those who accept the salvation God has provided are forever secure from the avenger, for God will not permit a charge to be brought against any who are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul says, Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8). So again you see they did not know. Pilate did not know; the Roman soldiers did not know; neither Jews nor Gentiles understood. That is what Jesus meant when He said on the cross, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). Lectures on the Book of Acts, by H.A. Ironside, pages 89-91

Every word Peter utters, inbreathed by the Holy Spirit, shows the national Jewish character of the address. The Apostle does not speak of God as the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, but as the God of Abraham, and of Isaac and Jacob. This is God’s Name in connection with His covenant people. In vain do we look for this name of God in the rest of the New Testament. For us, as believers, God’s Name is revealed as “Our God and our Father, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Then of the Lord, Peter speaks as “His Servant Jesus.” The authorized version has “son” instead of servant; but that is wrong. Peter, indeed, knew the Lord as the Son of the living God, for he had confessed Him thus at Caesarea Philippi. The Spirit of God, however, did not suffer him to use the word Son here. It was reserved for another Apostle to make known the full Glory and Sonship, both eternal and by resurrection from the dead, that is, through the Apostle Paul. The first time we find the Lord Jesus Christ preached as Son of God is in Acts 9:20, and the converted Saul of Tarsus is the preacher. Acts 8:30, where Philip asks the Eunuch if he believes in the Son of God is an interpolation and must be omitted. In connection with the earth and His people Israel, the Lord is “the servant of God.” As such He was predicted and described by Isaiah (chapter 42) and other prophets. That servant had been in the midst of His people and Jesus, the Nazarene, was that servant. The God of their fathers had witnessed to it by healing the lame man; in it God had glorified His servant Jesus. — The Acts of the Apostles, by Arno C. Gaebelein, pages 75-76.

But why does Peter thus hold Israel to account for the crucifixion, when the Lord Himself prayed that they might be forgiven? Is he ignorant of the Lord’s dying petition: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do?

The explanation is that before forgiveness can be applied it must be accepted. To tell an offender that you have forgiven him, when he does not feel he has wronged you, will not bring him one step closer to you; it may even insult him and drive him farther away. He must first be brought to see his guilt and to realize his need of forgiveness. — Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, pages 132-133

The fact is that before the crucifixion Israel’s leaders did not know that Jesus  was the Christ. True, they could have know, yes, and should have known, but the fact remains that they did not know. They were in a similar position to that in which Saul of Tarsus was later found. He too could and should have known, but he did not know, and later wrote: I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief (1 Timothy 1:13).

No excuse, of course, could be found for the hate and injustice and cruelty which Israel had shown toward Christ, but the fact is that they did not know that He was the Christ. Our Lord Himself implied this when He said: When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am He … (John 8:28).

In other words, those responsible for the crucifixion well knew that they were murdering their victim, but they did not know that their victim was Christ. Whatever may be the full implication of 1 Corinthians 2:8, it surely teaches that had “the princes of this world” known who their victim was they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

This, of course, did not justify their action, but it was a basis upon which God might show mercy. Had they recognized Him as Messiah they would not have dared to condemn and crucify Him, but they did not believe Him to be the Messiah, hence our Lord’s appeal: They know not what they do, and Peter’s concession: And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it.Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, page 136

This address of Peter was peculiarly Hebrew. He referred to God as “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac and of Jacob;” he declared that “God foreshowed by the mouth of all the prophets;” and toward the end of the address he spoke of the covenant which God made with “Your father Abraham.”

The references to Jesus were almost all borrowed from Old Testament Scriptures: “The Servant of God’ a word which took them naturally back to the great prophecy of Isaiah: “The Holy and Righteous One,” being two descriptions of the Old Testament, each of them having Messianic value; and finally “the Christ” which was but the Greek form of the Hebrew word Messiah, indicating the great hope of the people.

the terms in which he spoke of the hopes which Jesus had created where equally suggestive. “That your sins may be blotted out,” was an immediate quotation from the great Psalm of penitence; “seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord,” gathered up and expressed the perpetual note of hopefulness that had sung itself out in the Psalms and prophecies of the ancient covenant; and when he spoke of the teaching, he referred to the fulfillment in the Person of Jesus, of the promise of Moses, that another prophet should be raised up.

The opening and closing words of the address indicate the fact that the message was peculiarly one to the Israelitish nation. He said, “Ye men of Israel, why  marvel ye at this man.” The apostle meant to say that men, not of Israel, might have marveled with greater show of reason. When we come to the close of the address, notice very carefully these words, “Unto you first God having raised up His Servant.” The thought most evidently is that he had been expressing himself throughout the whole of this explanation of the miracle, peculiarly and directly to the men of Israel. — The Acts of the Apostles, by G. Campbell Morgan, pages 104-105

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