“this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” (Acts 2:23–24, ESV)
When I was a boy, I used to get together with some of my school friends and we would play some sort of sports. It was a common practice among some to boast about their abilities. Playing baseball, one might say, “I can throw a ball from deep centerfield into the catcher’s mitt without the ball hitting the ground.” To that we would say, “Ok, then prove it.” Well, the contest was on. Sometimes the one making the boast could do what he said. Yet on most occasions that one could not.
Here in Peter’s sermon, he deals with the resurrection of Jesus. He stated that it was not possible for death to hold Jesus. It seems that Peter is making a very important point that he wants people to know. He wants his audience to know that Jesus is no ordinary man. That He is the Messiah, the anointed one, and the Savior.
You will recall that prior to the crucifixion, the religious leaders looked for a sign from Jesus to prove that He was the one sent from God (Matt 12:38). They had rejected the miracles that He worked among them. They rejected His teachings. They wanted a more spectacular sign from heaven. To this request, Jesus responded,
“An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:39–40, AV)
In this, Jesus was predicting His resurrection from the grave. This would be the greatest sign that Jesus was the anointed one of God, the Messiah.
In Jerusalem, there were Jews from all over the known world for the Feast of Pentecost. If these were devout Jews, they would have also been in Jerusalem for the Passover. They would have been aware of the events of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. They would have likely been part of the crowd that called for Jesus’ crucifixion. They would have seen or at least heard the reports of strange occurrences with Jesus’ death and resurrection (Matt 27:51-54). Following the resurrection Jesus appeared to over 500 people during a period of 40-days (Acts 1:1; 1 Cor 15:6). Those to whom Peter spoke would have heard the reports of this. Perhaps some of them were witnesses or talked with people who were eyewitnesses. Here, Peter runs a vital thread in this sermon.
Peter presented the resurrection of Jesus as proof that Jesus was the Messiah, the anointed one of God and the Savior. It was in fact the greatest proof of Jesus as Savior. Only He who defeated death could save someone from death. He fulfilled His own resurrection prophecy. Not only this, Peter tells them that David prophesied regarding the resurrection of Jesus by quoting from Psalm 16. It states that God would not let His “Holy One see corruption” (Acts 2:27). He explains that this Psalm was Messianic in that it pointed to Jesus and not David, since unlike David, Jesus had died and rose again.
So, the big point is this. Jesus is exactly who He said He was. His resurrection proves it. He is the Savior who defeated death. He is worthy of our trust and by faith we too will be saved from death.