So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” – Acts 10:34-43
Diane and I recently went to see a Broadway production of The Lion King, playing at the Hobby Center in downtown Houston. I was struck that the audience was comprised of all ages and kinds of people. Children with their parents and grandparents (why didn’t I see that coming?). Older folks all decked out in going-to-a-broadway-play finery. Young millennials single, couples, and groups of friends. Two older gentlemen – of foreign ethnicity by the evidence of their accent – sat next to us. The place was packed with all kinds of people. We had managed to buy the last two seats together for that performance.
And what a performance! The costuming was extraordinary! The choreography was outstanding! The music was rich. The grand entrance of all the animals was actually moving as we saw actors costumed as giraffes so graceful, with all the others: gazelles, an elephant, and many others. The creativity brought to this production was stunning.
They were celebrating the circle of life. They were living it out – amidst the realities of struggle, envy, greed, and all that goes with life in a fallen world. And they were sharing their worldview: a pantheistic, ancestor-worship-shaped, and fatalistic spin on life played out within the context of the struggle between good and evil.
Peter offers us a rather different worldview, based on God’s impartial love for all people, the work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus and his ultimate rule and reign in Jesus. Peter is speaking to a group of people of all ages and types: soldiers, servants, parents, children, and grandparents. He offers a message that is for all people.
God sent Jesus to do good: a man anointed with the Holy Spirit, living a life of perfect faithfulness, healing the people and teaching the truth of God. John had prepared the way, calling for people to repent. Jesus came and showed God’s love for all people. For all that, Jesus was put to death by the religious leaders. But God raised him up: vindicating Jesus’ perfect life of faithfulness, grace and truth. Jesus will be the judge of the living and the dead on the Great Last Day.
Our place in all this is to repent and believe the good news of Jesus’ redemption, forgiveness, and salvation. Our calling is to believe that God is good, and his mercy endures forever. Our place is at the foot of the “tree” on which Jesus died, believing the message of all of Scripture – Old Testament and New Testament – that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins, by his name.
Our celebrations are often not dramatically-creative; though at Christmas and Easter we do tend to make a big deal. But we do well to celebrate this – all of us: young and old, rich and poor (there were not many poor people inside the Hobby Center the other night), men and women, boys and girls. We live that out in the context of struggle, joy, disappointment, success, brokenness, hope, and grace. This Good News worldview is also to be shared. That’s what Peter is doing here: announcing God’s grace and salvation, forgiveness and mercy in Jesus to all people.
Jesus’ rule and reign of grace and love in the heart of the believer is a cause of celebration (cf. Luke 15:10). His rule and reign shapes the way we live with each other (cf. Colossians 3:14-16). What a joy this message is to share, by which we ourselves are strengthened (cf. Philemon 1:6).