05 Apr Words of Grace – John Stott “The Verdict Reversed”
“The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the deadwhom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior . . . We are witnesses of these things.” Acts 5:30-32
It is hard for us to grasp the disciples’ deep disillusion when their Master was crucified. They had come to believe in him as their nation’s long-awaited Messiah. But ever since his arrest in the garden, things had gone from bad to worse, and their faith had steadily eroded. The Jewish leaders had contrived his rejection to their own intellectual and legal satisfaction. They had committed him to a further trial before Pilate, who in the end bowed to the will of the people. Then he was condemned to the humiliation and pain of crucifixion.
Thus one after another the courts had condemned Jesus. In each case the verdict had gone against him, and on the cross no last-minute reprieve had been granted. So finally his lifeless body was lifted from the cross and carried to Joseph’s grave to be buried. The last straw was when a great stone was rolled across the mouth of the tomb and sealed, and Pilate set a guard, as he put it, to make it as secure as they could (Matt. 27:65).
So that was it: a dead and buried corpse, a sealed and guarded tomb, weeping women keeping watch nearby, and shattered dreams. As the Emmaus disciples said, “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21).
Death had taken Jesus beyond human help. Only a miracle could remedy the situation now. Only a resurrection. And it was by a resurrection that God intervened. As a result, the same pattern developed in the early sermons of the apostles. We find it in the first Christian sermon ever preached (Acts 2), in the second (Acts 3), in the third (Acts 5), in Peter’s sermon before Cornelius (Acts 10), and in Paul’s sermon in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13): “You killed him. God raised him. We are witnesses.” It expresses the first and most basic significance of the resurrection, namely that by raising Jesus, God decisively reversed the verdict passed on him by human beings and validated him as truly the Son of God and Savior.
For further reading: Acts 2:22-36
John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year: Daily Reflections from Genesis to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), p. 280.