Sorry to keep coming back to Acts but, as I’ve said before, it’s the book I’m studying this year and that tends to focus my articles and sermon points. So, I was finishing up my study of Acts 13 the other day and wanted to share some thoughts about this one little verse in the middle of Paul’s sermon…
Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
At this point in the sermon, Paul is taking his audience from who Jesus is to what Jesus offers. Once it’s established that He is the Messiah (that’s the first part of the sermon), the next logical question to answer is “so what?” What does Jesus being the Messiah mean for me? What purpose does it serve? What great blessing does it unlock?
Put simply, Paul says, it is through Him that men attain “forgiveness of sins.”
The exact purpose and mission of the Messiah was never fully understood by the Jewish people leading up to the coming of Jesus. In fact, it was decidedly misunderstood. It’s not that they just didn’t know; it’s that they thought they knew and were flat-wrong about it. Many Jews believed the Messiah would be a great military leader, akin to the Judges of old, or perhaps a great empire-expanding King like Solomon (the “son” of David).
In later years, as Jerusalem and its surrounding area was conquered by various larger empires, the Jews started to think the Messiah would be the next Moses to free the people from bondage once more. When the day came that Jesus’ Ministry began, to say that He failed to live up to those expectations would be an understatement. Far from a political revolutionary, Jesus was a humble carpenter, a pacifist so full of meekness and mercy that He brought every murderous desire out of the religious leaders. They wanted their Messiah to be someone like the revolutionist Judah Maccabee. Instead they were given Jesus of Nazareth, and they hated Him for it.
The actual mission of the Messiah was not political revolution, but spiritual transformation. His goal was not to carve out a new Empire in the earth, but to build a spiritual kingdom within the hearts of men. The blessing He offered was not salvation from an oppressive Roman Empire, but forgiveness from the tyranny of sin itself.
Had Jesus been what the people wanted, there would be no need for an evangelistic message. Had He been a successful revolutionary, leading the charge to drive the Romans out (and let’s just pretend He was successful, too), what comes next? Israel would a free nation…but then what? There’s no need to send missionaries into Europe to extol the virtues of a newly (re)formed physical empire. What would the Jews of Europe care?
A message of spiritual salvation, however; now that is worth evangelizing over. That’s a message to take far and wide. Why? Because it’s just as relevant and needed, whether you’re a Jew in Jerusalem, or a Jew in Pisidia; whether you’re a Gentile in first-century Rome, or a Gentile in twenty-first-century United States. The message of the Messiah is universal, not localized; spiritual, not earthly. The one thing everyone in all time has needed is salvation. Other agendas and goals and wants come and go throughout the ages, but the one universal constant is this: We all have sinned and we all need a savior.
Jesus mission is to make salvation possible.