“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. (3:17-20)
Here we are in the second part of Peter’s address to the crowd that had gathered after the healing of the lame man just outside the temple (3:1-10). Peter began his remarks by making it very clear that the man had been healed by God to glorify His Son Jesus, and then had reminded the people that this was the very same Jesus that many of them had demanded to be crucified only a few weeks earlier.
Notice in these verses that Peter admits that their actions against Jesus were taken in ignorance; that they hadn’t understood what they were doing, and then that he moves on to show them that in doing so, they themselves had helped to fulfill the word of the prophets, who had said that He would suffer. This is quite a different tact than many of us might have taken here, for wouldn’t it be tempting to call these people all sorts of ugly names, to condemn them for their wicked actions?
But that is not the way of love. Instead, Peter tells them that they can repent of all of this now, and move into relationship with very One they had had a hand in putting to death; amazing!
Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people. (3:21-23)
In light of his call for repentance, he indicates why they aren’t hearing directly from Jesus Himself; for He is with the Father in Heaven until such time as He returns to fulfill and restore everything, as the prophets have also spoken of. Then, Peter recalls the words Moses spoke and reminds the people that they are expected to respond to Jesus’ call.
Finally, in verses 24-26, Peter moves into a discussion of the fact that Jesus fulfilled Abraham’s covenant promise of all Nations being blessed through him, which was the crucial part of the covenant promises God made to him, however, the account of Peter’s remarks ends rather abruptly, for circumstances intervened before he could finish. We will see what those circumstances were when we get together next time.