Rooted in Christ

Case for the Christ

His soul was not left in Hades.

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus,

whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36, NKJV) 

I enjoy legal thrillers. I think I’ve read just about every John Grisham book. 

Peter’s sermon at Pentecost falls in the category of legal thriller. He addresses the multitude that had assembled in Jerusalem to lay out the case that Jesus is the Christ of God. He brings to bear four strands of evidence. 

First, Peter makes positive ID. “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as your yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22). The question before them had to do with the Jesus they had been hearing so much about. 

Second, Peter frames the narrative to account for the facts. He characterizes it in terms of the plan of God. Referencing Jesus whom he had just identified, Peter says: “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it” (Acts 2:23–24). 

Third, by way of written deposition Peter brings the testimony of expert witnesses to bear. He cites the prophetic word of David and Joel recorded in holy Scripture to explain the events of the day. Peter makes it clear that when David wrote in Psalm 16, “For You will not leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption” (Acts 2:27), he was actually talking about Jesus not himself. 

Finally, Peter introduces eyewitness testimony. “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32). 

Having laid the evidence before the crowd, Peter makes his closing argument. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). 

The most compelling evidence Peter had to offer was the empty tomb. All the opposition had to do was produce the body of Jesus and Peter’s case would have collapsed. But they could not. 

That resurrection was a verdict, the verdict of the just God on the innocence of His incarnate Son, Jesus of Nazareth. As our representative, this Jesus died and was buried. He descended into hell (Hades, not Gehenna), His body and soul separated just like any human being at death (Heb. 9:27).

He faced judgment but was found guiltless. The grave could not hold Him. His sacrificial death had worked. Sin was atoned for. God’s wrath satisfied. Salvation accomplished. 

Faith is believing the verdict of God and believing in the One He had made both Lord and Christ. The response of the crowd upon hearing these things didn’t say, “Wow! Riveting story.” They were “cut to the heart” and compelled to ask, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) 

Peter’s response was not to give them a nice Easter tale to tell along with egg hunts, baskets, and bonnets. Rather, he had something greater for them and their children.

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38–39) 

Digging Deeper

  1. Why do you suppose the people who heard Peter’s message reacted with such conviction and urgency?
  2. Peter’s case involves bringing God Himself to the stand (Acts 2:22-24, 30-33, 36). How does John 5:24 take this same approach? 

Father, may you exalt the name of Jesus this Easter, that this case for the Christ might be made in congregations throughout the world. May the Spirit of the risen Christ convict of sin, righteousness and judgment, and bring those who hear to repentance and faith. We pray in the name of our risen, reigning, and returning Lord. Amen. 

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Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.