Sunday school lesson for the week of March 16
By Dr. Hal Brady
Lesson Scripture: Psalm 110:1-4; Acts 2:22-24, 29-32
Throughout my ministry, I have heard various ministers in their sermons ask the congregation, “Do I have a witness?” If so, the ministers encourage an “amen” from the folks gathered who agree with what they are preaching.
In a real sense, in our scripture lesson, the Apostle Peter is making both a witness to the Lordship of Christ and encouraging those in the crowd to become witnesses to the dawning of the new age in Christ.
Acts, chapter two, records the events of Pentecost and includes Peter’s address to the large crowd of people who gathered around these spirit-filled disciples. Sometimes referred to as the birth of the church, this occasion occurred only a few months after the events of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection in Jerusalem. Consequently, Peter knew that his hearers were familiar with Jesus. Accordingly, Peter presents the death of Jesus as being carried out by the collective role of the audience. And Peter points out that the audiences’ failure to recognize and respond to Jesus was extremely serious because Jesus had been “attested to (them) by God” (2:22).
Peter’s Insights about Who Jesus Was
Does anybody seriously doubt that ours is an age of skepticism regarding matters of faith? Wanting or needing proof in those matters is no small issue. This is particularly true as it relates to the identity of Jesus. But this skepticism and wanting proof about Jesus was also true of earlier times. Thus, The Apostle Peter is appealing to that same basic need within his own ancient audience, and he has arranged a powerful array of witnesses.
First, Peter is accompanied by the eleven other apostles, (2:14), who all claim to be eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus.
Second, he points to the miraculous sign of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that they had seen with their own eyes.
Third, Peter appeals to the Scriptures and especially to King David in the Psalms (Psalm 16 and 110). Peter had at his disposed numerous promises and prophecies from God that he could use to lead people to Christ. But in our passage from Acts 2:25-28, Peter referenced Psalm 16:8-11. Psalm 16:10 says, “For you do not give me up to Sheol, or let your faithful one see the pit.”
The first part of the verse is strong and impressive but not astonishing. It is a declaration based on faith that God will not abandon David to the grave. This is a marvelous statement of faith but could have been spoken of any number of Old Testament saints.
But, as scholars make clear, that is not true of the second part of the verse, and it is this part that makes it a great prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection. That part says, “Or let your faithful one see the pit.” When we die our bodies decay even if we are waiting for the resurrection. David’s body decayed. But the body of Jesus did not decay. God preserved Christ’s body from corruption while it was lying in the tomb and then breathed life back into it on Easter morning. And that is why this part of the verse cannot apply to David or to any other mere human being and why it is a prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection.
When Peter referred to this text he said, “Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, “He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.” (Acts 2:29-31).
So, as Peter gives reminder, this noteworthy prophecy grew out of the life and times of King David, but Peter used it as a witness to Jesus as the resurrected Lord and Divine Messiah. (For additional clarity, read Paul’s words in Acts 13:36, 37).
The other Old Testament scriptures Peter used to establish Jesus’ identity as the son both of David and God, the divine Messiah, is Psalm 110. (Compare Acts 2:34,35). In verse one, in English, David seems to use the word “lord” twice, however, scholars tell us that in the original Hebrew, David used two different words. The first word for “Lord” is Jehovah or Yahweh and refers to the God of Israel. The second word for “Lord” is Adonai, which was a customary title for a human master or sovereign as well as a term used for God. King David was declaring therefore that Jehovah had said something to David’s lord as master. Jehovah’s word to this Adonai was a word of exaltation, authority and conquest. And in the New Testament, Jesus affirmed that the Adonai to whom David referred was the Messiah (Matthew 22:42-46, which is a quotation from Psalm 110:1).
An additional verse in Psalm 110 (verse 4) points to Melchizedek as an ideal foreshadowing of the Messiah. Verse 4, says, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
The mysterious Melchizedek appears at only three places in the Bible (Genesis 14, Psalm 110 and the Book of Hebrews). The writer of Hebrews picks up on the two Old Testament references to explain certain truths about the person and work of Christ (Hebrews 5:5-10; 6:19-7:28).
Scholars inform us that Jehovah has ordained this adonai as a priest, but he is a different kind of priest. While the priestly tribe in Israel was of Levi, and the priestly line descended from Aaron, this promised priest is independent of them; he is in the order of Melchizedek.
But not only was the original Melchizedek a priest, he was also a king (a king of righteousness). This bringing together of priest and king makes for an ideal foreshadowing of the Messiah.
Now, it was understood in Jewish law and culture that two or three witnesses were always needed. So, Peter involved three extremely powerful witnesses (eyewitnesses, prophetic writings of David, the Power of the Holy Spirit) to make his case to his ancient audience. And since there was a collection of “devout Jews from every nation “gathered in Jerusalem at the time, Peter chose the moment to proclaim to the world the gospel message that God has made Jesus both “Lord and Messiah.”
Our Willingness to Share Christ
The key to this lesson is Peter’s witness to Christ as “Lord and Savior.” The key question for us is why do so many people feel uncomfortable about sharing their faith in Christ? Is it they feel they don’t know enough about Christ? Is it they feel that witnessing to Christ is not important in a pluralistic world? Is it they are not concerned enough about their brothers and sisters? Or is it that their own faith or experience with Christ is not meaningful enough for them to share it? Whatever the answer, if we listen carefully we can still hear the Master asking, “Do I have a witness?”