When a multitude gathered, amazed that a lame man with whom they were familiar had suddenly been made whole, Peter explained to them how this had occurred. He said that God had “glorified his servant Jesus; whom ye delivered up and denied before the face of Pilate, when he had determined to release him. But ye denied the Holy and Righteous one and asked for a murderer to be granted unto you, and killed the Prince of Life; whom God raised from the dead, whereof we are witnesses … and by faith in his name, hath his name made this man strong” (Acts 2:13b-15; 16a).
Peter did not “soft pedal” the guilt of those before him (although he did affirm that they had “in ignorance done this”) — he bluntly accused his hearers of delivering up God’s servant, Jesus. As the servant of the Father, Jesus came to perfectly keep the will of His Father. By way of contrast, the nation had “delivered him up”, which was a strong implication that the cause for Pilate’s trial of Jesus was that he did the Father’s will. In addition to this Peter said the nation had denied Jesus before Pilate when that ruler and judge had determined to release him. Pilate’s desire to release Jesus was a real contrast in this ruler’s ordinary behavior. He was not recognized as a judge who was fair and just. In fact, it is very likely that Jesus’ trial was the only one in which Pilate protested strongly to the accusers of the one being tried that the accused did not deserve the sentence they wished to impose upon Him. How paradoxical it was that in the case of Jesus, two of the judges before whom He stood (Pilate and Herod), who were not known for rendering justice (both were cruel and merciless men) yet both knew Jesus was innocent and would pass no sentence of “guilty, as charged” upon Him. Pilate reminded Jesus’ accusers that “he found no fault in Jesus” nor had Herod for he sent Jesus back to Pilate. This wicked ruler called for a basin of water, washed his hands before the accusers, and said, “I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man, see ye to it” (Matthew 27:24).
Not only did Peter say his nation had denied Jesus before Pilate, but also they chose a robber, murderer, and rebellious man to be released rather than the Holy and Righteous One. Jesus had not only lived a holy life; He had lived a righteous life before His people. He never wronged a single person and He had, by His miracles, blessed many people in His nation. He fed 5,000 on one occasion (Matthew 14:17-21) and 4,000 at another time (Matthew 15:35-36). He had restored to life the young daughter of the ruler of a synagogue (Matthew 9:23-26) and had given back life to the only son of a widowed mother (Luke 7:11-16). He gave sight to blind, cleansed lepers, gave hearing to those who were deaf, caused the lame to walk, and when he “was reviled, reviled not again” but rather, even as they were crucifying him prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Yet His nation chose instead of a just and righteous man, one who was a malefactor, robber, murderer, insurrectionist — clearly one who was an enemy of his own people.
Finally, Peter charged His nation with killing the “Prince of life”, and “author of life” is another translation of the phrase. Jesus was and is the author of life for “all things were made by Him” (John 1:3). His nation could kill His body, but they could not destroy His eternal nature (Matthew 10:28). Had they been able to do that, our world would have crumbled to nothing for it continues on because Jesus still “uphold all things by His power” (Hebrews 1:3).
These charges were serious indeed. But “God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us” (Ephesians 2:4) allowed them to have their way, because it was only through the death of Jesus that forgiveness would ever be possible for sinful man. We may not comprehend all this, but how grateful we should all be that He willingly subjected Himself to the death His own nation imposed Him that we could receive the forgiveness and eternal life God is willing to give those who repent of their sins and “are baptized” for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38). Truly, “O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God. How unsearchable are His judgments and his ways past tracing out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and unto him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 8:3-35).