17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” – Acts 3:17-26 ESV
The Messiah had come, but the Jews had refused to acknowledge Him as such. That’s the gist of the message Peter gave to the crowd of Jews who had gathered at Solomon’s Portico on the Temple grounds. He was unapologetic in his accusation against them:
14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. – Acts 3:14-15 ESV
But he did cut them some slack by acknowledging that what they did, they did in ignorance. The Greek word used is agnoia, and it refers to a lack of knowledge. They didn’t know what they were doing. They were guilty of having done it, but were not aware of the significance of their actions. They were legitimately convinced that Jesus was not the Messiah and so, they rejected Him as such. And their ignorance of who Jesus was extended from their lack of knowledge regarding God and the Holy Scriptures. At one point, during His earthly ministry, Jesus spoke these words to a group of Pharisees:
37 “And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face, 38 and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me—the one he sent to you.
39 “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.” – John 5:37-40 NLT
They longed for eternal life. They devoured the Old Testament Scriptures in search of the key to eternal life. But they failed to see the countless prophecies regarding the Messiah. They refused to acknowledge the prophecies that foretold of the Messiah coming as a suffering servant. The ignored or reinterpreted passages like those found in Isaiah.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:4-6 ESV
The Messiah that Isaiah prophesied about was destined by God to suffer and die, because He was coming to free the Jews from the condemnation they faced as a result of their rebellion against God. He was coming to free them from slavery to sin, not from the oppression of Roman rule. And it was all part of God’s divine plan for the redemption of mankind.
Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. – Isaiah 53:10 ESV
And they missed it. And in missing Jesus as their Messiah, they had missed their opportunity to truly know God as their Father. It was Jesus, as the Messiah, who had come to restore sinful mankind, Jews and Gentiles, to a right relationship with God. But Jesus had told the Pharisees that day:
“Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who my Father is. If you knew me, you would also know my Father.” – John 8:19 NLT
They were ignorant. And, as a result, they were missing out on an incredible opportunity, provided to them by Jesus. And those very same Pharisees whom Jesus reproached for failing to see Him as their Messiah, had asked Him a follow-up question:
25 “Who are you?” they demanded.
Jesus replied, “The one I have always claimed to be. 26 I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t. For I say only what I have heard from the one who sent me, and he is completely truthful.” 27 But they still didn’t understand that he was talking about his Father.
28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I am he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me. 29 And the one who sent me is with me—he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.” – John 8:25-29 NLT
Even while He was alive, Jesus had made it perfectly clear that His death was part of God’s plan. He even predicted the means of His death: by crucifixion. And Jesus infers that it will be after His death, when He has been raised back to life by the Spirit of God, that they will begin to see and understand that He was who He had claimed to be.
And Peter reminds the Jews standing within range of his voice, “what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled” (Acts 3:18 ESV). Jesus had done what He had been sent to do. He had fulfilled the will of His Father, pleasing Him by obeying Him, even to the point of death, death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). And the only proper response on the part of the Jews in Peter’s audience was repentance. They were to change their minds about who Jesus was and turn to Him as their Messiah and Savior. It was only through Him that they could be restored to a right relationship with God.
19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. 20 Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. – Acts 3:19-20 NLT
What is Peter offering them? What does he mean by “times of refreshment”? Why does he say that, if they repent, God will “again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah”? There are many opinions regarding the meaning behind Peter’s statements, but it would appear that Peter is speaking of a future restoration of the nation of Israel. He is offering the individual Jews in his audience the opportunity to repent and receive Jesus as their Messiah. And we know from the opening lines of chapter four, that many did.
But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. – Acts 4:4 ESV
But Peter was also addressing the nation of Israel as a whole. He has already said that Jesus came as their Messiah, was rejected and put to death by them. But God raised Jesus back to life and had Him return to His proper place at His Father’s side in heaven. And Peter states, “he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:21 NLT). There is going to be a future repentance on the part of the Jewish people. God will send His Son a second time, and on that occasion, there will be a corporate restoration of the people of God. The apostle Paul speaks of that day.
25 I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. 26 And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say,
“The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem,
and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness.
27 And this is my covenant with them,
that I will take away their sins.” – Romans 11:25-27 NLT
Paul went on to remind the Gentile Christians to whom he was writing that it was because of the failure of the Jews to accept the good news regarding their Messiah, that the gospel was sent to the nations.
Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against him, God was merciful to you instead. – Romans 11:30 NLT
But God has not turned His back on the Jews.
28 Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 29 For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. – Romans 11:28-29 NLT
And that seems to be Peter’s point. Times of refreshing were coming. The Messiah had come and gone, but He was coming back some day. And His role as the Messiah of the Jewish people was not yet fulfilled. He had more to do and it would be done – all in God’s preordained, perfect timing.
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. – Ezekiel 36:25-27 NLT
Peter goes on to point out that the Jews in his audience were still God’s covenant people. And Jesus, one of their own, was the servant of God who had been predicted by the prophets. He had come. And God had sent Him to the Jewish people first.
“When God raised up his servant, Jesus, he sent him first to you people of Israel, to bless you by turning each of you back from your sinful ways.”– Acts 3:26 NLT
Jesus had come preaching repentance and the Kingdom of God. He had offered times of refreshing, but His message had been rejected. Now, He was offering the same message through Peter and the apostles. They could change their minds regarding Jesus and enjoy the offer of a new relationship with God made possible through His sacrificial death. Or they could reject Him once again. As individuals, their opportunity to experience time of refreshment was right at that moment. But as a nation, Israel has been promised a time of refreshment that has yet to come.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.