Acts 5:31 “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior, so that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.”
Political candidates campaign on promises they make to the voters. Once elected, many of them seem to lose interest in keeping their promises to the people who voted them in. Jesus is installed at God’s right hand in heaven as rightful ruler of the universe. Does our Prince and Savior have anything to offer us today?
Peter’s words answer that question. Today Jesus is at God’s right hand so that he can give us his gifts. The first of those gifts is “repentance.” Jesus doesn’t spread the Christian faith by adhering to the old marketing principle, “The customer is always right.” I have been a part of paid market research focus groups in the past. Companies interviewed me and others to learn our opinions. Then they tried to tailor their products to our tastes. They assumed the customer must be right, and they changed to suit us.
No, Jesus does something that seems counter-intuitive if you want to develop a following. He starts by telling you your ideas are all wrong. You and I have developed tastes and preferences that need to change. Our behavior and treatment of others is inappropriate. Our ideas about right, and wrong, and often God himself are backwards. He calls us to repent. He calls me to recognize that I am selfish, prideful, bossy, manipulative, dishonest, two-faced, ungrateful, lazy, lustful, greedy, impatient, and discontented. He calls me to stop defending it and rationalizing it, to feel genuine sorrow and regret for it.
But he does more than call us to repent. He gives repentance as a gift from God’s right hand in heaven. He exposes our sinfully wrong-minded notions in his word. He accompanies his word with his Spirit to convict us. He directs the events of our lives so that we are forced to come face to face with our true nature, to know ourselves in ways we never, ever wanted to know ourselves. He gives repentance to his people as a gift.
“Some gift,” we might think. But it is a gift, a gift of inestimable value. We will pay a doctor a great deal of money to uncover the physical deficiencies that are causing us pain and threatening our lives. Only then can we get the medicine right that puts us on the path to health again. How much more valuable is the diagnosis that uncovers the spiritual deficiencies that have condemned our souls!
Then we are ready to receive the other gift he gives from God’s right hand, “the forgiveness of sins.” However we have offended God, however we have hurt each other, however we have twisted God’s good gifts like sex or money and made them sick and grotesque, he does not hold against us. He does not say that it was okay. It wasn’t. But he does not hold them against us. He does not let our past determine how he will treat us in the future. Every day, every moment, we start off with a clean slate–as though we were as pure and as holy as an angel in heaven.
This, too, is more than an offer. It is a gift he gives–the gift he thought so valuable that he suffered death by crucifixion to make it happen. It’s more than a neat idea, a happy concept. Jesus’ sacrifice forms the real historical basis for God to forgive our sins.
Now from his Father’s right hand he distributes it to us. He sends it around the world as he spreads his word through preachers and laymen alike. He washes us in it at our baptisms. He feeds it to us in his supper. His Spirit fans the flames of this good news so that it grows in our hearts and catches on in the hearts of more and more people. All this he does with the power and authority he enjoys from God’s right hand in heaven. Truly it is a gift to us that Jesus occupies such a place!