Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 3:13-15, 17-19

Act 3:13  The God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus, whom you indeed delivered up and denied before the face of Pilate, when he judged he should be released.

The God of Abraham, &c. The friend, the protector and bountiful rewarder of Abraham, &c.  Speaking to Moses (Exodus 3:6, &c) God first called himself by that epithet.

The God of our Fathers. He it is that performed this wonder (vs. 16).

Hath glorified, honoured His Son, Jesus. “Whom you delivered up” to the Romans to be crucified, “and denied” to be your Messiah, your promised deliverer, “before the face of Pilate,” who, convinced of His innocence, “for he could find no cause in Him,” judged that He should be released. Against the deliberate judgment of a Pagan judge, who through fear afterwards consented to condemn Him, they insisted on His death, thus displaying the intensity of their malice and deliberate hate.

Act 3:14  But you denied the Holy One and the Just: and desired a murderer to be granted unto you.

The Holy One. An epithet frequently applied to our Lord (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34). The article prefixed in the Greek designates Him as “Holy” of His own essence and Divine nature. Infinite sanctity itself.

A murderer, Barabbas. Here their conduct is powerfully contrasted with that of Pilate, a pagan, not favoured with the lights vouchsafed to them.

Act 3:15  But the author of life you killed, whom God hath raised from the dead: of which we are witnesses

Author of life. Our Lord is the source of all life, physical and spiritual. A powerful contrast here between Barabbas, the destroyer of  life, and Jesus, the source of it in all.

God raised from the dead. The Resurrection of Christ, the foundation of all Christian faith, is frequently insisted on in several passages of the New Testament.

We are witnesses. The Apostles, disciples, and several followers of our Lord, amounting to a vast number, saw our Lord after His Resurrection, and conversed with Him. God Himself confirmed their testimony regarding this fundamental truth, with miracles.

Act 3:17  And now, brethren, I know that you did it through ignorance: as did also your rulers.

After having proved, by a freedom of speech truly Apostolic, that they were guilty of the hideous crime of Deicide, and uttered hard truths, He now wishes to extenuate their guilt, addressing them “as brethren,” and by kindness He wishes to inspire them with hope of pardon. He puts forward the same excuse, “ignorance,” which our Lord Himself advanced in their behalf “they know not what they do.”  He by no means insinuates that they were innocent. He had stated the contrary (vs. 14). But, with a view of moving them to repentance by the hope of pardon, He says, their crime, in itself enormous, was extenuated by the fact of their not knowing Him to be their long-expected Messiah.

As did also your rulers.  The chief men among the Jews were more guilty than the masses of the people. From the evidences placed before them, they could have known that He was their long expected Messiah. Blinded by passion, they, in their fury, proceeded to compass the death of a just man, whom a pagan judge pronounced innocent. Had they known Him to be the long expected Deliverer of their nation, they would not have treated Him as they had done. Still, they were not innocent or free from guilt.

Act 3:18  But those things which God before had shewed by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.

Anticipating an objection that might suggest itself viz., if Christ were the Messiah, why suffer Himself to be thus treated? St. Peter shows, if He did not, He could not be regarded as the Messiah at all, since, all the prophets concurred in predicting his death and sufferings. All these occurrences were predicted beforehand, and God caused them to be fulfilled in the manner predicted. Without altogether excusing them or pronouncing them innocent for they were afterwards called upon to repent for their wickedness St. Peter prudently mitigates the hard sentence passed upon them, and wishes to excite them to sorrow and the hope of pardon, from the consideration that, although sinning, they were the instruments in carrying out the merciful design of God in the way in which it occurred viz., through their malice, the redemption of all mankind, themselves included. The foreknowledge of God did not diminish their guilt. For God foresaw it in the way it was to happen viz., freely, through their deliberate guilt and malice. The Apostle mentions it to inspire them with the hope of pardon. How all the prophets foretold is not so clear. It is understood of the prophets in a general way, or taken on the whole, without stating that each individual prophet foretold it. However, it may be said that they all either literally or mystically, explicitly or implicitly, foretold it. Hence, of our Lord on His way to Emmaus, it is said that “beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded the things said concerning Him” (Luke 24:27).

Act 3:19  Be penitent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.

Therefore, as your sin so heinous, though extenuated by ignorance, resulted in the redemption of mankind, “repent and be converted” to the Lord, who mercifully ransomed you, in order that, with the hope of pardon in your hearts, “your sins may be blotted out” and cleansed away by a full remission. The idea, according to some, is borrowing from the practice among the ancients of effacing with the blunt end of the stylus, characters impressed on soft wax by the sharp point of the stylus. It also is allusion to the act of creditors blotting out debts due (Coll 2:14). According to others, the idea is borrowed from the practice of washing parchment and effacing the characters impressed. This would very appropriately apply to the remission of sins in the waters of Baptism.

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One Response to Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Acts 3:13-15, 17-19

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year B | stjoeofoblog

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