And his name through faith in his name has made this man strong, whom you see and know: yes…
1. An act of cruelty excites both compassion for the sufferer and indignation at the actor, and perhaps the latter feeling is the stronger. Your sympathy with the martyr is almost lost in your anger at the persecutor, because, perhaps, you do not make sufficient allowance for him. He may have been acting under a mistaken sense of duty. "Whosoever," says our Lord, "killeth you shall think he doeth God service." Much, too, may have to be attributed to the temper of the times. Many a man who now only argues against heresy would have been for the stake when the rights of conscience were less understood. Men are apt to condemn the Jews — and very justly — for their crimes, but Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," and here St. Peter corroborates this. He did not hesitate to charge on them the crime of having "killed the Prince of Life," but, as though he feared driving them to despair, he used words which seem in a measure to extenuate their crime. But we shall find that this plea of ignorance does not apply to modern unbelief.
2. What right had Peter to make this allowance? He must be understood to mean that the Jews were not acquainted with the character and dignity of Christ. They did not crucify Him as the Messiah, the Son of God, but as a blasphemous pretender. But were they innocent in that their ignorance was involuntary and unavoidable, arising from the insufficiency of the evidence, or from feebleness of understanding? St. Peter did not imply this, otherwise he had impeached the whole of Christ's ministry, and represented His miracles as defective credentials. Undoubtedly the ignorance was blameworthy. They might and ought to have known that Jesus was the Christ, and ignorance is only excusable when we do not wilfully neglect the means of obtaining information or cherish prejudices which bar out the truth. Yet it is probable that we use the Jews too harshly in respect of the crucifixion. It was not in that, but in rejecting the final evidence afforded by the descent and miracles of the Holy Spirit, that they committed the unpardonable sin.
3. It may be strange to us that, though He did so many mighty works, Jesus was rejected by His countrymen. But we do not sufficiently consider their powerful prejudice in favour of a Messiah attended with all the pomp of earthly dominion. It is true they were to blame for cherishing this prejudice, since due search into prophecy would have dispersed it; but it is also true that it was contracted not through shutting their eyes altogether against prophecy, but through fixing them so intently on one part that they overlooked all others. They associated with Christ's first coming the characteristics of the second. So, then, the Jew had not sinned against all the evidence that Christ meant to afford — he had sinned against a suffering Redeemer, but not against a triumphant; and so the sin was something that admitted of extenuation — a sin against evidence as yet incomplete. The ignorance was not excusable; it was only not unpardonable.
4. Here comes in the case of modern ignorance and unbelief — the sin of those who, by rejecting Christ, "crucify the Son of God afresh." Can the plea of Peter be urged in favour of modern infidels and of those who nominally believe in Christ without the consent of the heart? Remember that the Jew had not the whole of the evidence before him; but we have the whole before us. The Jew crucified Christ whilst His appearance was that of an ordinary man; we crucify Him afresh now that He has assumed His Divine glory. Christ had not then given the most touching proof of His love, nor was it understood even by the apostles that His death was a propitiation; but now the whole plan of redemption is set forth, and we who reject Him crucify afresh a loving Saviour, and one who sends down His Spirit to persuade us to be reconciled. What did the Jew in comparison with this? And how absurd to plead an extenuating ignorance! How can anything be known if this is not? Or, if the ignorance be not impossible — besotted as men are by the cares of the world, or the pleasures of sin — men might, if they would, know what they do. Ignorant they may be, but unavoidably and innocently ignorant they cannot be. Therefore "he that believeth not shall be damned."
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.