“Your sins will be forgiven. Then you will be given the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you” (Acts 2:38-39).

Denalyn called as I was driving home the other day. “Can you stop at the grocery store and pick up some bread?”

“Of course.”

“Do I need to tell you where to find it?”

“Are you kidding? I was born with a bread-aisle tracking system.”

“Just stay focused, Max.”

She was nervous. Rightly so. I am the Exxon Valdez of grocery shopping. My mom once sent me to buy butter and milk; I bought buttermilk. I mistook a tube of hair cream for toothpaste. I thought the express aisle was a place to express your opinion. I am a charter member of the Clueless Husband Shopping Squad. I can relate to the fellow who came home from the grocery store with one carton of eggs, two sacks of flour, three boxes of cake mix, four sacks of sugar and five cans of cake frosting. His wife looked at the sacks of groceries and lamented, “I never should have numbered the list.”

So knowing that Denalyn was counting on me, I parked the car at the market and entered the door. En route to the bread aisle, I spotted my favorite cereal, so I picked up a box, which made me wonder if we needed milk. I found a gallon in the dairy section. The cold milk stirred images of one of God’s great gifts to humanity: Oreo cookies. The heavenly banquet will consist of tables and tables of Oreo cookies and milk. We will spend eternity dipping and slurping our way through…OK, enough of that.

I grabbed a pack of cookies, which happened to occupy the same half of the store as barbecue potato chips. What a wonderful world this is—cookies and barbecue chips under the same roof! On the way to the checkout counter, I spotted some ice cream. Within a few minutes I’d filled the basket with every essential item for a happy and fulfilled life. I checked out and drove home.

Denalyn looked at my purchases, then at me. Can you guess her question? All together now: “Where’s the bread?”

I went back to the grocery store. I forgot the big item. The one thing I went to get. The one essential product. I forgot the bread.
Might we make the same mistake in a more critical arena? In an effort to do good, we can get distracted. We feed people. We encourage, heal, help and serve. We address racial issues and poverty. Yet there is one duty we must fulfill. We can’t forget the bread.

Peter didn’t.

“Now, listen to what I have to say about Jesus from Nazareth. God proved that He sent Jesus to you by having Him work miracles, wonders and signs. All of you know this. God had already planned and decided Jesus would be handed over to you. So you took Him and had evil men put Him to death on a cross, but God set Him free from death and raised Him to life. Death could not hold Him in its power” (Acts 2:22-24).

Peter was responding to the question of the people: “Whatever could this mean?” (Acts 2:12). The sound of rushing wind, the images of fire, the sudden linguistic skills of the disciples…whatever could these occurrences mean? He positioned himself over the plaza full of people and proceeded to introduce the crowd to Jesus. Jerusalemites surely had heard of Jesus. He was the subject of a headline-grabbing trial and execution seven weeks before. However, did they know Jesus? In rapid succession Peter fired a trio of God-given endorsements of Christ.

1. “God proved He sent Jesus to you by having Him work miracles, wonders and signs” (Acts 2:22). Jesus’ miracles were proof of his divinity. When He healed bodies and fed hungry bellies, when He commanded the waves as casually as a four-star general does a private, when He summoned life to intersect Lazarus’ dead body and sight with the blind man’s eyes, these miracles were God’s endorsement. God gave Jesus His seal of approval.

2. Then God delivered Him to death. “[He] had already planned and decided Jesus would be handed over to you. So you took Him and had evil men put Him to death on a cross” (Acts 2:23).

God deemed Christ worthy of God’s most important mission—to serve as a sacrifice for humankind. Not just anyone could do this. How could a sinner die for sinners? Impossible. The Lamb of God had to be perfect, flawless and sinless. When the Romans nailed Jesus to the cross, God was singling Him out as the only sinless being ever to walk the face of the earth, the only person qualified to bear “our sins in His own body” (1 Peter 2:24). The cross, a tool of shame, was actually a badge of honor, a badge bestowed one time, to one Man, Jesus of Nazareth; but God did not leave Jesus in the tomb.

3. “God set Him free from death and raised Him to life. Death could not hold Him in its power” (Acts 2:24). Deep within the dark sepulchre belonging to Joseph of Arimathea, behind the secured and sealed rock of the Romans, amid the sleeping corpses and silent graves of the Jews, God did His greatest work. He spoke to the dead body of his incarnate Son. With hell’s demons and heaven’s angels watching, He called on the Rose of Sharon to lift His head, the Lion of Judah to stretch His paws, the Bright and Morning Star to shine forth His light, the Alpha and Omega to be the beginning of life and the end of the grave. “God untied the death ropes and raised Him up. Death was no match for Him” (Acts 2:24).

I envision Peter pausing at this point in his sermon. I can hear words echo off the Jerusalem stones. “Death was no match for Him…for Him…for Him.” Then for a few seconds, hushed quiet. Peter stops and searches the faces, his dark eyes defying someone to challenge his claim. A priest, a soldier, a cynic—someone, anyone, to question his words. “You are insane, Simon. Come, let me take you to Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. Let’s roll back the stone and unwrap the decaying cadaver of Jesus and put an end to this nonsense once and for all.”

What an opportunity for someone to destroy Christianity in its infancy! But no one defied Peter. No Pharisee objected. No soldier protested. No one spoke, because no one had the body. The word was out that the Word was out!

People began to realize their mistake. The gravity of their crime settled over them like a funeral dirge. God came into their world, and they killed Him. This was the thrust of Peter’s sermon: “You killed God.” “God proved…to you…all of you know this…you took Him and had evil men put Him to death.” You. You. You. On three occasions Peter pointed a verbal, if not physical, finger at the crowd.

The question of the hour changed. “Whatever could this mean?” (a question of the head) became “What shall we do?” (a question of the heart). “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

They leaned in to hear Peter’s reply. So much was at stake. What if he said, “It’s too late,” “You had your chance,” or “You should have listened the first time”?

Peter, surely with outstretched arms and tear-filled eyes, gave this invitation:

“Turn back to God! Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven. Then you will be given the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and your children. It is for everyone our Lord God will choose, no matter where they live” (Acts 2:38-39).

Peter eventually would speak about poverty. The church soon would address the issues of widows, disease and bigotry, but not yet. The first order of the church’s first sermon was this: pardon for all our sins. Peter delivered the bread.

Would you allow me to do the same? Before we turn the next page in the story of Acts, would you consider the offer of Jesus? “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry again” (John 6:35).

The grain-to-bread process is a demanding one. The seed must be planted before it can grow. When the grain is ripe, it must be cut down and ground into flour. Before it can become bread, it must pass through the oven. Bread is the end result of planting, harvesting and heating.

Jesus endured an identical process. He was born into this world. He was cut down, bruised and beaten on the threshing floor of Calvary. He passed through the fire of God’s wrath, for our sake. He “suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones. He went through it all—was put to death and then made alive—to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

Bread of Life? Jesus lived up to the title, but an unopened loaf does a person no good. Have you received the bread? Have you received God’s forgiveness?

We cherish pardon, don’t we? I was thinking about pardon a few afternoons ago on a south Texas country road with hills and curves and turns and bends. I know it well. I now know the highway patrolman who oversees it.

He now knows me, too. He looked at my driver’s license. “Why is your name familiar to me? Aren’t you a minister here in San Antonio?”

“Yes, sir.”

“On your way to a funeral?”

“No.”

“An emergency?”

“No.”

“You were going awfully fast.”

“I know.”

“Tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to give you a second chance.”

I sighed. “Thank you—and thanks for giving me a sermon illustration on pardon.”

God has posted His traffic signs everywhere we look: in the universe, in Scripture, even within our own hearts. Yet we persist in disregarding his directions. Still, God does not give us what we deserve. He has drenched His world in grace. It has no end. It knows no limits. It empowers this life and enables us to live the next. God offers second chances, like a soup kitchen offers meals to everyone who asks.

That includes you. Make sure you receive the bread.

Once you do, pass it on. After all, if we don’t, who will? Governments don’t feed the soul. The secular relief house can give a bed, meal and valuable counsel; but believers can give much more—not just help for this life but hope for the next.

“Turn back to God! Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, so that your sins will be forgiven. Then you will be given the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and your children. It is for everyone our Lord God will choose, no matter where they live” (Acts 2:38-39).

So along with the cups of water, plates of food and vials of medicine, let there be the message of sins forgiven and death defeated.
Remember the Bread.

Adapted from Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make a Difference by Max Lucado. Published by Thomas Nelson. Copyright © 2010 Max Lucado. Used by permission.

 

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