God’s Word for You
Acts 10:39-40 The cross in the crosshairs
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, March 11, 2020
39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and permitted him to be seen.
The people Cornelius had gathered heard of Jesus, but Peter assures the group that he and the men he brought along with him had been eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ministry. By emphasizing the pronoun “we” (it is in the verb “we are witnesses” and repeated as the pronoun hemeis, ἡμεῖς) Peter shows that here in the room there were no less than seven men who had followed and listened to Jesus Christ. The other brothers were not apostles (Luke would have named them if they were), but they would have been counted among the larger groups who heard Jesus at various times, perhaps the seventy-two (Luke 10:1); the five hundred (1 Corinthians 15:6), the four thousand (Matthew 15:38) or the five thousand (Matthew 14:21). Since Peter says that they were witnesses of “everything he did,” it’s more likely that they were from the smallest of these groups, the seventy-two.
The culmination of Jesus’ ministry was the crucifixion. There, Peter confesses, “They killed him by hanging him on a tree.” The apostle’s emphasis here is not on the crime of the Sanhedrin, as it is in other places in Acts (Acts 2:36, 4:10, 5:30), but on the miraculous act of God in raising Jesus from the dead. But let’s return to the cross.
Peter calls the cross by it’s most generic name, xylos (ξύλος), “wood.” Even the translation “tree” is almost too specific, since “tree” in Greek would typically be dendron (Revelation 7:1; Genesis 18:4; Daniel 4:26), although xylos is the word in the Greek translation of “tree of life” and “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9; Revelation 22:2). Most significantly, xylos is the word from the account of Abraham and Isaac, when the boy asks, “The fire and wood (xylos) are here, but where is the lamb?” To which Abraham replied: “God himself will provide the lamb” (Genesis 22:7-8). And God provided a substitute for Abraham and his son, and the substitute also stood in place for you and for me. The crucifixion of Jesus was not an accident or a tragedy of his life and ministry, but the entire point. The cross was there on the horizon when the angel first announced his gospel to Joseph: “He will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
After the crucifixion, God permitted Jesus to be seen in the resurrection. The Greek grammar of the last phrase here says that God “gave” Jesus to be seen. This was a gift to those Peter will describe in verse 41.
The whole life of Jesus, his formative years, his ministry, his betrayal, his trial, his execution, his death, and his resurrection, were all for the sole purpose of rescuing mankind from sin. The cross was, in a manner of speaking, always in the crosshairs. It was his goal, and as his goal, it meant our salvation.
Pastor Timothy Smith