This easter season I spent a lot of time meditating on the resurrection account given by Peter in his first sermon that is recorded for us in the book of Acts. Here is the passage.“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence'” (Acts 2:22-28).
When Peter gets to the section on the resurrection his flow of thought is very interesting. God raised Jesus from the dead by means of releasing him from the pains of death; he did this because it was impossible for death to hold Jesus. This was impossible because David said of Jesus…then he quotes Psalm 16. It is intriguing how Peter explains the impossibility of death holding the Son of God. He does not go to his deity—which is a direction one might naturally go. Rather, he goes to the faithfulness of God and the faith of the Son.
God the Father promised God the Son that he would never abandon his soul to death and that he would never allow his body to undergo decay once he was buried. In other words, he promised to raise him up from the dead. He made this promise to the Son long before he became incarnate. So kind was he that he wrote it down in the holy Scripture for his Son. When Jesus came to earth he trusted the word of his Father that was written in the Bible.
Psalm 16 became a source of strength for him in the face of death. It enabled him to walk in confidence and joy in the face of such terrible circumstances. As Charles Spurgeon pointed out, it even enabled him to “sing over the grave.” I imagine Jesus quoting this Psalm to the Father in the face of death—confessing his confidence in the Father’s promise. I also imagine him quoting it to death as it opened its jaws wide and swallowed him whole. Like Jonah’s whale, this great man-eater would not be able to stomach the Son of God.
A faithful promise keeping God and a sinless, obedient, faith-filled Son were too much for death. This double team rendered death impotent. It was impossible for a faithful God to not keep his promise to the Son. Death was the real victim in this situation. This certainty enabled Jesus to take himself to the grave on our behalf. The faith of Jesus saved us. The faithfulness of God saved us. Jesus is our champion. He is our substitute. He battled death on our behalf and his victory is now ours. Because he conquered death so will we.
He is also our example. He shows us how to trust the Father in the face of death. He shows us what it is to believe in and through death to life. He demonstrates for us that the Father is faithful and that you can cast yourself unreservedly upon him. Psalm 16 was David’s, it was Christ’s, and now it is ours. We can give voice to this Psalm with confidence as we face death. Our God will not abandon us—-it is an impossibility. Death will not have the final word—it cannot.