Then Peter, the brute fisherman-turned Christian spokesman, suddenly steps forward and presents to the befuddled crowd what I believe to be one of the greatest sermons ever delivered. ◊
With all due respect to Jesus and His Sermon on the Mount, the actual very first real sermon literally delivered on the day of the birth of the Christian Church was presented by the apostle Peter in Jerusalem.
It was about 40 days after Christ’s death by crucifixion and His resurrection (first Easter), and then about a week to ten days later after Christ’s ascension where He was lifted into the air on a cloud and carried out of their sight. (Acts 1:9) By this time we know that Jesus had been seen alive by the disciples and over 500 people over the course of these weeks. (1 Corinthians 15:5-6)
Then another extraordinary event happened in Jerusalem, just as Jesus had promised.
Jesus promised the arrival of the Holy Spirit, saying “You heard from me, for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
But what was this about?
The Day of Pentecost
The so-called baptism of the Holy Spirit happened actually in a manner quite unexpected. The disciples were gathered in one place, when:
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome; Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” (Acts 2:2-13)
As any of us would be, the people were astonished and confused.
Pastor Peter Speaks
Then Peter, the brute fisherman-turned Christian spokesman, suddenly steps forward and presents to the befuddled crowd what I believe to be one of the greatest sermons ever delivered:
“Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy…. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.1
“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him. David said about Him:
“‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.'”
“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that He was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did His body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:13-37)
What Peter Did
Peter put Jesus of Nazareth, the mystery God/Man who was killed and then who appeared miraculously alive, in historical context that would be understood by all Jews, if not necessarily the Gentiles, yet. Jesus’s advent was predicted long ago by the Word of God through the Jewish prophets (he cites Joel here). Jesus’ position of authority as the promised Messiah in the everlasting line of David’s throne is also highlighted. It is duly noted that Peter uses these credentials to proclaim the deity and proof of Christ, he does not bother to make any logical proof points about the resurrection as we might focus on today.
And it was the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit, right before everyone’s eyes, that made all the people that morning, 3,000 of them, come to Jesus.
Quite the altar call!
Have you ever really read or heard this sermon before?
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit….” With many other words he warned them…“Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about 3,000 were added to their number that day. – Acts 1:38-41
1 The prophet Joel lived in Judah over 800 years prior to Christ. His prophesied about this Day of Pentecost as described here in Acts (Joel 2:28-29). I believe his reference to ‘last days’ here is in reference to the final days of the Jewish worship/sacrificial ceremonial system, now replaced by the final atonement of Christ. In fact, the Jewish system, including the temple of worship, ended in their final destruction in AD 70, fulfilling the warnings of the prophets and Jesus Himself.