What’s It All About?
We find ourselves in our sermon series in the Acts of the Apostles. Last week, we saw the Day of Pentecost. The disciples heard the sound of a violent rushing wind. Fiery tongues rested upon them. And they spontaneously began to speak in languages they did not know. All those pilgrims who were visiting Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost heard the mighty acts of God, through the story of Jesus, preached in their own language.
The people were astonished. The people were amazed. The people were taken aback. How could it be? What was going on? Look at Acts 2:12: “They continued in amazement and were greatly perplexed, saying to one another, ‘What does this mean?’ But others were mocking and saying, “They are full of sweet wine.”
Jesus had promised the Spirit. The prophet Joel had spoken of it. John the Baptist had declared that One was coming after him who would baptize with the Spirit and with fire. And the day had come. When Jesus was absent, the Spirit was present, outpoured upon God’s people. And now they were empowered to preach the gospel. And they started out that very day preaching the story of Jesus, as people heard it in their own language.
Peter stands up and declares, “Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day.”
Peter is saying something like this: “It’s only nine in the morning. People don’t get drunk at nine in the morning. Wine is not the cause for this early elation. They are drunk on the Spirit of God.” What’s happening, he says, is what the prophet Joel had prophesied.
“These are,” he says in verse 17, “the last days.” In the Jewish mind, there are two ages – this age and the age to come. The age to come was termed “the last days” – the days of God’s Messiah, the days of the pouring out of the Spirit of God. The last days are here. We’re in the age of the Messiah, the age of God’s Spirit.
At the beginning of the last days, God’s Spirit is poured out. Notice that the sons and the daughters preach, prophesy. Old men dream dreams. And young men see visions.
Look at verse 17. “It shall be in the last days that I will pour forth my Spirit upon all humankind.” This Spirit, once the exotic possession of the prophetic few, is now offered to all. The crowd, which also knows the scriptures, do not see what the scriptures so clearly prove.
In this masterful sermon, Peter links together Israel with the life of Jesus and, thus, makes the assertion that the community of the Spirit, the church, forms an unbroken succession of Israel’s own pattern of expectation and realization, and that after the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples see that all that related to the life of the Master was the fulfillment of the plan of God.
Let’s look more closely at this sermon delivered by Peter – no longer a fisher of fish, but now a fisher of men.
I. Jesus was a man, though divinely attested by miracles and wonders and signs. (v. 22)
This very crowd had heard of, and many had seen, the wondrous works of Jesus of Nazareth. They had seen the blind receive sight, the lame leap, those who were without speech begin to talk. Water had turned to wine at a wedding in Cana. And 5,000 had been fed with fish. With all of the buzz about the miracles of Jesus, there was no denying what the people had seen and heard about Jesus.
II. He was put to death by wicked hands, though according to God’s purpose (vs. 23-24)
God is absolutely in control. God is in everything. God is everywhere.
It is even remarkable that Peter would speak this way – that Peter would say that God wanted the death of the Christ, the Messiah. That God was planning the death of Christ. Remember back in Matthew’s gospel when Jesus tells them that He is going to die? Do you remember what Peter does?
In Matthew 16:21, Jesus tells the disciples that He is going to suffer many things, He is going to die and be raised the third day. And Peter says, “Pssst. Come over here Jesus.” It says “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Jesus, saying, ‘God forbid it! This shall never happen to you.’” And you remember what Jesus says to Peter? “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s interests.”
Peter had once thought of the crucifixion of the Messiah as an unthinkable evil. But now he saw it as the very plan of God.
Babe Ruth was at bat and Babe Pinelli was the umpire behind the plate. The first pitch was a swing and a miss, as was the second pitch. Babe Ruth digs in for the next pitch. The pitcher winds up and delivers, and Ruth doesn’t move. From behind the plate the umpire cries out, “Strike three!” Ruth gets in Pinelli’s face and says, “There’s 40,000 people here who know that last one was a ball, tomato head.” Pinelli takes a look around the stadium, then responds to Ruth, “Maybe so, but mine is the only opinion that counts. The batter’s out!” (Jerry Sutton, The Way Back Home, PreachingNow 1/25/05, www.preaching.com)
God’s opinion is the only one that matters. And while wicked men were putting Jesus to death, we know that it was God who had planned it all along. Indeed, they were wicked. But even in their wickedness God was having His way.
III. Jesus was raised from the dead, as the prophesy had foretold and the apostles had witnessed.
Here he uses Psalm 16. Look at Acts 2:27, quoting from Psalm 16, “Because you will not abandon my soul to Hades, nor allow Thy Holy One to undergo decay.”
Peter says, “I’m know that David can’t be speaking about himself, because David died and was buried and has experienced decay. His tomb is here today. Rather, David was speaking of the Christ. David was speaking of one of his descendants to sit on the Davidic throne. He was speaking of Jesus, for Christ was never abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh suffer decay.”
Look at verse 32, “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.”
In verse 32, he says it again. “God raised Him up, and we are all witnesses of the resurrected Christ. We have seen Him crucified, and we have seen Him raised.”
David becomes both patriarch in verse 29 and prophet in verse 30. And the apostles become eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus.
IV. Jesus was exalted to God’s right hand and from there poured out the Spirit (v. 33).
Look at verses 33-36. Jesus Himself, born as a humble babe of Bethlehem, and crucified on the cross, now sits exalted and enthroned at the right hand of God, sharing the very glory of God. And as the exalted Lord and Savior, He pours forth the Spirit of God. He has ascended that the Spirit can descend. He’s poured forth the Spirit of God upon all who are His.
And that is what they’re seeing. It’s not drunkenness. Rather, it’s the outpouring of the Spirit of God.
David did not ascend into heaven. But the Lord (that is Yahweh) has said to David’s Lord (that is Jesus), “Sit at My right hand, until I make thine enemies a footstool for thy feet.”
So you need to know (verse 36) that God has made this Jesus of Nazareth both the Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified.
It’s an amazing thing that the word “Lord” used both of God and of Jesus right here in this one passage. It’s a practically interchangeable use of the word. In verse 36, Jesus is called Lord. And in verse 39, Yahweh, God the Father, is called Lord. Right here in this very first sermon we have the idea not of a crucified Christ, not of a defeated deity but, rather, we have the image of the resurrected and exalted and enthroned Lord Jesus, co-reigning with God and functioning as God. The earliest preaching said “Jesus is Lord.”
V. He now gives forgiveness and the Spirit to all who repent, believe, and are baptized.
They hear this preaching of Jesus of Nazareth. They remember His signs and wonders. They learn of His death and His glorious resurrection and exaltation. And they begin to shout out, as they are pierced to the heart (v. 37), “ ‘What do we need to do?’ And Peter said, ‘Therefore, repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”
The people were cut to the heart at the awful realization that in crucifying the long-awaited Messiah they rejected their only hope of salvation. And they cry out, “What do we need to do?” It causes them to repent, to complete change of heart and a confession of sin. He couples repentance with baptism. John the Baptist has said that baptism and repentance was for the forgiveness of sins. The Jews, who thought baptism was only for proselytes and that they, themselves, had no need of it, were now being told that every one of them needed to be baptized and repent.
I’ve got some good news for you. The people were moved to repent during the hearing of the story. But fortunately for you and for me, the gift of the Spirit and forgiveness of sin is not simply for those who were eye-witnessing the sermon of Peter that Day of Pentecost. It’s to all who hear His message henceforth.
Look at verse 39.
“For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.”
The message is for us, too. We, too, can call out with pierced hearts and say, “Lead us to the Lord.” And we, too, can learn that as we repent and are baptized and receive the Spirit of God, we are forgiven for our sins.
He had spoken of David in verse 25. David, himself, had known all about repentance. David had cried out, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” He cried out to God, “Purify me with hyssop that I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.”
In 2004, David got a cleaning in Florence, Italy. Michelanglo’s masterpiece, the Statue of David, was recently given its first bath since 1873. The sculpture, hewn from stone about 500 years ago, brought David to life as a single block of marble. The Davidic statue brings 1.2 million admirers a year as one of the art world’s biggest draws. The statue which dwarfs NBA players, stands 16 feet, 5 inches tall, and his bath took six months to complete.
This six-month soak might have really made David clean, but it was nothing like the cleansing received in Psalm 51, where he cried out to God who, alone, knew his offense as sin and declared, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”
Cleansing is not just good for stone statues. It’s good for human hearts. It was good for David’s human heart, and it’s good for yours and it’s good for mine. When we hear the story of Jesus, when he learn about His death for our sins and His glorious resurrection, we, too, shriek out in repentance to receive forgiveness.
VI. He adds those who believe to His new community.
Look at verse 41. They were baptized. There were 3,000 added that day to the church.
The last and final thing you need to see is that God calls us to community. God calls us to church.
God poured forth His Spirit then, and God pours forth His Spirit now. And you can repent and be saved. He says it in verse 21. “And it shall be that every one who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
When we follow Jesus, we follow Him as part of the people of Christ. In fact, turn to Acts 11:26. “And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” Usually, those who were inside the church were called Christians by outsiders. The church members themselves usually called each other “brother,” “disciple,” or “believer.” The word “Christian” is the combination of two words – the word Christ, which is Christos, and the Latin ending ianus, which means belonging to or identified by. Those who were in the church were identified as followers of Christ. Thus, in Acts the word Christ-man or Christ-woman, Christian, Christ follower, is used to designate members of the church.
A lot can be captured in a name. When we’re called Christians, we are identified with the one we follow, Christ.
It’s not funny, but I couldn’t help but chuckle about Metta World Peace. Why would a basketball player with a history of outbursts of anger want to change his legal name to “World Peace”? Surely you’ve seen one of the replays in which Mr. World Peace throws an intentional elbow to the head of James Harden, who crumples to the floor with a concussion – a flagrant foul of the most severe sort. His birth name is Ron Artest. What’s strange is that a man who would throw an intentional elbow, of the life-threatening variety, to the head would want to be designated as Peace. In fact, during an earlier incident, November 19, 2004, “Metta World Peace” charged into the stands in a blind rage, ready to punch out a spectator. For that, he received an 86-game suspension. This time he only gets seven.
He’s not a child, nor even a freshman college player who has much to learn. He’s 32 and has played 903 games in the NBA. Perhaps he needs to do another name change from Metta World Peace to Mega Angry Outburst. His conduct doesn’t match his name.
What Peter is saying is that those who follow Christ, the Christians, must be a part of the people of God and walk in a way that bears the name of their Lord.
“What’s it all about?” the crowd asked. “It’s the story about the crucified and resurrected Jesus,” Peter answered. A story that changes everything and calls you into a new community.