We’ve been following the story of the very first Christians for several weeks. We are tremendously indebted to their faith and their faithfulness. We might could understand if they’d just given up and thrown in the towel. They were outnumbered and subjected to severe persecution. They never knew from day to day what would happen next. One day, they enjoyed the favor of the people. The next, soldiers were coming to take away their property and arrest them or chase them out of town. Through it all, they were dependent on the guidance of the Holy Spirit while praying that Jesus would come back soon.
I want to re-visit the story from the second chapter of Acts, verses 14-24. This was the Apostle Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. All the believers were gathered in one place (there were so few of them, they could still all fit in one place). The Holy Spirit fell upon them in a mighty rush of wind and it appeared as if flaming tongues of fire danced above each person’s head. And all the Christians began talking in different languages—languages they had not previously known—about he wonderful things God had done through Jesus Christ. And all the Jews from around the world who were gathered in Jerusalem for the celebration of Pentecost came running to see the commotion and they heard the Good News about Jesus in their own languages. Some of the people who listened were amazed, but others thought the Christians were drunk.
14 Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. 15 Some of you are saying these people are drunk. It isn’t true! It’s much too early for that. People don’t get drunk by nine o’clock in the morning. 16 No, what you see this morning was predicted centuries ago by the prophet Joel:
18‘In the last days, God said,
I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams.
19In those days I will pour out my Spirit
upon all my servants, men and women alike,
and they will prophesy.
And I will cause wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below—
blood and fire and clouds of smoke.
20The sun will be turned into darkness,
and the moon will turn bloodred,
before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.
21And anyone who calls on the name of the Lord
will be saved.’
22“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus of Nazareth by doing wonderful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. 23 But you followed God’s prearranged plan. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to the cross and murdered him. 24 However, God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life again, for death could not keep him in its grip.
These are the powerful words Peter preached to the people of Israel. The people who in their time, were supposed to be the true worshipers of the one true God. Yes, of all the people in the world, the Israelites were supposed to know God the best. Yet when God sent His one and only Son to redeem the world, they led the fight to have him murdered.
In our time, we Christians are supposed to be the true worshipers of the one true God—the ones who know Him and love Him the best. Yet how many times do we nail him to the cross again and again by sinning and doing things we know we ought not. Lying, stealing, cheating, bickering, gossiping, lusting, drunkenness, adultery, giving more priority to the things and people of this world than to the one true God who made them all.
22 “People of Israel [that’s you and me], listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus of Nazareth by doing wonderful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. 23 But you followed God’s prearranged plan. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to the cross and murdered him. 24 However, God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life again, for death could not keep him in its grip.”
Have You Heard?
Have you heard about my Lord? Have you heard about my Jesus? He wasn’t born as some high and mighty king. No! He was born as poor peasant to a family who couldn’t even find him a room to be born in. He ended up being born in a stable with a bunch of farm animals.
Have you heard the story of my Lord? Have you heard the story of my Jesus? He grew up poor, working with his hands. His family couldn’t afford to send him college. But “he grew both in height and in wisdom, and he was loved by God and by all who knew him.” [i]
His name is Jesus! When he turned thirty, he was baptized by his cousin John and the Spirit of God descended upon him like a dove. And God spoke from heaven with a thundering voice of authority and said, ““You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” [ii]
His name is Jesus! When He gathered together his disciples and followers, he didn’t choose people because of how much money they had. He didn’t choose people because of their status. He didn’t choose people because they were good enough or because they were well educated. Instead he chose fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, outcasts, and ordinary people like you and me.
Have you heard about Jesus my Lord?
1. He spoke to one man who was paralyzed and told him to get up and walk because he was healed, he said your sins are forgiven—and the man got up and walked!
2. Once he was sailing with his disciples across the Sea of Galilee when a fierce storm came up and huge waves began to crash against the boat, breaking over the bow until the boat was nearly full of water. And though his disciples were frozen with fear, Jesus calmly commanded the wind and the water to “Quiet down!” and suddenly the wind stopped and the sea was calm.
3. One time, a wild eyed man, foaming at the mouth, possessed by a legion of demons came running out of a cemetery, falling before my Lord Jesus screaming, “Why are you bothering me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? For God’s sake, don’t torture me!”[iii] And Jesus commanded the demons to come out of the poor retched man and he sent them into a heard of pigs and sent the pigs running down into the sea where they drowned.
4. He made the blind to see and the deaf to hear and the mute to speak and the lame to walk.
5. He fed 4,000 people with 7 loaves of bread and a few small fish.
6. He comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable.
7. He said You are not defiled by what you eat; you are defiled by what you say and do!” [iv]
8. On top of the mountain, he was transfigured and his clothing became dazzling white, and he stood and talked with Moses and Elijah, even though they’d been dead for hundreds of years. And even though Peter and James and John were so blown away by the whole experience that they wanted to build 3 shrines and stay on the mountaintop worshiping forever, Jesus wouldn’t allow it because he knew his place was back down in the valley suffering for the people.
9. He stood in front of Lazarus’ tomb, and though the body’d already been dead and buried for so long it’d begun to smell, he commanded, “Lazarus, come out!” And a dead man obeyed and came back to life so that they had to unwrap the grave clothes and let Lazarus go free.
10. Speaking of his own body he said, “Destroy this temple, and I will rebuild it again in 3 days!”
Have you heard about my Lord? Have you heard about My Jesus? He looked at me, a young man lost in sin, a adolescent who came from a broken home, a young teenager who wanted to have sex and get drunk and act stupid all the time, a kid who hated his father, a youth who thought it was cool to vandalize and destroy property, a 16 year old reckless driver who should’ve gotten himself or someone else killed—he looked at me and he saved me from the path to destruction down which I was heading. And he snatched me up from the fires of hell over which I was dangling. And he set my feet upon the rock and gave me a new life of abundance.
Have you heard about Jesus my Lord? He looks at you, the man who is cheating on his wife. He looks you, the kid who is getting high on drugs. He looks you, the girl who is having sex with her boyfriend because she doesn’t want him to leave her all alone. He looks at you, the workaholic who is neglecting your family, wasting your life climbing the corporate ladder while your family is going down the tubes. He looks at you, the teenager who is so disillusioned with the vanity of life that you would contemplate going on a shooting spree or even taking your own life. He looks at us all, who are dying of spiritual thirst in this dry and weary land where there’s no hope, and he says, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”[v]
Have you heard what they did to my Lord? They arrested him in the middle of the night. And they falsely accused him. And they paid some worthless people to lie about the things he had said and done. And they put him through a fraudulent trial in the middle of the night. And they convicted him before the sun came up. And they tricked a mob into trading the life of the sinless, spotless Son of God for the life of the murderous Barabbas. And they spat on him, and they mocked him, and they beat him within an inch of his life, and they put a crown of thorns on his head, and then they nailed his hands and feet to a cross and hung him there until he died. And then they chunked him in a cave and rolled a big, fat stone in front of it and thought they had seen the last of the Son of God.
Oh, but have you heard the good news about Jesus my Lord? Acts 2:24, However, God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life again, for death could not keep him in its grip. After three days, the stone was rolled away and Jesus got up and walked out of that tomb. And he appeared to many of his followers, both men and women, and he proved to them that he was really alive. And he’s proven it to me too, time and time again, that he is indeed alive even today.
Acts 2:36, “So let it be clearly known by everyone in Israel [and by you and me too] that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified to be both Lord and Messiah!”
“Brothers and sisters, what should we do?”
“Each of us must turn from our sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. Then we will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is to us and to our children, and everyone in every part of the world.
Brothers and sisters, I urge you, as strongly as I know how, save yourselves from this generation that has gone astray!”
Prayer of Repentance
Oh God, we have heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Have mercy on us, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of our sins. Wash us clean from our guilt. Purify us of our sin. For we recognize our shameful deeds—they haunt us day and night. Against you, and you alone, have we sinned; we have done what is evil in your sight.
You will be proved right in what You say, and Your judgment against us is just. For we were born sinners—yes, from the moment we were conceived. But You desire honesty from the heart, so You can teach us to be wise in our inmost being. Purify us from our sins, and we will be clean; wash us, and we will be whiter than snow. Oh, give us back our joy again; You have broken us—now let us rejoice. Don’t keep looking at our sins. Remove the stain of our guilt. Create in us a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within us. Do not banish us from Your presence, and don’t take Your Holy Spirit from us. Restore to us again the joy of Your salvation, and make us willing to obey You. Then we will teach Your ways to sinners, and they will return to You. Forgive us for shedding the blood of your Son, O God who saves; then we will joyfully sing of Your forgiveness. Unseal our lips, O Lord, that we may praise You. You would not be pleased with anything we could try to do to earn your forgiveness, or we would do them. Even if we spent our whole lives trying to earn Your acceptance, You would not accept us. The only sacrifice You want from us is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, You will not despise. Look at us with favor and help us; reconstruct Your holy dwelling place within our hearts. Then You will be pleased with the things we do and our whole way of living will be pleasant in Your sight.
In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
[i] Paraphrase Luke 2:52
[ii] Luke 3:22b
[iii] Paraphrase Mark 5:7
[iv] Paraphrase Matthew 15:11
[v] Paraphrase John 4:10