This part of a series of Bible reading notes. Each day we give a short reading from the Bible, to see it click here, and some notes to explain what’s going on. If you’ve never read the Bible why not give it a go? Today we a begin a look at the first sermon preached after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
I’m old enough to remember the first Moon landing, it was my birthday, I was a child and yes I really am that old! I remember my grandmother saying just before the landing that the world would end if they ever do things like that. The world seemed to hold its breath as the little craft landed and then Neil Armstrong called over the radio: “Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.” There was then a long wait when the Astronauts were supposed to sleep! Before several hours later venturing down the ladder to walk on the surface of the Moon. I remember the TV picture was absolutely terrible, we were squinting to see anything – it just looked like a snow storm, and then we heard the famous words from Armstrong;
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
He had meant to say; ‘one small step for a man’ which would have made sense but under the pressure of being watched by billions and knowing that his words would be remembered for many years – he had fluffed his line. To be fair, if it had been me, I would probably fallen down the ladder and been stuck lying on my back like a stranded beetle.
The first Christians must been desperate to tell everyone about Jesus but he had instructed them to wait until they received the power he had promised. Now the Holy Spirit had arrived, it was time to speak, Peter stood to address the crowd and he didn’t fluff his lines – it was a great message.
Before we look at Peter’s sermon I think it’s important to look at something the passage doesn’t say. We know that things began with the believers in one place, probably the upper room (1:13, 2:1), but somehow they didn’t stay there. The message was preached to a great crowd and about 3,000 were added to the church that day (v41). They could have stayed where they were and had a lovely time in God’s presence but they went out. There is a danger that we can view the Holy Spirit as a nice experience, not that there is anything wrong with having an experience of God’s presence but his purpose is to make Jesus known. God gives his Spirit to empower us as we proclaim Christ;
“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.” (John 15:26)
The first thing to notice is Peter’s use of the Old Testament. He recognised that the extraordinary event was a fulfilment of prophecy (Joel 2:28-32). He quoted the section in full, even though some of it was still to be fulfilled and inserted one or two words. Right at the start of the quotation Peter said; ‘God says’. The implication is clear – the Old Testament says it, therefore God said it. This was a sermon loaded with Scripture.
Secondly, this was a sermon centred on Christ. Jesus had died less than two months earlier so it would have been fresh in their minds. Peter made it clear, God was saying something through the miracles Jesus had performed, he would go on to spell it out for them but that’s for tomorrow. The tension between the sovereignty of God and human responsibility is something we love to discuss but Peter is happy to talk about both in the same sentence (v23). God allowed it, he had a purpose in it and he knew about it in advance but you did it.
Peter could lay the responsibility for Jesus death at his hearers but it was God who raised him. He was effectively saying; ‘you killed him but God raised him.’ I love the final line in today’s passage; ‘it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him’. Hallelujah!
“His only righteousness I show,
His saving grace proclaim;
’Tis all my business here below
To cry “Behold the Lamb!” (Jesus the Name High Over All – Charles Wesley)