God’s Acts of Providence (27)


Saint Peter Preaching at Pentecost by Benjamin West

The Way that Refused to Go Away (5)

Pentecost (1)

Acts 2:14-17; 22-25; 36

Pentecost occurred fifty days after the Resurrection and ten days after the Ascension.  All the Resurrection accounts in Scripture tell of encounters limited to those who most likely had been Jesus’ followers prior to the Crucifixion.  It therefore is reasonable to assume that most, if not all, of these earth-shattering events were occurring outside the consciousness of the civil and religious authorities.

It’s possible that they were watching the Disciples, and, if so, would have been perplexed as to why they weren’t disbanding and slinking back to their homes.  There are also accounts of striking events associated with Christ’s death and resurrection such as the tearing of the curtain of the temple from top to bottom, an earthquake and reports of the holy dead walking through Jerusalem (Matthew 27:51-53).

Thus, there could have been reason for unease in the authority’s minds.  However, given the general peace and ability to write off disquieting information as mere coincidence or ignorant superstition, it’s reasonable to presume that, fifty-three days after the death of this Jesus of Nazareth there was a sense that normalcy was returning.

That false peace was about to be shattered by the bold words of a fisherman.  Never again would kings or priests own the field unopposed.  For on that Pentecost morning The Body of Christ rose up anew. And though it has been sorely attacked and known terrible inner strife, it still moves forward with sovereign purpose towards its goal.

2 14But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.

15For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day;[1] 16but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;

Note first the eloquence of this introduction.  These are not the halting, muddled words of an ignorant fisherman.  No, they are the clear, confident, inspired words of a polished orator.  But how could this be, as Peter would have been dressed in simple garb and many must have known him as the coward who had betrayed his master when the chips were down.

The sermon continues…

22“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know– 23this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25For David says concerning him, ‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken

Now the stunning news has been revealed.  Peter began by saying, “These men are not drunk.”  He now makes a claim that places into question not their sobriety but rather their sanity.  But prior to that he accuses his listeners of a crime against the LORD God Himself.

Can a more precarious position from which to announce a new faith be imagined?  Let’s review.  Your leader will be a crucified criminal, you are guilty of committing a terrible crime against the LORD God, this criminal has been raised from the dead by the testimony of some country bumpkin fisherman and finally, King David, the most beloved and revered of all rulers, had prophesized that this criminal was his “Lord.”

The word “insane” seems terribly inadequate as a holder of meaning for such a claim.  Recall that the risen Lord had not made Himself generally visible, but rather appeared only to His Own.  Recall also that the authorities had made it absolutely clear how they would deal with those following this troublemaking messiah.  And, finally, recall that many, or most, in this crowd had seen Jesus die is shame and solitude outside the city, nailed to a tree.

And yet, the claim was made.  Not timidly, but boldly.  Meditate on this.

The sermon concludes…

36”Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

The sheer audacity of this conclusion cannot be overstated. The mind simply reels at the thought of such a claim.

What should have happened is that Peter and his little band of fellows were tarred, feathered, mocked and run out of town on a rail (or the equivalent for that time).  Or, more likely, they should have ended up hanging on their own crosses outside of Jerusalem.


[1] 9 A.M.

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