Speechless and Powerless.

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” 18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened. 22 For the man on whom this sign of healing was performed was more than forty years old.  – Acts 4:13-22 ESV

The Jewish council or Sanhedrin had a problem on their hands, and it was one they had experienced before. While they had hoped that the death of Jesus would have put an end to all the talk about Him being the Messiah, they found themselves dealing with Him once again. This time, it was His disciples preaching and healing in His name and claiming that Jesus was not dead, but had been brought back to life by God, confirming His role as Messiah. And these uneducated, common men were drawing large crowds of followers, just like Jesus had done while He was alive. In fact, they say virtually the same thing about Peter and John as they did about Jesus.

The Jews therefore marveled, saying, “How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?” – John 7:15 ESV

The Jews had expected nothing from Jesus when He appeared on the scene, because He was nothing more than a lowly carpenter from the backwater town of Nazareth. And Jesus had told them the source of His ability to teach.

16 So Jesus answered them, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me. 17 If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority. 18 The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. – John 7:16-18 ESV

Like Jesus, Peter had simply been doing the will of the Father. His authority to do and say the things he did was from God, passed on to Him by the Son. At the point in time when Jesus had given the disciples their commission, He had told them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18 ESV). And He had passed that authority on to each of them.

The members of the Sanhedrin were at a loss as to what to say or do. Luke uses the Greek word thaumazō to describe their response to the surprising boldness and eloquence of Peter and John. It’s a word that conveys the idea of wonder, even admiration at what they had seen. These men lacked formal education, but they spoke with power and authority. They weren’t intimidated by having to stand before the 70 members of the Sanhedrin, in their flowing robes and palpable air of superiority. The demeanor of the two disciples and the presence of the former;y lame beggar left the religious leaders speechless and at a loss as to what to do. So they sent Peter and John out of the room in order to discuss next steps.

They had to admit that a miracle had been done. Peter and John had performed an undeniable sign and the gentleman who had been seen leaping, dancing and worshiping in the Temple was proof. And there were plenty of witnesses, including the thousands who had expressed belief in Jesus at the words of Peter and John. The Sanhedrin had a problem. They wanted this to all go away, but they were reluctant to punish Peter and John because they feared the reaction of the people. But they desperately wanted to put a stop to the disciples spreading their talk of Jesus being alive, so they came up with the plan to threaten Peter and John.

17 But to keep them from spreading their propaganda any further, we must warn them not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name again.” 18 So they called the apostles back in and commanded them never again to speak or teach in the name of Jesus. – Acts 4:17-18 NLT

Armed with their authority as the official religious leaders of Israel, they demanded that Peter and John refrain from talking about Jesus any longer. They put a gag order on them, believing that these two men would acquiesce our of fear of reprisals. But they were in for an even greater shock. Peter, as usual, was the first to respond to their demand.

“Do you think God wants us to obey you rather than him? We cannot stop telling about everything we have seen and heard.” – Acts 4:19-20 NLT

Peter answers with logic. What the Sanhedrin were demanding of he and John was absurd. Were they really expecting the disciples to willingly disobey God and stop speaking about Jesus, the Messiah? Did they really believe they could stop what God was doing by shutting up Peter and John? That was what they had tried to do by putting Jesus to death, and look how successful that had been. This was much bigger than the Sanhedrin, the high priest, Peter and John, or even Rome. They would not be able to stop would God had ordained. Peter most likely recalled the words Jesus had spoken to him when he had described Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16 NLT). Jesus had blessed him and told him that this testimony was God-given, revealed from the Father Himself. And then Jesus had said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18 NLT). Peter’s testimony concerning Jesus’ identity as the Messiah would be the “rock” upon which the church would be built. And no one and nothing would be able to conquer it, including the all-powerful religious leaders of Israel. They were completely impotent when it came to stifling the work of the Spirit of God. Yes, they could punish the disciples. They could imprison them, beat them, even kill them. But Peter and John most likely recalled the words of Jesus, recorded in Luke gospel. “Dear friends, don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot do any more to you after that” (Luke 12:4 NLT). Jesus had been killed, but had been raised back to life, and Peter and John had seen it with their own eyes. So, they weren’t exactly intimidated by the threat of death. They believed that what they were doing was the will of God and nothing was going to prevent them from doing what they had been commissioned to do.

The Sanhedrin were flabbergasted by the disciples’ response and were at a loss as to what to do next, so they threatened them one last time and released. And Luke records, “everyone was praising God for this miraculous sign—the healing of a man who had been lame for more than forty years” (Acts 4:21-22 NLT). God had shown up and this man’s healing had been the proof. But his healing had been intended as a sign. It was evidence of Peter and John’s God-given authority to speak on behalf of Jesus and act as His representatives on earth. The healing had validated their claims of apostleship. Their real mission was not to heal the sick, but to save the lost. Their primary calling was to restore sinners to a right relationship with God, not sight to the blind or the ability to walk to the lame. Those actions, while miraculous and attention-getting, were a means to a greater end, and Peter had made it perfectly clear: “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NLT). 

It is so easy to get hung up on the signs and miss out on the Savior. We can become enamored with the idea of miracles and lose sight of the Messiah. Jesus had many followers when He walked the earth, but there were those in the crowds who only wanted physical healing, not spiritual renewal. Others were waiting to see if He would feed them, but failed to recognize Him as the bread of life. The majority were seeking a sign, but when it showed up, they never saw the Savior behind it. They missed the point. Peter and John were out to save souls. They were determined to preach the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. And nothing was going to stand in their way, not even the Sanhedrin.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

No Other Name.

On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:5-12 ESV

Peter and John have been arrested by the Jewish council or Sanhedrin. This official, governmental group served as both the senate and supreme court of the Jews. It was presided over by the high priest and contained 70 men who were either Sadducees or Pharisees. The high priest and the majority of the members of the council were Sadducees, who were from the more aristocratic cast, and represented the more orthodox point of view, while the Pharisees were considered lay leaders who were of a more liberal bent theologically. Peter and John would have been fully aware of who it was who had arrested them and the kind of trouble they could be in. According to the Mosaic Law, the Sanhedrin had the right to question them regarding their activities in Solomon’s Portico the previous day. They had performed a sign, a healing of the lame man. They had also had used this sign as an opportunity to teach the people. According to Deuteronomy 13:1-5, there were official instructions regarding such cases.

1 “Suppose there are prophets among you or those who dream dreams about the future, and they promise you signs or miracles, and the predicted signs or miracles occur. If they then say, ‘Come, let us worship other gods’—gods you have not known before— do not listen to them. The Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul. Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him. The false prophets or visionaries who try to lead you astray must be put to death, for they encourage rebellion against the Lord your God, who redeemed you from slavery and brought you out of the land of Egypt. Since they try to lead you astray from the way the Lord your God commanded you to live, you must put them to death. In this way you will purge the evil from among you.”

What Peter and John were on trial for was heresy. There was no question that they had performed a miracle, but they had claimed that they had done it in the name of Jesus.

“Through faith in the name of Jesus, this man was healed—and you know how crippled he was before. Faith in Jesus’ name has healed him before your very eyes. – Acts 3:16 NLT

And Peter had made it perfectly clear the day before that this Jesus had been the servant of God.

“People of Israel,” he said, “what is so surprising about this? And why stare at us as though we had made this man walk by our own power or godliness? For it is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God of all our ancestors—who has brought glory to his servant Jesus by doing this.” – Acts 3:12-13 NLT

Not only that, Peter had referred to Jesus as holy and righteous, and of having been raised back to life by God Himself. In doing so, God had confirmed that Jesus was the Messiah.

God was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah – Acts 2:18 NLT

As we saw yesterday, there are a number of points found in Peter’s address to the crowd that sat wrong with the Sadducees. First of all, they didn’t believe in the concept of a bodily resurrection. They also rejected the idea of a literal, human Messiah. And then, there was the problem of Peter announcing that Jesus, the very man the Jewish council had conspired to have put to death, was alive. The last thing they needed or wanted was for rumors to spread that Jesus was alive and well. On top of that, the thought of the disciples of Jesus stirring up trouble in their own city, preaching a message of repentance and salvation through this dead man, Jesus, was more than they could take. So, they asked Peter and John, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” This was not the first time the Sanhedrin had been forced to ask this question. The gospels record an encounter that Jesus had with this very same council some time earlier, during His earthly ministry. Jesus had just cleansed the Temple, having turned over the tables of the money changers and those selling pigeons. Matthew records:

14 The blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them. 15 The leading priests and the teachers of religious law saw these wonderful miracles and heard even the children in the Temple shouting, “Praise God for the Son of David.” – Matthew 21:14-15 NLT

And the following day, when Jesus entered the Temple grounds, the Sanhedrin approached him and asked, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?” (Matthew 21:23 NLT). Jesus had refused to answer their question, but Peter, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, spoke up boldly and authoritatively.

“Do you want to know how he was healed? Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead.” – Acts 4:9-10 NLT

Peter knew exactly what he was saying and to whom he was saying it. Rather than carefully craft his words and give the politically correct answer that might defuse the situation, he spoke the truth. If they wanted to know by what authority he had healed the lame man, he was going to let them know. And he knew it was not what they wanted to hear. Peter had been an eye-witness to the trials of Jesus. He had even betrayed Jesus in the most difficult moments of His life. He had wept over the reality that His friend, mentor and Messiah was dead. But he had also seen the empty tomb with his own eyes and spoken face to face with Jesus in His resurrected form. On top of that, He had stood and watched as Jesus physically ascended into the clouds. And just before that had happened, he had heard Jesus say these words:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

So, if they wanted to know by what authority he did these things, Peter was more than willing to give them an answer. But Peter tells them more than they wanted to hear. Not only was Jesus the authority behind what they had done and said, He was “the stone that you builders rejected” (Acts 4:11 NLT). These men before whom Peter and John stood, were to be the religious leaders and spiritual guides to the people of Israel. But they had rejected the very one whom God had sent. Jesus, whom God had sent as the cornerstone of the spiritual nation of Israel, had been tossed aside by those who claimed to be the shepherds of Israel. Peter is quoting from Psalm 118, a Messianic psalm that predicts the coming of the Messiah. But these “builders” had refused to incorporate the “stone” that God had sent. They were attempting to build a spiritual house without using the key ingredient, the chief cornerstone. And the Sanhedrin would have known the entire context of the Psalm 118 passage Peter quoted.

22 The stone that the builders rejected
    has now become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing,
    and it is wonderful to see.
24 This is the day the Lord has made.
    We will rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:22-24 NLT

They had rejected Jesus as their Messiah, have put Him to death. But God had restored Him to life and this was cause for rejoicing. And it was more than enough reason for Peter having done and said what he did. He had all the authority he needed.

Jesus was gone, but His influence remained. Peter claimed that there was great power in the name of Jesus. And it was by His name that the lame man had been healed. It was in the power of Jesus’ name that Peter and John had spoken to the people. It was according to Jesus’ name that God was offering salvation to any and all who would accept it.

“There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:12 NLT

Peter presented the gospel, the good news regarding Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, had come to earth, lived a sinless life, died a sinner’s death in the place of sinful men, and was raised back to life, having satisfied the just demands of His Holy Father, paying the penalty due for the sins of mankind. Because of what He had done, Jesus had all authority to rescue men and women from captivity to sin and death. And He had passed that authority on to His disciples. He had sent His Spirit to indwell them. He had commissioned them to spread the message of salvation through belief in His name to any and all who would listen. And we know that, because of Peter’s message the day before, “the number of men who believed now totaled about 5,000” (Acts 4:4 NLT).

The name of Jesus carries weight. It wield authority. It has power. Jesus had made a startling promise to His disciples.

12 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father. 13 You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. 14 Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it! – John 14:12-14 NLT

And now it was all taking place. They were discovering the remarkable reality that there is no other name that matters but Jesus.

 

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Word and Work of God.

1 And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.  – Acts 4:1-4 ESV

Let’s recall how Peter ended his somewhat short sermon. He concluded with the statement:

“God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” – Acts 3:26 ESV

He reiterates the purpose behind Jesus’ coming. He appeared in human flesh, not just as any man, but as a Hebrew. But John would later restate what Peter said in his sermon:

He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. – John 1:11 ESV

We know that when He began His earthly ministry, Jesus preached a message of repentance. He picked up where John the Baptist had left off, after ha had been arrested and imprisoned by Herod.

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17 ESV

But as Peter made clear earlier in his message, that they were guilty of putting to death their very own Messiah.

14 You rejected this holy, righteous one and instead demanded the release of a murderer. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. – Acts 3:14-15 NLT

But Peter had also boldly proclaimed that God had raised Jesus back to life. This is made perfectly clear when Luke describes the reaction of the Jewish religious leadership to the words Peter had spoken.

These leaders were very disturbed that Peter and John were teaching the people that through Jesus there is a resurrection of the dead. – Acts 4:2 NLT

Peter’s message elicited at least two different reactions that day. First of all, the religious authorities of the day made their thoughts known, in no uncertain terms. They were perturbed. The word Luke chose to use means, “to be troubled, displeased, offended, pained, to be worked up.” To put it another way, they were not happy campers. But why? What was it that Peter said that so incensed them? After all, he had offered them times of refreshing and an opportunity to repent and receive forgiveness for their sins. But rather than responding with gratitude and humble submission, these religious leaders were put our and offended. And they had Peter and John arrested.

In order to understand just what is going on here, it is important that we take note of how Luke describes the religious authorities who got wind of Peter’s message and showed up at Solomon’s Portico that day. He writes, “And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them” (Acts 4:2 ESV). His mention of the Sadducees is important, because they were a powerful religious sect made up of Levitical priests. Their name derives from the Hebrew word, sadaq (tsahdak), which means to “to be righteous.” They were highly influential and usually came from the governing class of the Jews. It is believed that most, if not all, of the high priests were Sadducees. And, interestingly enough, the captain of the temple guard was also a Sadducee. These men viewed themselves as the orthodox keepers of Jewish religious faith, and one of their major distinctions  was their denial of the resurrection. The Jewish historian, Josephus, confirms that the Sadducees denied the resurrection, the immortality of the soul, eternal rewards, or the “world to come” (Josephus, Antiquities, 18.1.4 [16]; Wars, 2.8.14 [165]). So, we can begin to see why they were so upset at what Peter had been saying. His claims of Jesus being the Messiah and having been raised from the dead were a real problem for them, which is why Luke records that they were “greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead” (Acts 4:2 ESV). Even Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the Messiah would have been hard for them to swallow, because they did not believe in a literal, human Messiah.

“For them the Messiah was an ideal, not a person, and the Messianic Age was a process, not a cataclysmic or even datable event.” – Richard N. Longenecker, “Acts,” in John-Acts, vol. 9 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, pp. 212

For them, Peter’s claims were without basis and totally unacceptable. He was nothing more than a heretic and a purveyor of false teaching who would end up causing them nothing but headaches. So, they broke up Peter’s impromptu sermon in the portico and had him put into custody until the next day. They most likely had the crowds dispersed in an attempt to restore order to the Temple grounds.

But there was another reaction that day. Peter’s words did not fall on deaf ears. While the religious authorities heard nothing but heresy, there were those in the crowd who heard truth, and they responded. And Luke matter-of-factly records, “But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand” (Acts 4;4 ESV). Notice that he says, “the number of the men.” That means the 5,000 figure did not include women or children who expressed faith that day. The actual number was most likely much higher, as much as double.  These people heard what Peter had to say and, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, repented and believed. His offer of forgiveness of sins and times of refreshing had struck a chord with them. They were ready to accept what he was offering and Luke tells us that they did.

What we see here is an example of the gospel’s polarizing potential. Whenever the truth concerning salvation through faith in Christ alone is preached, we will see these two reactions. There will be those who reject and refute it. Talk of sin and the need for a Savior will always turn off some. Discussions of repentance and the need for redemption because of man’s sinfulness will be offensive to many. Talk of resurrection and eternal life will come across as nothing more than wishful thinking or the superstitious and simplistic reasonings of the ignorant and uneducated. But there will also be those who hear the very same message and who respond in belief. What’s the difference? Is one group smarter than the other? Are some more spiritually aware and able to hear the gospel more clearly? Why did the religious leaders reject the words of Peter, while more than 5,000 others listened and believed?

There was another gathering that took place in Solomon’s Portico, back when Jesus was still ministering in His earthly body. The apostle John records that Jesus was confronted by a crowd of people, which included some of the religious leadership of the Jews.

22 Then came the feast of the Dedication in Jerusalem. 23 It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple area in Solomon’s Portico. 24 The Jewish leaders surrounded him and asked, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” – John 10:22-24 NET

Pay careful attention to the words of Jesus, recorded by John.

25 Jesus replied, “I told you and you do not believe. The deeds I do in my Father’s name testify about me. 26 But you refuse to believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; no one will snatch them from my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can snatch them from my Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.” – John 10:25-30 NET

What does Jesus say to these religious leaders? “You are not my sheep.” And the proof was that they didn’t listen to His voice as their Shepherd. When He called, they refused to come. And He goes on to say that it was because they had not given to Him by God. Later on, in His High Priestly Prayer, recorded by John in chapter 17 of his gospel, Jesus prayed to the Father, “I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (John 17:6 NLT). He was obviously speaking of the 12 disciples who had followed Him and participated alongside Him in His earthly ministry. But just a few verses later, we have Jesus expressing the following words to His Father: “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory” (John 17:9-10 NLT). And then He provides further clarification, saying, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message…Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began!” (John 17:20, 24 NLT).

God gave. It was He who moved in the hearts of those who heard and caused them to respond that day. He opened their deaf ears to that they were able to hear and understand the truth of the gospel. He opened their blind eyes so that they might see the beauty of the Son of God and the reality of their own sin and their need for a Savior. Peter would later write in one of his letters:

1 I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:1-2 NLT

The apostle Paul write virtually the same thing in his letter to the believers in Ephesus.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. – Ephesians 1:4-5 NLT

There were two reactions that day. Some believed, while others didn’t. They all heard the very same words spoken by Peter. They were all given the same opportunity to respond. But why did some believer while others became angry? The Sadducees weren’t the only ones in the crowd who found the concept of the resurrection difficult to understand or believe. They weren’t the only ones who had a hard time with the idea of Jesus being their Messiah and long-awaited Savior. So, what was going on? To put it simple, God was at work. He moved through the power of His Holy Spirit and “many of those who had heard the word believed” (Acts 4:4 ESV).

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Times of Refreshing.

17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.” – Acts 3:17-26 ESV

The Messiah had come, but the Jews had refused to acknowledge Him as such. That’s the gist of the message Peter gave to the crowd of Jews who had gathered at Solomon’s Portico on the Temple grounds. He was unapologetic in his accusation against them:

14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. – Acts 3:14-15 ESV

But he did cut them some slack by acknowledging that what they did, they did in ignorance. The Greek word used is agnoia, and it refers to a lack of knowledge. They didn’t know what they were doing. They were guilty of having done it, but were not aware of the significance of their actions. They were legitimately convinced that Jesus was not the Messiah and so, they rejected Him as such. And their ignorance of who Jesus was extended from their lack of knowledge regarding God and the Holy Scriptures. At one point, during His earthly ministry, Jesus spoke these words to a group of Pharisees:

37 “And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face, 38 and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me—the one he sent to you.

39 “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.” – John 5:37-40 NLT

They longed for eternal life. They devoured the Old Testament Scriptures in search of the key to eternal life. But they failed to see the countless prophecies regarding the Messiah. They refused to acknowledge the prophecies that foretold of the Messiah coming as a suffering servant. The ignored or reinterpreted passages like those found in Isaiah.

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:4-6 ESV

The Messiah that Isaiah prophesied about was destined by God to suffer and die, because He was coming to free the Jews from the condemnation they faced as a result of their rebellion against God. He was coming to free them from slavery to sin, not from the oppression of Roman rule. And it was all part of God’s divine plan for the redemption of mankind.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. – Isaiah 53:10 ESV

And they missed it. And in missing Jesus as their Messiah, they had missed their opportunity to truly know God as their Father. It was Jesus, as the Messiah, who had come to restore sinful mankind, Jews and Gentiles, to a right relationship with God. But Jesus had told the Pharisees that day:

“Since you don’t know who I am, you don’t know who my Father is. If you knew me, you would also know my Father.” – John 8:19 NLT

They were ignorant. And, as a result, they were missing out on an incredible opportunity, provided to them by Jesus. And those very same Pharisees whom Jesus reproached for failing to see Him as their Messiah, had asked Him a follow-up question:

25 “Who are you?” they demanded.

Jesus replied, “The one I have always claimed to be. 26 I have much to say about you and much to condemn, but I won’t. For I say only what I have heard from the one who sent me, and he is completely truthful.” 27 But they still didn’t understand that he was talking about his Father.

28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will understand that I am he. I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father taught me. 29 And the one who sent me is with me—he has not deserted me. For I always do what pleases him.” – John 8:25-29 NLT

Even while He was alive, Jesus had made it perfectly clear that His death was part of God’s plan. He even predicted the means of His death: by crucifixion. And Jesus infers that it will be after His death, when He has been raised back to life by the Spirit of God, that they will begin to see and understand that He was who He had claimed to be.

And Peter reminds the Jews standing within range of his voice, “what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled” (Acts 3:18 ESV). Jesus had done what He had been sent to do. He had fulfilled the will of His Father, pleasing Him by obeying Him, even to the point of death, death on the cross (Philippians 2:8). And the only proper response on the part of the Jews in Peter’s audience was repentance. They were to change their minds about who Jesus was and turn to Him as their Messiah and Savior. It was only through Him that they could be restored to a right relationship with God.

19 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. 20 Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and he will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah. – Acts 3:19-20 NLT

What is Peter offering them? What does he mean by “times of refreshment”? Why does he say that, if they repent, God will “again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah”? There are many opinions regarding the meaning behind Peter’s statements, but it would appear that Peter is speaking of a future restoration of the nation of Israel. He is offering the individual Jews in his audience the opportunity to repent and receive Jesus as their Messiah. And we know from the opening lines of chapter four, that many did.

But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand. – Acts 4:4 ESV

But Peter was also addressing the nation of Israel as a whole. He has already said that Jesus came as their Messiah, was rejected and put to death by them. But God raised Jesus back to life and had Him return to His proper place at His Father’s side in heaven. And Peter states, “he must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through his holy prophets” (Acts 3:21 NLT). There is going to be a future repentance on the part of the Jewish people. God will send His Son a second time, and on that occasion, there will be a corporate restoration of the people of God. The apostle Paul speaks of that day.

25 I want you to understand this mystery, dear brothers and sisters, so that you will not feel proud about yourselves. Some of the people of Israel have hard hearts, but this will last only until the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ. 26 And so all Israel will be saved. As the Scriptures say,

“The one who rescues will come from Jerusalem,
    and he will turn Israel away from ungodliness.
27 And this is my covenant with them,
    that I will take away their sins.” – Romans 11:25-27 NLT

Paul went on to remind the Gentile Christians to whom he was writing that it was because of the failure of the Jews to accept the good news regarding their Messiah, that the gospel was sent to the nations.

Once, you Gentiles were rebels against God, but when the people of Israel rebelled against him, God was merciful to you instead. – Romans 11:30 NLT

But God has not turned His back on the Jews.

28 Many of the people of Israel are now enemies of the Good News, and this benefits you Gentiles. Yet they are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 29 For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn. – Romans 11:28-29 NLT

And that seems to be Peter’s point. Times of refreshing were coming. The Messiah had come and gone, but He was coming back some day. And His role as the Messiah of the Jewish people was not yet fulfilled. He had more to do and it would be done – all in God’s preordained, perfect timing.

25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. – Ezekiel 36:25-27 NLT

Peter goes on to point out that the Jews in his audience were still God’s covenant people. And Jesus, one of their own, was the servant of God who had been predicted by the prophets. He had come. And God had sent Him to the Jewish people first.

“When God raised up his servant, Jesus, he sent him first to you people of Israel, to bless you by turning each of you back from your sinful ways.”– Acts 3:26 NLT

Jesus had come preaching repentance and the Kingdom of God. He had offered times of refreshing, but His message had been rejected. Now, He was offering the same message through Peter and the apostles. They could change their minds regarding Jesus and enjoy the offer of a new relationship with God made possible through His sacrificial death. Or they could reject Him once again. As individuals, their opportunity to experience time of refreshment was right at that moment. But as a nation, Israel has been promised a time of refreshment that has yet to come.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Why Do You Wonder?

11 While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s. 12 And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. 14 But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. 16 And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.” Acts 3:11-16 ESV

When reading the book of Acts, it is easy to focus on the miracles that are described within it: The tongues of fire and the sound of roaring wind that accompanied the coming of the Spirit, the disciples speaking in foreign languages, and the remarkable acts of healing and casting out of demons that took place on a regular basis. In this chapter, Luke records Peter’s healing of a man who had been unable to walk since the day he had been born. He had been relegated to begging for alms at the Temple gate. But, in the name of Jesus, Peter restored this man’s ability to walk, right in front of the crowds gathered for the hour of prayer at the Temple. And as the news of this incredible miracle spread and the crowd grew, Peter took advantage of the situation. He used the miracle of the man’s healing as an opportunity to speak to the crowd that had gathered, and this becomes the real focus of Luke’s retelling of this event.

The context is extremely important. Luke makes it clear that they are on Temple grounds, and that Peter delivers his message in Solomon’s Portico. This is important, because it clearly establishes the fact that the makeup of the crowd to which Peter is going to speak is predominantly, if not, exclusively Jewish. There may have been Gentiles in the audience, but the majority would have been converts to Judaism. Solomon’s Portico encompassed what was called the Court of the Gentiles, a large open area the surrounded the Temple precinct. Gentiles, or non-Jews, were allowed in this area, but were forbidden to enter the main Temple area, under penalty of death.

Luke states that Peter, recognizing the huge crowd that had gathered, and their astonishment at the news of the lame man’s healing, spoke these words: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?” (Acts 3:12 ESV). His entire attention was focused on his fellow Jews who, like him, had come at the ninth hour for prayer. They had come at the regularly scheduled hour to offer their prayers to Yahweh but, instead, they had witnessed the unexpected. Their normal habits and daily duties had been interrupted by something miraculous and out-of-the-ordinary. And Peter knew what they were thinking. He was fully aware that the crowds were whispering and pointing at he and John, wondering who they were and how they were able to heal the lame beggar. But Peter makes it clear to the crowd that the miracle they had just witnessed had not been their doing, but God’s. He refers to “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers” (Acts 3:13 ESV), attributing to their own God the power behind the miracle. And he reminds them that this same God had “glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him” (Acts 3:13 ESV).

Peter takes an abrupt, but fully intentional turn in the focus of his talk. He gets the attention off of the healing of the lame man on onto the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. And, it’s at this point, we must recall another occasion, when Jesus and His disciples found themselves at this very same spot in the Temple grounds, speaking to a gathering of Jews,

22 It was now winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem at the time of Hanukkah, the Festival of Dedication. 23 He was in the Temple, walking through the section known as Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The people surrounded him and asked, “How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus replied, “I have already told you, and you don’t believe me. The proof is the work I do in my Father’s name. 26 But you don’t believe me because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

31 Once again the people picked up stones to kill him. 32 Jesus said, “At my Father’s direction I have done many good works. For which one are you going to stone me?”

33 They replied, “We’re stoning you not for any good work, but for blasphemy! You, a mere man, claim to be God.” – John 10:22-32 NLT

Jesus had proved His claim to be the Messiah through the many miracles He had performed. But the people of Israel had refused to accept Him as their Messiah. He had accused them of not being His sheep. He had declared that only those whom God had given to Him would receive eternal life. And this had infuriated the crowds that day. So much so, that they had picked up stones to kill Him.

And the amazing thing is that they eventually did kill Him, but not with stones. They turned Him over to the Roman authorities and had them do their dirty work for them. And Peter pulls no punches in accusing the Jews in the crowd standing before him that they were guilty of killing their own Messiah – “you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 3:15 ESV). The crucifixion of Jesus would have still been fresh on the minds of all those in Jerusalem. It had been a well-documented and well-attended event. Jesus had become a popular and well-known figure throughout the land of Israel. And news of His triumphal entry and subsequent death would have spread to every corner of the city. There would have also been plenty of rumors regarding the supposed resurrection of Jesus. News of the mysterious disappearance of His body would have circulated and the claims that He had been seen alive by His disciples would have spread like wildfire. And Peter takes advantage of the situation to boldly claim that Jesus was indeed alive and it was by the power associated with His name that the lame man had been healed.

“And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.” – Acts 3:16 ESV

Do you see what Peter is doing? For the Jews gathered in Solomon’s Portico, Jesus had been exposed as a fraud and a fake. While they may have at one time believed He was the Messiah, those beliefs had died along with Him as He hung on the cross. He was not what they had been expecting. He didn’t come in power and set up His kingdom on earth. For all intents and purposes, this Jesus had been nothing more than a man who made bold, even blasphemous claims, to be the Son of God. But He had died. And Peter reminds them that, “you denied the Holy and Righteous One” (Acts 3:14 ESV) and “you killed the Author of life” (Acts 3:15 ESV).

And yet, here were Peter and John, two of this dead man’s disciples, performing the very same kind of miracles He had done. Here they were, standing in Solomon’s Portico, where Jesus had been accused of blasphemy and threatened with stoning for claiming to be God. And Peter and John must have recalled the words of Jesus, spoken to the crowds that day.

36 “why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world. 37 Don’t believe me unless I carry out my Father’s work. 38 But if I do his work, believe in the evidence of the miraculous works I have done, even if you don’t believe me. Then you will know and understand that the Father is in me, and I am in the Father.” – John 10:36-38 NLT

Jesus had proven who He was. His miracles had given ample evidence of His deity. He had adequately proven His divinity and God-given role as the Messiah. But the Jews had refused to believe. They had put Him to death for being exactly who He had claimed to be. And Pilate had prophetically ordered that a sign be placed over His head on the cross, that read, “King of the Jews.” Jesus had been put to death for being the Son of God and the Savior of the world. But Peter points out that God raised Him from the dead. He restored Jesus to life and glorified Him by returning Him to His rightful place at His Father’s side. And it was because Jesus had gone that the Spirit had come. And because the Spirit had come, the disciples had received power from on high. They were able to perform the same miracles Jesus had done while He lived on this earth. They preached the same message of repentance. He was not gone. He was alive and well, revealing His presence and power through the lives of His followers.

Peter asks the crowd, “Why do you wonder?” He wants to know why they are surprised at what they had just witnessed. This was nothing more than a continuation of the works of Jesus that He had performed while He had lived among them. And it was all in keeping with Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah, the living fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. One day, in the city of Nazareth, reading from the scroll of Isaiah, Jesus spoke these words:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” – Luke 4:18-19 NLT

Then, Jesus had made this bold claim: “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:21 NLT). He was the Messiah. And Peter and John were once again providing ample proof that Jesus was exactly who He had claimed to be. He was alive and His name alone provided power to comfort the poor, provide release for the captives, healing to the blind, freedom for the oppressed and the favor of God among men.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Greater Expectations.

1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. Acts 3:1-10 ESV

The last chapter ended with an upbeat description of how things were going just days after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. – Acts 2:46-47 ESV

Now, in chapter three, we are given a glimpse into what one of those typical days looked like. Because the early church was made up predominantly of believing Jews, these individuals, including the disciples, were still attending the Temple and practicing their Jewish faith as they did before. As this chapter opens, we find Peter and John going to the Temple at 3:00 p.m., to take part in the prescribed prayer time held at that hour each day.

Luke tells us that Peter and John entered the Temple compound through “the Beautiful Gate.” This was evidently meant as a description, not as the actual name of the gate. There were three primary gates into the Temple grounds: The Shushan Gate, the Corinthian Gate and the Nicanor Gate. We are not sure which of these three gates Luke is referring to, but at this particular gate Peter and John come into contact with a lame man. Perhaps Luke uses this description as a way to emphasize and contrast the man’s impoverished and physically hopeless condition. He had been born with this infirmity and, each day, he had to be carried to the Temple in order to beg for alms. Alms-giving was a common practice in those days, involving the voluntary gift of money or goods to those in need. It was not an obligation or part of the Mosaic law, but giving to the destitute was seen as a righteous act. In fact, Jesus addressed this very topic in His Sermon on the Mount.

When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. – Matthew 6:2-4 NLT

This lame man, upon seeing Peter and John entering the Temple, asked them for alms. He had chosen his spot well, because those entering the Temple were there to worship and would have been predisposed to generosity. The first thing Peter said to the man was, “Look at us!” Most likely, the man made a habit of keeping his eyes down, a sign of his humble estate and in keeping with the Jewish mindset that those suffering from infirmities were being punished by God for their sins. Poverty, disease, physical infirmities and even widowhood were seen by most Jews as signs of God’s punishment for sin. On one occasion, Jesus and His disciples encountered a blind man, and one of the men asked Jesus, “‘Rabbi,’ his disciples asked him, ‘why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?’” (John 9:2 NLT). And Jesus answered them:

“It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered. “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him. We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work. But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” – John 9:3-5 NLT

Then John records that Jesus performed a miracle, giving sight to one who had been blind since birth. Jesus revealed the power of God in the life of this man, doing for him what he could have never accomplished on his own. The blind man, like the lame man in Luke’s story, was relegated to begging for temporary relief from his suffering. But Jesus came to give something far more lasting and life-changing than alms. He gave sight to the blind. And when the lame man begged Peter and John to give him money, Peter responded, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” (Acts 3:6 NLT). And Luke records what happened next:

Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them. – Acts 3:7-8 NLT

Peter and John both must have recalled the words of Jesus: “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.” They had received a commission from Jesus and they had received the power of the Holy Spirit, so they knew they had work to do. Peter gave the man something of far greater value than that for which he had asked. The man had begged for the gift of spare change, but Peter gave him a changed life. Notice what Luke writes, “Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.” He was a changed man. For the first time in his life, he was able to go into the Temple to worship. In his previous condition, he would have been banned from entrance into the Temple. That’s why he was forced to sit at the gate each day, hoping for some form of financial relief to assist him in his daily struggle with his physical disability and the social ostracism it caused. But now, his disability was gone. He was running, jumping and worshiping with abandon. Not only that, once the crowd recognized him as the lame man whom they passed daily outside the Beautiful Gate, they were blown away.

When Jesus had healed the blind man, it had also caused quite a stir. The people could not believe what they were seeing. And the Jewish leaders were incensed, especially because Jesus had chosen to heal on the Sabbath, breaking their religious codes. So, they had confronted the man and then his parents, demanding to know what had happened.

24 So for the second time they called in the man who had been blind and told him, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.”

25 “I don’t know whether he is a sinner,” the man replied. “But I know this: I was blind, and now I can see!” – John 9:24-25 NLT

A blind man could see. A lame man could walk. That was as deep as either man’s theology went. They had been radically changed by an encounter with Jesus. The blind man had been touched by Jesus. The lame man had been healed in the name of Jesus.

This unnamed man had come to the Temple that day expecting nothing more than a handout from some generous stranger. Perhaps he had regular contributors, who knew him and made a habit of giving to him each day. He probably had a vague idea of how much money he could expect to take home by day’s end. But there is no way that he came to the Beautiful Gate expecting to walk home on his own two legs. He never dreamed he would be leaping, dancing and worshiping in the Temple when he woke up that morning. His would be a day just like any other day, filled with the same old tasks of getting up, begging a lift to the gate and beginning his humiliating day of begging for coins from those who viewed him as little more than a sinner who deserved his sorry state in life. But his less-than-ambitious expectations were shattered that day. He came to the Temple, lying on a mat, but went home leaping on his own two legs. He came a beggar, but became a worshiper. He showed up a sinner, but suddenly found himself free to walk into the Temple grounds unhindered and unafraid of God’s judgment.

It’s important to note that Peter and John saw this man as more than a nuisance or a common sinner to be ignored. He was an opportunity for the power of God to be revealed and the name of Christ to be lifted up. While Jesus had been in the world, He had been the light of the world. Now it was the disciples’ turn. They had work to do. As far as Peter was concerned, this man was there for a reason: That God might be glorified and the gospel of Jesus Christ might be proclaimed. Just as the miracles of Jesus validated His claims to be the Son of God and the Messiah, the signs and wonders performed by the disciples would prove that they had been sent by God and had the authority to speak on His behalf. And they would take advantage of this opportunity to tell the good news regarding Jesus Christ to all who had gathered. The man’s miraculous restoration would become a platform to share about salvation. The same power that made a blind man see and a lame man walk, could bring the spiritually dead back to life.

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
    that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19     and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” – Luke 4:18-19 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Descriptive, Not Prescriptive.

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 ESV

This is one of the more familiar passages in the book of Acts. In it, we have a brief description of what the newly founded church in Jerusalem looked like in the early days following the events of Pentecost. Things had begun to change rapidly and dramatically. After a single sermon, more than 3,000 converts were added to the original number of 120 disciples or followers of Christ. The Holy Spirit had come, the disciples had been empowered with the ability to speak in foreign languages, Peter had given a Spirit-inspired message to the assembled crowd, and thousands accepted his offer of redemption through Jesus Christ. Then, the next thing we read is that “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” There are many who believe that what we find written by Luke in the verses that follow is a description of the true New Testament church. In other words, he is providing us with a prescription or required mode of operation for every church in every age. Signs, wonders, communal living, sharing of goods, and breaking of bread in homes are said to be evidences of a legitimate New Testament church.

But are the characteristics Luke provides meant to be prescriptive or merely descriptive? Is he attempting to give us a divinely inspired and required methodology for church practice? Or is he simply describing the unique, point-in-time manifestations of the early days of the church as it exploded onto the scene among the Jews living in Jerusalem? It would seem that Luke, the detail-oriented physician/historian, was most interested in describing and chronicling what he had seen take place. What he witnessed and recorded were once-in-time, never-to-be-repeated events that accompanied the coming of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the start of the church age. The truth is, in the book of Acts there is little in the way of actual instruction given regarding how the church was to operate on a daily basis. We are given no mandatory, clearly defined order of worship. When you consider the amount of detail God provided to the Israelites regarding worship in the Old Testament, it is surprising how little information is given about things like order of worship, music, dress, sermon content, church government, or ordinances. What Luke seemed most interested in detailing was the external expansion of the church. Everything was happening within the unique confines of Jerusalem, among a predominantly Jewish population. And the early converts to Christianity after the events of Pentecost were, for the most part, Jews. In the crowd that gathered outside the upper room and who heard the message delivered by Peter, Luke describes people from a wide range of provinces with the Roman Empire…

Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome – Acts 2:9-10 ESV

But he also describe them as “Jews and proselytes.” In other words, they were either native-born Jews or converts to Judaism. But for the most part, they were all worshipers of Yahweh, the God of the Jews. So, what Luke describes in these verses is the immediate result of the 3,000 Jewish converts coming to faith in Christ and how they responded to their newfound faith. The church went from 120 to more than 3,000 in less than an hour, creating a unique problem for the apostles. How were they going to minister to this many people and begin the process of teaching so large a number of disciples? It must be assumed that there were those in the group who were not residents of Jerusalem. They had come to town for the celebration of Passover and Pentecost. But now that they had been saved, there was no doubt a desire among them to remain under the care and training of the apostles. But where would they stay? Who would feed and provide for them? Luke describes the scene:

44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. 45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. – Acts 2:44-45 NLT

They gathered together in order to hear the teaching of the apostles. There was instruction involved. Peter’s sermon, while impactful, was not exhaustive in nature. There was far more these new believers needed to know. One of the things Jesus had commanded the apostles to do was to make disciples, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20 ESV). There was much that needed to be conveyed to these new converts. And the Holy Spirit was providing the apostles with new insights into all that Jesus had taught them over the three years they had spent with Him. Jesus had told them that the Holy Spirit would act as a divine interpreter, opening their eyes to the truths contained in all that He had said and taught.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. – John 14:25-26 ESV

Not only could they remember things Jesus had said, they could understand what He meant when He had said them. His words, at one time cryptic and difficult to comprehend, suddenly made sense. So, they taught them to the new converts, explaining what life in the Kingdom of God was meant to be. And Luke tells us, “They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity” (Acts 2:46 NLT). There was no church building. They had no facilities. So, being Jews, they gathered together at the Temple grounds, and they did so daily. Luke describes them as celebrating the Lord’s Supper in homes and as sharing communal meals together marked by joy and generosity. Again, what Luke provides us is meant to be descriptive, not prescriptive. He is not demanding that all worship take place at the Temple. He is not dictating that the Lord’s Supper only be celebrated within a home context. These were situations unique to the setting. They took place out of necessity. By the time the church began to spread beyond Jerusalem, we see it taking on new forms depending upon the surrounding environment. In his letters, the apostle Paul will spend far more time discussing the internal structure and organization of the church. But at this point in time, in the early days of the church in Jerusalem, the apostles and the growing number of new converts found themselves dealing with some very unique circumstances that required one-of-a-kind solutions.
And Luke tells us that “each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47 NLT). The church continued to grow. And many of these new believers, having come from the various Roman provinces listed in the early verses of this chapter. eventually returned to their homes. And when they made their way to their respective towns and villages, they took their newfound faith in Christ with them. They became ambassadors for the Kingdom of God, spreading the good news of Jesus far beyond the city walls of Jerusalem, and out among the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia.
What we have in these verses is a description of the work of the Spirit of God. He had come just as Jesus had promised and, with His arrival, the message of Jesus had taken on new life. The original disciples of Jesus had been transformed and their understanding of Jesus’ words became suddenly clear and concise. The Spirit was convicting and converting. The disciples were boldly proclaiming and proselytizing. The church was just beginning, and it would soon be spreading. The gospel would quickly move beyond the streets of Jerusalem and out into the world. And the church would continue to evolve and expand, developing a more formal infrastructure designed to meet the growing demands of a richly diverse and rapidly expanding network of community based congregations. Love, fellowship, teaching, sharing, community, prayer, worship, and evangelism will always mark the life of the church. But Luke was less interested in telling us what we should be doing as the local church, than emphasizing what the Holy Spirit was doing to make the growth of the church possible. Without the Spirit of God, the church does not exist. Without the power provided by the Spirit of God, true life change cannot take place. If Luke was prescribing anything, it was the non-negotiable necessity of God’s Spirit in order for God’s work to be done.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

What Should We Do?

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35     until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

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

37 Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”

38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away—all who have been called by the Lord our God.” 40 Then Peter continued preaching for a long time, strongly urging all his listeners, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!”

41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. Acts 2:29-41 ESV

Peter, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, continues his explanation of the events that have just taken place. After having heard the disciples speaking in a variety of foreign languages, the crowds had been amazed, perplexed and bewildered. Some had asked what the meaning was behind what they had just witnessed. Others simply accused the disciples of drunkenness. So, Peter, spoke up and began to address both issues. He flatly denied the accusation of public intoxication, writing it off as illogical. No God-fearing Jew would be drunk at that hour of the day, and certainly not a crowd of 120, made up of men and women. But then, Peter had begun his attempt to answer the question, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12 ESV). Quoting from a psalm of David, he used the words of the former king of Israel as evidence that Jesus was the Messiah, and that what the crowd had just witnessed was the fulfillment of prophecy. King David, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had written, “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption” (Acts 2:27 ESV). But Peter points out that David did eventually die and “his tomb is with us to this day” (Acts 2:29 ESV). So, obviously, his body did suffer decay and undergo corruption. Acknowledging David as a prophet of God, Peter interprets David’s words to mean that the former king had been speaking prophetically and indicating that God was going to bring another to sit on the his throne, in keeping with God’s promise to him.

11 Moreover, the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. – 2 Samuel 7:11-13 ESV

David would rule and reign vicariously through his future descendant.

“Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne…” – Acts 2:30 ESV

And Peter unequivocally states that David, when speaking of his soul not being abandoned to Hades or the Holy One not seeing corruption, he was prophesying about the coming resurrection of Jesus, which Peter and his fellow disciples had witnessed.

31 David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection. He was saying that God would not leave him among the dead or allow his body to rot in the grave.

32 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this.” – Acts 2:31-32 NLT

This is when Peter gets to the point of his message. He is attempting to answer the question, “What does this mean?” As dramatic and unnerving as the display of the disciples speaking in foreign languages may have been, it was nothing when compared to the resurrection of Jesus. God had raised a dead man back to life. But not just any man. He had raised Jesus, the Messiah and Savior of the world, back to life. Peter was claiming Jesus to be the long-awaited Messiah and the fulfillment of God’s promise to David. Jesus was the Holy One who would sit on David’s throne and reign forever. But, Peter points out that, Jesus did not come to rule and reign from Jerusalem. At least, not yet. He says, “Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand” (Acts 2:33 NLT). Jesus had returned to heaven, where He sits at His Father’s side. And, in the meantime, He had sent the Holy Spirit to indwell His followers. That, Peter points out, is what they had just seen.

“And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.” – Acts 2:33 NLT

Peter claims that what the crowds had just seen and heard had been a work of God and a sign that Jesus had risen from the dead and had returned to heaven in glory. If you think about it, this must have sounded outlandish, even preposterous, to his Jewish audience. As miraculous as the speaking in tongues may have been, what Peter was claiming had to have sounded far-fetched to the Jews who heard him.

But Peter was far from done. He used yet another quote from David to drive home his point. He reminds his listeners that David never ascended into heaven. He died and was buried. And yet, in Psalm 110:1, David had written, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool”’” (Acts 2:34-35 ESV). This is the very same psalm Jesus Himself would use to refer to Himself as the Messiah.

41 Then, surrounded by the Pharisees, Jesus asked them a question: 42 “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

They replied, “He is the son of David.”

43 Jesus responded, “Then why does David, speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, call the Messiah ‘my Lord’? For David said,

44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit in the place of honor at my right hand
    until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’

45 Since David called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?”

46 No one could answer him. And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. – Matthew 22:41-46 NLT

Jesus was the Son of David, in the sense that He was a descendant of David. But He was also David’s Lord, because He was the Messiah. And David, writing under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, had clearly been speaking of the Messiah when he wrote Psalm 110. And Peter, drawing his message to a close, delivers the answer to the question that the crowd had asked.

“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” – Acts 2:36 NLT

Peter drops the hammer. He delivers the blow that will leave his audience staggering and wondering what just hit them. Because of what he has said, they are going to have to wrestle with the weight of Peter’s claims. What if Jesus had risen from the dead as the rumor mills had been circulating? What if the remarkable display of the disciples speaking in tongues was proof? What if Peter was right and Jesus actually was the Messiah? And what if they had played a part in putting Jesus to death? This was a lot to consider. The weight of Peter’s words would have overwhelmed them, like a heavy blanket of guilt and despair. And the text points out that “Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’” (Acts 2:37 NLT).

They were overwhelmed by that they had heard. It was almost too much for them to compute. So, they asked another question. They simply wanted to know what they were supposed to do. And Peter gave them the answer.

“Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. – Acts 2:38 NLT

Peter presented the gospel. He told them the good news regarding Jesus. Through Jesus, they could be restored to a right relationship with God. By believing that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of David, and the Savior of the world, they could be redeemed and restored. But Peter didn’t stop there. He preached for some time, calling his audience to “Save yourselves from this crooked generation!” (Acts 2:40 NLT). Their salvation would be found in Jesus, not themselves. Their redemption would come from faith in the Messiah, not their own self-righteousness or feeble attempts at trying to please God. And Peter’s Spirit-inspired words made an impact. Three thousand people placed their faith in Christ that day. They became believers in Jesus as their Messiah. Their lives were radically and irreversibly changed. The church had begun, and the Kingdom of God had begun to spread.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

According to Plan.

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
    for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
    my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
    or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
    you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ Acts 2:22-28 ESV

Peter flatly denies the accusation that they are drunk with wine. They are under the influence of the Holy Spirit and what the crowd had just witnessed was in partial fulfillment of the prophecies of Joel. With the resurrection of Jesus, something new was happening that was the beginning of the last days and would eventually usher in the final judgment of mankind. And all of, Peter insists, was part of God’s divine plan. Even the death of Jesus had been “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23 ESV). His crucifixion had not been an unexpected setback, but the central part of God’s foreordained plan of redemption. Peter would later write about this in his first letter.

18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but now in these last days he has been revealed for your sake. – 1 Peter 1:18-20 NLT
And yet, Peter lays the blame for the death of Jesus at the feet of the Jews to whom he is talking. It was their shouts of “Crucify Him!” and their refusal to accept Pilate’s offer of clemency for Jesus that had resulted in His death sentence. Peter makes it emphatically clear, “With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him” (Acts 2:23 NLT). Not exactly the kind of rhetoric that wins friends and influences enemies. Speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit, Peter was not interested in political correctness. He was out to present the gospel in all of its glory. The fact was, the Jews had willingly participated in the death of Jesus, the Messiah. And Peter states that they were without excuse. Jesus had been attested or proven to them through the many signs and wonders He had performed. These miracles had been ample proof that He had been sent by God. And yet, they had refused to accept Him as their Savior and Messiah. He had not come as they had expected. He had failed to appear as a king or mighty warrior. Sure, He had performed miracles, healed the sick, turned water into wine, fed the multitudes and even raised the dead, but they had been looking for another David, not an itinerant rabbi from Nazareth.
But, in spite of their role in the death of Jesus, Peter informs them that God had another plan in mind. His Son was destined to die for the sins of mankind, but He would live to come another day. Peter declares, “God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip” (Acts 2:24 NLT). Yes, they had killed Jesus, but God had raised Him back to life. And, some time later, after his conversion, Paul would write to the Corinthian believers, “if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17 NLT). It was Jesus’ resurrection that made possible mankind’s forgiveness from sin. His death paid the debt, but His resurrection proved that His life had been sinless and a worthy offering. Death is the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23). But Jesus had died for our sins, not His own. So His death was temporary in nature. God released Him from the horrors of death. On the cross, just moments before He died, Jesus had cried out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (Matthew 27:46 NLT). As Jesus took on Himself the sins of mankind, His heavenly Father was forced to turn away from Him. The sins of mankind separated Him from His Father for the first time in all eternity. That is what sin does. And death is not just the absence of life, but eternal separation from God. The Father didn’t turn away from Jesus, but from the sins He bore on behalf of you and me. Jesus died so that we might not have to. And He was raised to new life as proof that we too will one day follow His example. Paul went on to explain the significance of Jesus’ resurrection to the believers in Corinth.

20 But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.

21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 23 But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back. – 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 NLT

The next thing Peter weave into his address to the crowds is a quote from King David. He uses Psalm 16:8-11 to prove that Jesus was the fulfillment of the words of David himself. In the psalm, David had written of God’s close proximity to him through all the trials of life. God was at his right hand, nearby and always available. But Peter turns this statement into a prophetic utterance concerning Jesus, the Messiah. One of the reasons he does so, is that David states, “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption”, and yet, David would eventually die and his body would most certainly decay in the tomb. But Jesus, the Son of David, would not undergo decay. He would not be abandoned by God to death and the tomb. He was raised back to life after three days.

Using David’s own words, Peter applies them to Jesus. “You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence” (Acts 2:28 NLT). Just days before His death, Jesus had reassured His disciples with these words:

1 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” – John 14:1-4 NLT

And just a few verses later, we hear Jesus state those wonderfully reassuring words:

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. – John 14:6 NLT

Jesus is the way of life. And He has returned to the Father, as proof that His way works. He has taken His rightful place at His Father’s side and will one day return for all those who believe in His name and who have placed their trust in Him as their Savior. And the amazing thing is that, those in Peter’s audience, who had vicariously played a part in Jesus’ death, could also take part in His resurrection by recognizing Him for who He was: The Son of God and the Savior of the world. And, as we shall see, many in the crowd that day would do just that. Their sins were not too great. Their role in Jesus’ death was not too much that it could not be overcome by the love of God and the sacrificial death of His Son. As Paul so aptly put it: “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8 NLT). Their sin had led to His death. But His death could lead to their salvation. And all according to plan – the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Believe It or Not.

14 But 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. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
    before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” Acts 2:14-21 ESV

It should be no surprise to us that, when the time came for the disciples to address the crowd that had gathered, it was Peter who was the first to speak. During the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, it seems that Peter was always the one to open his mouth before engaging his brain. He was impulsive and impetuous, and his tongue used to get him in a lot of trouble. But now that he is filled with the Spirit of God, his words carry weight and significance like never before. This time, he speaks up, led not by his own ego or the need to be noticed, but by the Holy Spirit. And the first thing he addresses is the accusation that he and the 119 other followers of Christ are drunk. Their surprising and inexplicable display of tongues-speaking had left the crowd amazed and bewildered. No one could understand how these unlearned men and women from Galilee were suddenly able to speak in foreign languages. If you think about it, to a bystander, this whole affair would have come across as highly chaotic and confusing. To have heard 120 individuals all speaking in a different language at the same time would have been a bit unnerving. So, there were those in the crowd who simply wrote it off to public intoxication, mockingly saying of the disciples, “They are filled with new wine.”

The first thing that should stand out to us is that there will always be those who mock the things of God. What they don’t understand, they belittle. It was the apostle Paul who said, “when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense” (1 Corinthians 1:23 NLT). The disciples had just visibly and verbally displayed the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and there were those who refused to acknowledge it for what it was: An act of God. Instead, they mocked and ridiculed the disciples, writing off what God had done and labeling it as nothing more than drunkenness. Something very similar had happened to Jesus when He was still with them on the earth and conducting His ministry among them. One day, Jesus addressed a crowd around Him with the following words:

19 “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. – Matthew 11:19-20 ESV

That day in Jerusalem, the crowds that had gathered outside the upper room had been witnesses to a miracle, a mighty work of God, but rather than recognize it for what it was, they belittled it. They made light of it.

Over in the book of Matthew, there is a scene recorded where Jesus healed a man who was blind, mute and demon-possessed. The passage matter-of-factly states that Jesus healed him and the people were amazed. But there were those in the crowd, specifically the Pharisees, who accused Jesus of healing the man by the power of Beelzebub or Satan.

“It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” – Matthew 12:24 ESV

Jesus addressed the absurdity of their logic, saying, “if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:26 ESV). Instead, Jesus suggests that His power to cast of demons and heal was the result of the power of the Spirit of God.

“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” – Matthew 12:28 ESV

Then, Jesus made a somewhat cryptic, but powerful statement regarding what these Pharisees unknowingly had done.

31 “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” – Matthew 12:31-32 NLT

Those Pharisees had spoken against the Spirit of God, attributing His divine work to something of someone else, in their case, to Satan. Those in the crowd of people gathered outside the upper room on the day of Pentecost had done the same thing. They had attributed the work of the Spirit of God to drunkenness. And in doing so, they were rejecting the Kingdom of God being displayed in their midst. The disciples had been speaking of the mighty works of God, and there were those who refused to hear what they had to say, but instead, wrote it off to public intoxication.

At one time, during His earthly ministry, Jesus had addressed the heart of the issue going on here..

18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” – John 3:18-21 ESV

Some in the crowd had asked, “What does this mean?” Others had mocked and accused the disciples of being filled with wine and not the Spirit. And they stood condemned. Not by their words or actions, but by their unbelief.

But under the influence of the Holy Spirit, Peter addressed the naysayers in the crowd, using the Old Testament Scriptures as his proof text. He quoted from the prophet Joel. In doing so, Peter was using the Jewish Scriptures to prove that what they had just witnessed was of God and in fulfillment of the ancient prophecies. What they had heard and seen was a sign of God’s future plans for Israel being fulfilled right in front of their eyes. God had said, “ I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” and that process had just begun. Not “all flesh” had received the Holy Spirit that day, but only the disciples who had been gathered in the upper room. But it was a sign of things to come. As we will see in the rest of the book of Acts, a growing number of individuals would receive the Spirit of God. God was at work. Something new had begun. These were “the last days” as Peter put it, and things were going to be remarkably different than ever before. God had promised, “I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy” and that is exactly what had happened. Luke makes it clear that, when the disciples had spoken in tongues, they were declaring “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11 ESV). Luke doesn’t clarify what that means, but it would not be a reach to assume that part of what they talked about was the death and resurrection of Jesus and His offer of eternal life. They most likely spoke of salvation made possible through His sacrificial death on the cross. If you notice, Peter ended his quotation from the book of Joel with the line: “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21 ESV). That was the focus of his message that day. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the whole agenda of the disciples became focused on the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and His offer of salvation. Men and women could be made right with God through faith in His sacrificial death on the cross.

And Peter, by quoting the book of Joel, lets his listeners know that there is more to come in the last days. Not all of Joel’s words were fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. But with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the various prophecies concerning the last days were set in motion. Peter reminds them that Joel had predicted, “the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes” (Acts 2:20 ESV). This is a prophecy of coming judgment. Jesus will come back some day and, when He does, it will be as judge of the earth. Those in hearing of Peter’s voice needed to understand that they could accept Jesus as their Savior or one day submit to Him as their judge. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, it was the beginning of the end. The last days had begun. And  those in the crowd that day had a choice: They could believe it not.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson