Summary: A challenging sermon asking all of the congregation to consider their personal and corporate response to Jesus. Have you repented and believed? Have you been baptised? What about the Church?
“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call” (2:39). Whether you realise it or not, and whether you believe or not, you are all here for a reason this morning! It’s just possible that some of you may be thinking, “What am I doing? Help! I’m not religious - Get me out of here.” The thought of having to listen to me for an hour (…only kidding, it won’t be that long!) might also be worrying you; but I have some news for you – both good news and bad news. The Good News is that God has brought you here because He (not me) wants to speak to you. The Bad News is that a rejection of God is Bad News.
We’ve just had a reading from the Bible. The reading was from the section of the Bible known as the Book of Acts; and it describes the ongoing activities of Jesus Christ through his disciples after his death, resurrection and ascension into heaven.
The location is Jerusalem (hardly surprising really), the date is roughly 30 AD and the occasion is the Jewish festival of Pentecost. It was one of the occasions during the year when thousands of people descended upon Jerusalem, temporarily swelling its population. At Pentecost they were in Jerusalem to celebrate. It marked the end of the barley harvest and was sometimes known as ‘the Feast of Harvest’ or the ‘Day of the first fruits’ (Ex 23:16 & Numbers 28:26). In the Old Testament book of Numbers (28:26) the Jewish people were told, amongst other things, that on the Day of the first fruits they were to “hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work”. On the Day of Pentecost just a few days after Jesus had ascended into heaven, that is precisely what the one hundred and twenty (Acts 1:15) Christian believers were doing, holding a sacred assembly. They were “all together in one place” (2:1) waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit promised to them by Jesus (1:4-5); and it was on that Day that the gift was poured out.
The disciples of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to declare “the wonders of God” (2:11) in other languages. Why other languages you may ask? Well, because it was Pentecost, and hence Jerusalem was filled with Jews from all over the known world (2:5), it meant that they were all able to understand the message of Jesus in their own language. Some said the disciples of Jesus were drunk on wine (2:13) because they were so exuberant in declaring their love for God and the glorious Good News of Jesus, but as St Peter stood up and began to speak he said, “These men are not drunk as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning” (2:15)!
As many of you will know Les Sheppard and Linda Wicks have just returned from Kenya where they took the first steps in setting up a partnership with Ciamanda school, about 15 Miles from Embu. On Sunday they worshipped for 2½ hours at the Cathedral, in English. After a short break they worshipped for another 2½ hours in Swahili!
I am told that the worship was exuberant. There was much joy, lots of dancing (even the Anglican Priest danced) and wonderful singing as the wonders of God were declared.
A large crowd of several thousand people heard the noise of the disciples and listened to St. Peter’s Holy Spirit-inspired message. Our short Bible reading catches the end of Peter’s Pentecost sermon but verse 36 where we began today is a summary of what Peter has essentially said so far: “Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Peter said, “This Jesus”. Many of the people in that large crowd had seen and heard the words and deeds of Jesus. They had seen him heal. They had heard him teaching. Many had applauded when he entered Jerusalem on a donkey but many had bayed for his blood shortly before his crucifixion.
Some of those in the crowd were hearing about Jesus for the first time. Many knew exactly who Jesus was. Peter was speaking about the historical, factual Jesus; Jesus who had called Peter to follow him; Jesus who was the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15); Jesus of Nazareth, crucified and buried, resurrected by God and literally ascended (vertically) into heaven; Jesus, vindicated by God as “both Lord and Christ” (2:36).
In the 1800’s in the UK large crowds gathered to hear Wesley and Whitfield preach about the Lord Jesus in the open air. Many people came to realise that the life of Jesus was not just some quaint story but it was literally a matter of spiritual and eternal life or death. Lots of people made a decision to turn away from a life ignoring God, and put their faith and trust in Jesus.