Summary: The work of the Holy Spirit created a huge response to the gospel on the original Pentecost. It could have gone very differently but for the fact that God was at work, creating the nascent Church.
CATM Sermon - May 17, 2015 - Acts Chapter 2:36-47
We ended last week’s message by considering how the many people gathered responded to Peter's message of the Gospel, and to the fact that Jesus had died for them, even as they orchestrated His murder.
And one of the things that makes Peter’s bold declaration of the gospel - proclaimed, we need to remember - to an audience that included those who had been responsible for the murder of Jesus.
Something that makes it so remarkable is that Peter knew that those who crucified Jesus, as Peter says in verse 36 could have responded by killing HIM.
That would be consistent, actually. Perhaps to be expected. Helps us to see all the more clearly how Peter is a changed man.
He no longer fears death by association with Jesus, whereas less than 2 months earlier he had denied Jesus 3 times to get out of hot water when Jesus was arrested.
Anyway, clearly what the Scripture says is that they reacted not in the way that I’ve described. It says they were cut to the heart. They were convicted. They reacted in a way consistent with King David when he was confronted with his sin of adultery and murder.
David said: “...I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge”. Psalm 51:3-4
The scripture says it quite plainly, really. It simply says in verse 37: "When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
They were convicted and they asked Peter and the other apostles, they said: “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Why? Why didn’t they just haul off and stone Peter, as was pretty normal back then whenever a prophet of God said something that the people didn’t like?
The history of the people of God was littered with dead prophets, killed for speaking the truth. Really! They were buried everywhere.
Well, to understand this response of the people that day, and even to understand why it is that ANYONE ever comes to faith in Jesus, as most of these people did on this day of Pentecost, we just need to remember what was really going on the day that Peter preached this message.
The Holy Spirit came. The Holy Spirit moved among the people, leading them to repentance.
I have news for anyone here today who thinks they became a Christian because they're smarter than other people and figured out something that they didn’t figure out. That new is “Ahgn” (buzzer sound).
The truth is, you came to Christ because the Holy Spirit moved first in your life, bringing you to repentance.
That’s actually the only reason and the only way anyone ever comes to genuinely follow Jesus - it’s a response to God revealing our sin to us, revealing our desperate state to us, and then revealing His love to us:
His love proven in the fact that Jesus died for us, to deliver us from our sins and to reconcile us to God.
That’s all the work of God, the work of the Holy Spirit - and then our choice to respond or ignore it.
So...yeah. That’s what was going on that day, and that’s specifically why Peter lived to preach the gospel another day, and for the rest of his life before being martyred for doing so.
The people were cut to the heart with the bitter realization, for many of them, that they had participated in or at least consented to the savage murder of Jesus. Their hearts were broken over the matter. Deeply broken.
"I," said Jesus, "when I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to myself" (Jn.12:32). Every man has had a hand in that crime.
Once a missionary told the story of Jesus in an Indian village. Afterwards he showed the life of Christ in projected slides thrown against the white-washed wall of a house.
When the Cross appeared on the wall, one man rose from the audience and ran forward. "Come down from that Cross, Son of God," he cried. "I, not you, should be hanging there."
The Cross, when we understand what happened there, must pierce the heart. (William Barclay - The Daily Study Bible Series - The Book of Acts)
So, the people said to Peter and the other apostles, in response to Peter’s message: “Brothers, what shall we do?”
That’s a good start. I’m sure there was a breath of relief at that. They referred to Peter and the others as ‘brothers’. You don’t do that when you’re planning to stone someone. You don’t identify with the one you plan to hurt.