Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed [the people]: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
“‘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; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
“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— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 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; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
“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. 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, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 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. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save your-selves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
Dear Fellow Redeemed:
Last week we kind of set up what we see in our text. God had sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. He had done amazing things in the presence of the multitude that were Jerusalem’s residents and those who were visiting from elsewhere for the festival. There had been the sound of a mighty rushing wind that got everyone’s attention. Then, what appeared to be tongues of fire rested on the apostles to be seen by everyone. Finally, the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles to speak in languages that were foreign to them, so that everyone was understanding in his own language the message about Christ that they were proclaiming. One would presume that there wouldn’t be any mistaking this as an event orchestrated and conducted by the true God. How could anyone miss it?!
But just like when Jesus had done miracles among the people, there was a reaction of inquisitiveness about what was happening from many, and from some, outright mocking. The mockers were charging the apostles with drunkenness.
Our text is St. Peter’s explanation of what they’re seeing. There’s a much better explanation than drunkenness (which wouldn’t even make much sense under normal circumstances with it being so early in the day). What they’re seeing has been spoken about before - in fact, even in the Scriptures. The prophet Joel had foretold it when he said: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh….And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below.” God had said He was going to interact with people in this way, and even what is said in the end of that Joel quote: Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
As we alluded to last week, St. Peter has some difficult things to say to these people for their good. They want to know what this is all about? He’s going to tell them; but it’s gonna make ‘em squirm a little. He gives to them with both barrels, blunt, stunning accusation: you crucified and killed [the one who had been attested to them through mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in their midst]. Peter makes sure to add that Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. “No one takes [my life] from me, Jesus had said, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (John 10:18).
That doesn’t excuse them from the sin though. Speaking of Judas’ betrayal (which Jesus also could have avoided if He’d wanted to), He had said, The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Mark 14:21).
Peter continues with something that we might suspect would always be good news: God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. Good news to us; we know the end of the story. Imagine what it might have been like for Peter’s audience to hear it, though. He’s just put Christ’s death on them. Now they hear, it didn’t stick. He lives. Martin Luther, in his early life, thought of Jesus as a vengeful judge who waits to punish him for his sins. What if the sin had been crucifying the Lord of Glory (as St. Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 2:8)? What might a risen Christ have in store for them?
But Peter has more to say to them. He doesn’t intend for them to leave sullen and downtrodden. That isn’t what this is about. The Holy Spirit hasn’t come on Pentecost for that reason. In fact, there is good reason for them to lift their faces. The risen Christ isn’t someone they need to be afraid of.
He’s really the speaker of the resurrection prophecy written hundreds of years earlier in Psalm 16. David had written the Psalm, but Christ Himself was speaking through him to say: you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ Peter is telling them this so that they understand in their guilt over having crucified Christ, that God had a plan all along to save them. His eternal Son would assume human flesh, and would suffer at the hands of sinners. Then, God would raise Him from the grave and glorify Him to sit at His right hand in His kingdom, with sins atoned for in His blood - their sins too. God had sworn with an oath to [David] that he would set one of his descendants on his throne. Jesus Christ was the descendant. Peter and his fellow apostles have seen very good evidence of it, and are now, by the Spirit’s power, serving as witnesses of what they’ve seen.
And there had even been a promise from Jesus that the Holy Spirit would come upon them. They were to wait for it to happen. And now, it has happened. -Peter says to them. This event that some have mischaracterized as drunken behavior is that event. The Holy Spirit has enabled them to say to people in all different languages, things like Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Ooooh! There’s that charge again! They did this. The stinging in their hearts at hearing those words! Their consciences have gone into orbit. What have we done?!! Our text says, when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Guilt like this isn’t foreign to you, is it? Today, we finished up a Bible study on the book of Hebrews. That writer says to his readers in the tenth chapter: (26,27) if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. You don’t have to have been one of the ones shouting, “crucify Him!” for those words to wound you; you just have to be a sinner like they were. You just have to have put God’s law aside so that you could do something you wanted to do apart from Him. And when you have done that, you rightly hear St. Peter saying to you, just as to them: “You crucified and killed the one who has been attested to you through His powerful Word and Baptism.” And you’re cut to the heart, wondering, “What kind of risen Christ am I going to be dealing with? Is He the one Luther was afraid of early on? Is He going to bring up every one of my sins and convict on the evidence against me? You might have thought like the guilty crowd on Pentecost, What shall I do?
If that’s the case? Listen to St. Peter’s response to that question in our text: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Repent. Your baptism has brought you to repentance. The Holy Spirit has come upon you, there, in that water along with God’s Word, to give you new life, and to strengthen you in faith that lives by daily repentance. It lives in the knowledge that in Jesus Christ there is forgiveness for sins - yours too. God has called you to Himself to be His child, forgiven of sins, to serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.
Jesus avoided the deliberate sinning that you have engaged in. He had a perfect life to present before God, a perfect sacrifice to make for your sins. He has healed the cut to your heart. He has put your sin on Himself in order to take your punishment. The risen Christ you deal with is the One Who came to bring God’s mercy and salvation. You need not be afraid of Him as we might fear an enemy. He is your Savior. All evidence against you has been put away in His death and Resurrection.
The result on the Day of Pentecost from the Spirit’s coming among the people in this way, was that three thousand souls were added to their number that day. Three thousand more people came to know the merciful Christ, and to enter His eternal kingdom.
You commune this morning with those members of that kingdom who have already died in this world in Christ. In the Sacrament of Christ’s true body and blood you eat and drink with them for the remission of sins. You anticipate seeing them in person once again, to rejoice with them for all eternity. “With angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven we laud and magnify your glorious Name, evermore praising You and saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Sabbaoth; Heav’n and earth are full of Your glory.” We sing that as we worship with those who are in heaven, with those who have heard that God has made [Jesus] both Lord and Christ in order that their sins might be forgiven in His blood, and removed forever. You are here because you are among that group of believers who know Christ, and who rejoice in eager anticipation of His eternal kingdom.
Let us pray. Lord Jesus Christ, we have rightly been cut to the heart when we consider our sins that made necessary your sacrifice. We praise Your holy Name as those whose sins you have removed by grace. Bring us back each day to the waters of our Baptism in which you have connected us to your righteousness through faith, and have given us strength to forsake sin, and live new lives of repentance. Give us joy in our hearts as we receive from you in the Sacrament what bought us full and free forgiveness and eternal life. Help us to sing with joy these words from one of our hymns:
Thou art mine; I love and own Thee
Light of Joy, Ne’re shall I
From my heart dethrone Thee.
Savior, let me soon behold Thee
Face to face; May Thy grace
Evermore enfold me!
Almighty God, by Your grace alone we are called into Your kingdom to confess the true faith to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity and in the power of the Divine Majesty to worship the true Unity: We beseech You that You would keep us steadfast in this faith and evermore defend us from all adversities; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one true God, now and forever.
St. John 3:1-15
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he can-not enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.