The Pentecost. Oil/Canvas. Alexander Sadoyan.
I was struck today by the craziness of the first Christian sermon, preached by Peter in Acts 2 (a portion of which assigned for today in the Daily Office, hence this post’s title), especially as I tried to imagine myself as one of the original hearers.
The scene is the day of Pentecost, and the reason you are in earshot of Peter’s sermon is that you were curious when you heard stormy winds that seemed to be coming from inside a nearby house. You come and join the crowd forming around the house, and then you recognize the place. It’s that house where about 100 people have locked themselves up after the crucifixion of their false Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.
In the time since Jesus’ death, hardly anyone has gone in or out of the building, and the rumors about what they might be doing inside are getting more bizarre by the day. Still, the sound of a typhoon coming from the upstairs of the building, is beyond the explanation of even the wildest rumors that have been going around.
Some of the people standing next to you begin to snicker about how the sound must just be a loud party, and now that the guy who seems to be the leader of them and is beginning to speak is the drunkest of all. Internally, however, you begin to wonder if it’s you who are drunk. You seem to be hearing this man’s voice speaking in the language of your home country, your trade, and your religion, three different languages at the same time, saying the same thing, uttered from a single mouth, and he seems to be talking about God, the Spirit of God, and this Jesus.
Not only is he saying that the recently crucified blasphemer was killed, but now he is blaming you for it. You start to get angry on that point, and so does the crowd around you. Many of you only heard about the guy after the fact. Why is he blaming you?
But then the speaker starts making even more audacious claims. First, he says that this whole thing, even Jesus’ horrific execution, has been according to God’s plan, and that God raised Jesus from the dead. And though you don’t catch it at first, it becomes clear that he is even saying that Jesus is God, and that King David had prophesied about the whole thing a thousand years before.
This is not a tame sermon. It is a sermon to which you find yourself responding despite yourself.
“Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say…Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. David said about him:
‘I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope,
because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.
You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’
Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.
-Rev. Nick Jordan