A lot of this text speaks for itself, but what it describes is amazing. I don’t dare try to paraphrase what happened when the Spirit came on the disciples for the first time because there is no way I could do it justice, so I will concentrate on lessons that we can learn from it and leave the story-telling to the Bible.

Jesus promised in 1:8 that when the Holy Spirit came, the disciples would receive power and be his witnesses to the ends of the earth and this is what happens. The timing of his arrival means that people from all over the earth are in Jerusalem, so the teaching of Jesus’ resurrection will spread quickly and when they were filled with the Holy Spirit they received power to be witnesses as he gave them other languages. It seems odd that the disciples should speak in the mother tongue of everyone present when there would be languages – probably Greek and Aramaic – that all present would understand. Presumably this miracle was designed to show that they had the authority to speak the words of God himself. It is also noteworthy that the first action of the Holy Spirit is to give the disciples power to be witnesses – the first thing that happens after they are filled with him is not a spiritual experience or singing or dancing, but that they tell people the good news about Jesus.

The crowd’s sensible conclusion that the babbling Galileans are drunk allows Peter to start this first Christian evangelistic sermon with a joke – a precedent followed by many speakers today. He then moves on to safe ground with the Jewish crowd by quoting from Joel 2:28-32. From the way it’s written in Joel, I think that this quote is talking about two different times – the first is verses 17 and 18 (in Acts) and the second is 19-21. It is possible that I’m wrong and Peter understands things like the moon turning to blood as referring to what happened when Jesus died, but that’s not the way I read it. He introduces it as if it is the proof that they are not drunk – it seems that Peter is saying that the first part of the prophecy has just happened and this is why they are acting the way that they are. God has now poured out his Spirit as he promised that he would back in Joel. There is debate about the role of prophecy and visions in the church today, but this isn’t the point of this passage. Rather, the point being made is that God’s Spirit – who previously had only anointed specific individuals – would be available to all people. Rather than coming just on kings and judges and prophets, now even servants will have the Spirit poured out on them.

The second time – the “day of the Lord” (which whenever it’s used in Joel is talking about some kind of judgement and punishment) is the final judgement and it is that day which will be preceded by signs of blood, fire, vapour of smoke, the sun turning to darkness and the moon to blood which is why we haven’t seen those signs yet. The question is: Why does Peter include this part of Joel? He doesn’t refer to it later, and he’s made his argument for non-drunkenness. I think he continues because he wants to remind the Jews listening about what happens next. Now that the Spirit has been poured out we are in the last days, so the day of the Lord could be at any time. Now is a good time to start paying attention. And Peter reminds the crowd that although God’s judgement is certainly coming, there is a way to be saved. This introduces his talk in which he will set out that way.

After making sure he still has everyone’s attention, Peter begins his talk proper. His first big point is that Jesus was killed and, though it was by the hands of the Roman soldiers (“wicked men”), it was his audience who killed Jesus. Many of them would have been nowhere near Jerusalem, but they are all culpable because it’s not just that Jesus was killed but as Peter told them it was “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God”. God set up a plan to have his Son murdered, and everyone there had made it necessary for him to do so. On the way, Peter made sure to remind everyone of the “works and wonders and signs that God did through him” which showed that he was sent by God.

Peter’s next point is that God raised Jesus from the dead. To explain the significance of this, he quotes Psalm 16 (with a few changed tenses) and points out that what it said was not true of its author David, that David had been promised that it would be true of one of his descendants and that David was a prophet. He therefore concludes that David must have known he was talking about someone else when he wrote it, and that that person must have been God’s promised saviour, or Christ. The other possibility is that David was wrong, which the Jews listening would not have accepted. He says that the disciples are all witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection and that it was Jesus – after being enthroned in heaven and being granted from his Father the gift of the Holy Spirit – who caused what the crowd was seeing, by giving that Spirit to his followers. His evidence that Jesus is exalted in heaven comes from Psalm 110, which he surely remembered hearing Jesus explain – saying that the reference to “my Lord” is proof that David wasn’t talking about himself or any normal descendant of his (see, eg, Luke 20:41-44).

Peter’s conclusion is that God has made Jesus both Lord (from Psalm 110) and Christ (from Psalm 16) and reminds his audience that this is despite the fact that they crucified him. It’s easy to see why that message cut them to the heart (v37). This is an amazing description of the Gospel of Christ, and especially so seeing as weeks before Peter denied that he knew Jesus and since then he and the disciples have been hiding out. Knowing about Jesus’ resurrection and receiving the Holy Spirit made an amazing change in their lives.

Heavenly Father, I thank you so much that I know and trust in the same Lord and Gospel as Peter. I thank you that you live in me by your Spirit in the same way that you did in Peter. I thank you that though I mess up like Peter, you are so forgiving and your grace is sufficient for me. Please help me to love you more, and to be bold and excited about telling people about how great you are. Amen.


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