Tuesday, March 23

Reader: Listen carefully,” 

Response: “all of you.” 

Scripture: Acts 2:14-24

Then Peter stepped forward with the eleven other apostles and shouted to the crowd, “Listen carefully, all of you, fellow Jews and residents of Jerusalem! Make no mistake about this. These people are not drunk, as some of you are assuming. Nine o’clock in the morning is much too early for that. No, what you see was predicted long ago by the prophet Joel:

‘In the last days,’ God says,

    ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people.

Your sons and daughters will prophesy.

    Your young men will see visions,

    and your old men will dream dreams.

In those days I will pour out my Spirit

    even on my servants—men and women alike—

    and they will prophesy.

And I will cause wonders in the heavens above

    and signs on the earth below—

    blood and fire and clouds of smoke.

The sun will become dark,

    and the moon will turn blood red

    before that great and glorious day of the Lord arrives.

But everyone who calls on the name of the Lord

    will be saved.’

“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.    

Reader: This is the word of the Lord.   

Response: Thanks be to God.

Some thoughts:

Let’s get some background and context on this most familiar passage. To give you an idea of the length of time we’re talking about, fifty days ago was February 2nd, Groundhog’s Day, five days before the Super Bowl, or for those of you who are more “spiritual” (!), the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple before Simeon (forty days after his birth). Pentecost occurred fifty days after the Resurrection and ten days after Jesus physically left this earth at the Ascension. Pentecost was an Old Testament Jewish Feast fifty days (seven weeks) after the Feast of First Fruits which required all Jewish men to make a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem regardless of where they lived, hence the presence of devout Jews from Europe, northern Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. Pentecost marked the beginning of the spring wheat harvest and the end of the Passover season. It was one of three “solemn feasts,” so declared by the Lord. (Feast of Unleavened Bread and Tabernacles being the other two.) No work was permitted on this day. Everyone was at the Temple.

The normal morning service for this Feast had just concluded at 9 AM. On this day, breakfast was normally eaten around 10 AM after worship. Into this setting was the rush of a mighty wind coming suddenly without warning and the loud noise of many people speaking in many languages at the same time proclaiming the wonderful things God had done. As people came running to see what was going on, there came a derogatory drinking comment directed at Peter, whose response was, “Look, it’s 9 AM. We haven’t even had breakfast yet! It’s too early to be drunk!”

Peter then stepped forward along with the other eleven apostles and began to speak. Opening his sermon in familiar territory, the First Testament, known very well by his audience, he proceeded to unpack various prophecies proclaiming the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, beginning with Joel. Peter pointed out that God the Father had endorsed Jesus’ ministry by doing various miracles through him, mighty acts they themselves had seen and heard. His powerful words continued. Though it was part of God’s overall grand plan, you Jews, with the help of the Gentiles, rejected Jesus and crucified the Messiah. But God raised him from the dead, thus overcoming death once for all. 

There are so many things going on here. There is no space or time in this format to address them all, but here are a few to consider. 1) Repentance is at the heart of the gospel. Repentance was and is a major theme in each of the Lord’s “solemn feasts.” So it is not surprising that Peter would urge the people to repent. It was a call to both Jews and Gentiles. 2) We’ll have to address the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all peoples at another time.  3) The Jewish Feasts belong to God. They are his holidays, not man’s. 4) The Hebrew word for “feasts” means “appointed times.” They are times God has set aside for his people to meet with him. 5) There are seven appointed feasts total (see Lev.23 for a summary), all of which have direct correlation to the events in Christ’s life. Beginning with Passover and Christ voluntarily giving his life for the sins of the world and concluding with the establishment of the messianic Kingdom at the Second Coming (Tabernacles). In essence, the feasts are a kind of “rehearsal” of what is yet to come. For some of the words of prophecy from Joel that you just read are yet to come. 

In this season of Lent, we are reminded over and over of the importance of confession and repentance of our own sin and the wonder of what the Savior has done in his journey to the cross. God’s plan is so masterful and wondrous. He uses ordinary fisherman like Peter in unfolding it. He also uses you and me. Hear a song of confession and repentance from a Yom Kippur service.

Music: “Avinu Malkeinu”    Park Avenue Synagogue New York   Azi Schwartz Cantor

Avinu Malkeinu    (Translation of the Hebrew)    from Yom Kippur Service 

Our Father, our King, we have sinned before Thee.

Our Father, our King, we have no King but Thee.

Our Father, our King, grant unto us a year of happiness.

Our Father, our King, keep far from our country pestilence, war and famine

Our Father, our King, inscribe us for blessing in the book of life.

Our Father, our King, pardon and blot out our sins.

Our Father, our King, graciously our petitions.

Our Father, our King, be merciful and answer us;

though we can plead no merit,

deal with us according to Thy lovingkindness and help us. Amen.

Prayer:  O unapproachable Light, how can I fold these guilty hands before Thee? How can I pray to Thee with lips that have spoken false and churlish words? A heart hardened with vindictive passions; an unruly tongue: a fretful disposition: an unwillingness to bear the burdens of others: an undue willingness to let others bear my burdens: high  professions joined to low attainments: fine words hiding shabby thoughts: a friendly face masking a cold heart: many neglected opportunities and many uncultivated talents: much love and beauty unappreciated and many blessings unacknowledged: all these I confess to Thee, O God. I praise Thy name that in the gospel of Jesus Chrsit Thou hast opened up a new and living way into Thy presence, making Thy mercy free to all who have nothing else to plead. Let me now find peace of the heart by fleeing from myself and taking refuge in Thee. This I pray through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit reign one God, forever and ever. Amen.  ―from A Diary of Private Prayer, p.119