This Same Jesus

Rev. David Bast Uncategorized

READ : Acts 2:22-24, 32-33, 36-41

The very first Christian sermon was delivered by Peter on the Day of Pentecost. It established a pattern of authentic Christian preaching that continues to this day.

There are a number of facts about Christianity that are undoubtedly true. These facts are known not just from the Bible but from historical research. No one can seriously doubt them. Here are four of them:

  1. The Christian movement arose very suddenly in the fourth decade of the first century of what has come to be called “The Christian era.” Sometime during the early thirties of the first century, a distinct group of believers emerged out of Judaism and began to grow explosively.
  2. This movement started in Palestine among Jews who accepted Jesus as their Messiah (or “Christ”), and acknowledged him as Lord and God. These “Christians,” as they eventually came to be known, multiplied with incredible speed. At first this new faith took root in the Jewish communities of cities throughout the Roman world, but the major growth came when it started expanding into the non-Jewish population sometime during its first decade.
  3. Christianity grew because all its converts believed its basic message: that a Jew known as Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by the Romans and then rose from the dead, thereby revealing himself to be the Son of God and the Savior of the world. This was the message that Christians called “the good news” or “gospel,” and this basic message, with its implications, was the subject of all early Christian preaching and teaching.
  4. This gospel message was first proclaimed by Jesus’ original followers, the disciples. They believed God specially commissioned them to be witnesses to these very facts. These disciples testified to the risen Christ’s identity publicly and fearlessly in Jerusalem, the same place where he had been crucified. The church began there, and Jerusalem remained the center of Christianity until its destruction by the Romans in a.d. 70.

Here is more about how it all started.

THE COMING OF THE SPIRIT

On a Jewish religious holy day called Pentecost, in about the year 30 a.d., a hundred and twenty or so of Jesus’ followers were gathered together in the city of Jerusalem. They were waiting for something to happen. These disciples weren’t quite sure what it was that was going to happen, but Jesus had told them to wait there in the city until a special power came upon them. Shortly before 9 o’clock in the morning, it did!

While the disciples were all worshiping together strange things began to happen. There was an unusual sound, a mighty rushing noise like a powerful wind. Then dancing tongues of fire-like flame appeared above their heads. Both these phenomena were signs of the coming of God’s Holy Spirit. And by the Spirit Jesus’ followers were moved into action.

Rushing out into the open, they began to speak about all the mighty things God had done through Jesus. Because Jerusalem was crowded with pilgrims who had come from all over the Roman Empire for the religious holiday, the disciples soon attracted a large crowd of onlookers. The words they spoke struck the various listeners in that international crowd with astonishment, not only because of what the disciples said, but because they were speaking in each listener’s native language. The crowd was amazed as much by the medium as by the message. “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” they exclaimed. This was the miracle of the tongues of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit miraculously enabled Jesus’ disciples to speak foreign languages that day, but for this special purpose: so they could proclaim to the peoples of the world in their own languages the saving power of God through Jesus Christ.

PETER TAKES THE LEAD

During the three years when Jesus’ disciples lived with him, Peter was their principal spokesman. When Jesus asked a question, it was Peter who was first with an answer – whether right or wrong. If Jesus did something that bothered or puzzled the disciples, it was Peter who objected. Peter was the leader, the talker, the bold, blustery one. Sometimes his confident talk got him into trouble, most notably on the night when Jesus was arrested. Peter turned coward and loudly denied ever knowing Jesus. But on Pentecost Peter was a changed man. He became a magnificent spokesman for the Lord Jesus before this huge mixed crowd, which even included some of the very religious leaders who had conspired to put Jesus to death. As that vast throng of many thousands of curious onlookers gathered around the Holy-Spirit-filled disciples, it was Peter who addressed them. He told them the good news that Jesus was God’s anointed one, the Messiah. He rehearsed the basic facts of his life, especially his death and resurrection. He challenged the people plainly with their own complicity in Jesus’ crucifixion. And he offered them the hope of salvation, forgiveness and new life.

Luke offers a summary of Peter’s famous Pentecost sermon in Acts chapter 2. Peter’s main subject is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. His theme is the mighty acts by which Jesus has accomplished salvation for his people. Peter begins by mentioning the miracles and teaching of Jesus’ earthly ministry.

People of Israel, listen to this! Jesus of Nazareth was a man who had God’s approval. God did miracles, wonders and signs among you through Jesus. You yourselves know this. (v.22).

But his primary focus is on Christ’s death and resurrection.

Long ago God planned that Jesus would be handed over to you. With the help of evil people, you put Jesus to death. You nailed him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead. He set him free from the suffering of death. It wasn’t possible for death to keep its hold on Jesus. . . . God has raised this same Jesus back to life. We are all witnesses of this. (vv. 23-24, 32)

The crucifixion of Jesus was a gross perversion of human justice. But at the same time, this terrible sin was used by God according to his wonderful predetermined plan as the perfect sacrifice to pay for sins. Nor did God permit Jesus to remain the victim of sin and the captive of death, but he raised him in triumph and glory from the grave to secure eternal life for all who believe in Christ. Finally, in his sermon Peter tells of Christ’s exaltation to heavenly glory, and his subsequent sending of the Holy Spirit. What the crowd was seeing and hearing that day, said Peter, was the proof that all these things had indeed happened (v. 33).

THE METHOD OF CHRISTIAN PREACHING

The facts which Peter told the crowd in Jerusalem on Pentecost constitute the same basic message he and the other apostles declared all over the ancient world. Their preaching centered on the person and saving work of Jesus Christ. But not only what Peter said was important, how he said it is also significant.

Peter’s preaching method is important for us on two counts. One is his use of scripture. Peter didn’t just simply proclaim the truth about Jesus’ acts of salvation. He grounded them all in the prophetic teaching of the Old Testament. Throughout this Pentecost sermon Peter quotes over and over from the Psalms and the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures. Christian preaching from the very outset takes the form of biblical exposition. “We are witnesses of these things,” declared Peter on behalf of the other apostles. And so they were. But so also were the Old Testament writers. All of scripture – the whole Bible from beginning to end – points to Jesus Christ. The Christian church is built upon the foundation of both prophets and apostles, of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.

Secondly, Peter’s style is bold and direct. In his recital of Christ’s life, Peter stresses the contrast between the way the people of Jerusalem, their leaders, and the Roman authorities all treated Jesus, and the way God treated him. Peter puts special emphasis on the fact that the very same Jesus whom they all had so scornfully rejected and so shamefully treated is the One whom God has most highly honored and exalted. “This man . . . this Jesus . . . God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ,” proclaims Peter, vv. 22,32,36. The same Peter who denied Jesus in such a cowardly way just a few weeks earlier here stands boldly and testifies to him publicly. More than that, Peter also relentlessly drives home the point of the personal responsibility of his audience, together with their need to admit their guilt and repent.

No wonder his preaching had such an impact. Amazingly, Peter’s listeners were convinced of the truth. They were conscience-stricken about what they had done (“cut to the heart,” says Luke, v. 37). They pleaded to be told how to respond. And Peter answered straightforwardly. He told his listeners they must respond to God in repentance and faith, turning from their old life and religion to a new life of belief in and obedience to Jesus Christ. As a sign of this new life, they were to identity with Christ by receiving baptism.

All of you must turn away from your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. The promise is for you and your children. It is also for all who are far away. It is for all whom the Lord our God will choose. (vv. 38-39)

CHRISTIAN WITNESS TODAY

In this great Pentecost sermon Peter offers a pattern for the way Christians try to share the truth with others. Our message is focused upon Jesus Christ. We don’t really have a philosophy of life we want to share with the world. We’re not offering handy and helpful tips on how to live more successfully. We’re not interested even in spreading a particular religious system or cultural world view to everyone. What we want to do is talk about Jesus, telling what he has done and what he will do for people. The same Jesus who went about performing those wonderful miracles of healing, those great acts of mercy and kindness, this great prophet of God who spoke so powerfully, also died on the cross to pay for human sin. The same Jesus who died in agony and humiliation on that cross was raised from death in glorious victory. The same Jesus whose resurrection revealed him to be the Son of God has been exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, where he now rules as Lord over all. This is our gospel, our good news, and it’s for the whole world. At Words of Hope we do not have the gift of tongues as on Pentecost day but instead we work in partnership, we study and learn so that in every language on earth we can share this good news with those who need to hear it.

You know, the gospel is also good news for you. If you want to be saved, here is the invitation: you must repent – turn away from your self-centered life and your sins, and place your faith in Jesus Christ. Then be identified with Christ through baptism; join his church. If you do this, the same gospel promises will be yours: forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit to enable you to become a new person, to live a new kind of life. This same Jesus about whom Peter spoke is alive today. He makes the same offer to you as he did to the crowd on Pentecost. Repent and believe, and you will be saved.

It’s the best promise, the greatest gift, in the whole world. And it’s yours for the asking.