Reading for Monday, April 9: Acts 2
It’s hard to overstate the importance of Acts 2. Pentecost celebrates the giving of the Law at Sinai 50 days after the Passover. And now, God bestows a new gift: the Holy Spirit, poured out on all people as Joel foretold. The Spirit comes suddenly, without warning, like an unexpected grace. “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance,” (v4). The Good News is instantaneously broadcast in a host of languages, setting in motion a revolution that continues to this day, a movement of faith, hope, and love rooted in the person of Jesus.
Peter, naturally, rises to address the wondering crowds. This fisherman-turned-preacher is quick to discern the moment: “But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel,” (v16). Joel imagined the last days as a time of great generosity, God pouring spirit out to flesh; children prophesying in abundance; the elderly learn to dream once again; “wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below,” (v19). And the culmination of this generous work: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” (v21). The last days are characterized as a time when God generously makes salvation available to all peoples.
Peter directs his message to Israel’s masses, the same ones who called for Christ’s crucifixion just 7 weeks earlier. But Peter also affirms God’s sovereignty as well, noting that He was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,” (v23). But, praise God, the story does not end in death. “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses,” (v32). Peter concludes his proclamation with the assertion of Jesus’ identity: “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified,” (v36).
Convicted by these words, the crowds cry out for salvation. “Brothers, what shall we do?” (v37). Is there any hope for us? And the response that began it all: “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,” (v38-39). For 3,000 souls, this promise becomes reality on that day.
And Luke summarizes the life of these earliest followers. They share an earnest commitment to Christ’s teaching, perpetuated by the apostles. They believe in prayer, in fellowship. They are filled with wonder as God works in their midst. And they sell possessions, giving to any in need. What they have, they share. And God adds to their number daily. Again, this is all the work of God. And so begins the church, the called ones who participate in God’s redemptive salvation work in the world.