Reading Acts Together #4: Acts 2:14-41

The first sermon from the Spirit-filled church and Peter is responding to accusations of drunkenness in v13. People will often dismiss and make fun of things they don’t understand. Peter steps up and explains (v14) – these days were predicted, so listen carefully and I’ll explain – remember Joel?

His reference to Jerusalem in v14 will remind us that the mission of the church has started. Acts 1:8 is now up and running. And it starts where it all began. Jerusalem.

There’s so much that could be explored here, but notice how Peter’s sermon really begins after his explanation and quote from Joel 2:28-32 when he begins to expound what it really means when ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (v21).

Here’s a brief look at the sermon, focussing on the resurrection – since this is what they were witnesses to (1:3) and was a specific credential to be an apostle (1:22). So it’s interesting just how much Peter focuses on the resurrection here.

First, he urges them to remember the miracles and signs that he did among them in v22 – remember what he did for you, Peter is saying – he was no ordinary man. This will be important later.

Peter says – yes he died – but his death was no accident in v23 – God had deliberately planned this! Peter is reminding them that Jesus did die on the cross. This is one of the most well-attested facts in ancient history. Apart from the gospels, and the other books of the NT, there’s early Christian witness, as well as 5 non-Christian sources that state Jesus died. One of them is Tacitus, the Roman historian who writes ‘Christus, from whom the name [that is Christianity] had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus’.[1]

But what makes Christianity good news is that Jesus didn’t stay dead! Peter explains this in v24 and then seeks to prove that Jesus has risen.

First, he shows that this was predicted in the Jewish Scriptures and points to Psalm 16 which says ‘you will not let your holy one see decay’. He shows that this cannot be talking about David because David died and his tomb is still here (v29). Peter is not only saying – I can take you to David’s tomb to show you he died and decayed, he’s also implying – but I can’t take you to Jesus’ tomb because it is empty!

Then he says ‘and we are all witnesses’ of his resurrection in v32. The disciples believed that they saw and talked to the risen Jesus. They were witnesses of the resurrection. In OT court of law you needed 2 or 3 witnesses to confirm the facts. But Jesus was seen by not only his apostles, but many more of his followers – up to 500 at one time (1 Corinthians 15:3-7). Many were witnesses of his resurrection and saw him in different places at different times, in groups or alone. Scholar Darrell Bock states:

The theme of witnesses…to the resurrection reaches back to Luke 24:48 and Acts 1:8…Peter’s point is that the resurrection is neither an idea the apostolic witnesses…created nor a myth nor a fabrication…Rather, the resurrection is something the apostolic witnesses experienced and know to be true, and so they can speak to its reality. All the gospel accounts of resurrection show that it was not anticipated or immediately believed by the apostles…The resurrection is not a symbol or a metaphor for anything; it was a real event that changed the direction of the witnesses’ lives’.[2]

And what’s the end result of this? Ultimately that Jesus is both Lord and Messiah (v36) – he is the one we should follow. He is no ordinary man – the resurrection show’s he is the God-man who has destroyed death to bring everlasting resurrection life to humanity. So call upon his name, and you will be saved.

The people hearing Peter were ‘cut to the heart’ (v37) – they realised the reality. Do you?

Peter told them what to do in order to follow Jesus – ‘repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins’ (v38). Peter then says that they’ll get the gift of the Holy Spirit, showing us that all who believe in Jesus are given the Spirit, not just the original few at Pentecost.

Thousands called on the name of the risen Jesus that day and were saved.

Its interesting what Tacitus says next after saying Jesus was crucified. He continues: ‘and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.

Although he doesn’t know it, he admits that Jesus’ death only halted the movement temporarily – why? Because Jesus is risen! And as Tacitus says and as Acts will reveal – this message will eventually get to Rome itself.

[1] Tacitus – Annals 15:44. See

[2] Darrell L. Bock, Acts: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 130.

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