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Preaching Jesus!

 Acts 2: 14-23

 The presence and power of the Holy Spirit were manifested that Pentecost
not only by the sound, the sight, and the speaking in tongues, but was also powerfully manifested
in the sermon of Simon Peter which resulted in the conversion of 3000 souls.

The presence and power of the Holy Spirit gave new courage and boldness to Peter
who only a few days earlier had denied his Lord with cowardice.
Now he stands before a multitude in the streets of Jerusalem boldly rebuking a nation for
its unbelief and crime.
Also astonishing are the skill and the wisdom shown by this unschooled fisherman
as he presents his Master's message.

Every preacher should imitate Peter in these two ways.
He preached Christ.
He expounded the Scriptures.

This is the first sermon in the history of the Christian Church.
The substance of the sermon was new.
It was not a prophetic Christ, but a historic Christ that he preached.
It was a Christ who had been here, and wrought miracles, had been crucified,
had been raised from the dead and ascended to Heaven.
No one had ever preached Christ like this before.

This great sermon was wonderful in its brevity, especially when you consider all that is in it.
You cannot find phrases such as,
"It is reasonable to suppose;" "In all probability;"
"In so far as I can see;" or "It seems to me."
You do not find any of this.

Everything is -- don't be afraid of the word -- dogmatic!
Everything is definite!
Everything is authoritative!

It is the language of a confessor not of a speculator.
It is not the language of a soul trying to discover something.
It is the language of a man to something has been revealed, and who can do none other than speak.
He is convicted of the truth of which he speaks.
The clearness of statements that he makes reveals how the Spirit of God had illuminated this man.

This great message was addressed to Jews.
The listeners were first called in verse 14: "Men, Jews, and all those inhabiting
Jerusalem
."
And then in verse 22: "Men, Israelites."
Then in verse 36: "House of Israel."

The burden of the message is to indicate that what has taken place, including the death of Jesus,
was something for which Israelites should have been prepared.
For the crucified and risen Jesus is the very Lord and Christ for whom Israel should have been waiting.
The God of Israel is to be recognized in the person of Jesus.

In Jesus, the Messiah has come!
The Messianic prophecies are fulfilled and the new age has dawned.
The early church had a tremendous sense that Jesus was the hinge of all history.

When Jesus came to earth, eternity had invaded time.
God had entered the human arena.
Therefore, life and the world would never be the same again.
With the coming of Jesus something crucial, unrepeatable, and all affecting had emerged.

The purpose of this great sermon was to prove
that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, and the Saviour of the world.
In demonstrating this theme Simon Peter used as his proofs Old Testament quotations,
which comprised nearly half of his sermon.

He began by presenting truths to them of which they already knew.
They knew their own prophecy, or they should have known.
Simon Peter began right there: "This is that which was spoken by your prophet."
Then, "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you... as ye yourselves know."
You know your prophets, and you know about this man Jesus who was living among you recently.
You know all that He did.
You know the wonders and the signs.
You know all about Him.

Peter quoted five verses from Joel and used them to give meaning to what was happening.
Joel, a prophet in Judah about the fifth century B.C., saw his native land infested
by an unprecedented swarm of locust.
Before long these insects had devastated the land.
To Joel, the plague of locust was more than just a natural phenomenon.
It portended the proximity of the day of Yahweh, a day of terror and construction.
Joel called for national repentance in view of the imminent judgment of God.
He assured the people that if they would rend their hearts and turn to God, their land would again prosper.

But Joel promised more than material prosperity.
God would give the people His Spirit, and the coming of God's Spirit would cause all of them to prophesy.
According to Joel, the blessing of the Spirit will precede the day of the Lord.

Peter made an alteration to this promise.
Peter was saying that what happened on the day at Pentecost could be nothing less
than the beginning of the end-time.
The last days had come.
The age which climaxes all the ages has come in Jesus!
The last age (eschaton, Gr.) has broken into history.

This does not mean that this age will be exhausted in history, but that it is actually here and now.
Its climax will come when Jesus returns at the end of this stream of life which we call "history."

Since Joel had said God's people would receive His Spirit just before the Day of Judgment,
the Spirit of prophecy now manifest in the Christian community convinced Simon Peter
that the age to come was present.

Many of the expressions in the passage from Joel are certainly to be understood as apocalyptic
imagery and are not to be taken in a literal sense.
The sign language of God cannot be misunderstood.
Every startling and disquieting phenomenon proclaims that Heaven and earth must pass away,
and all their affairs be wound up.

Look at them:
"Blood"... etc., are only specifications of the few of the arresting signs
that occur on earth.
"Blood and fire and vapor of smoke" appeared together at the time of wars
and in the great calamities in nature.

We are told in Scripture that bloody wars will continue until Jesus comes.
The wonders and signs to be revealed in the world of nature, as described in vs. 19 and 20
may have more relevance in the present context that is sometimes realized.

It was little more than seven weeks since the people in Jerusalem
had indeed seen the sun turn into darkness during the early afternoon of the day of our Lord's crucifixion.
On that same afternoon the paschal full moon may well have appeared blood red in the sky
in consequence of that unnatural gloom of that day.

These were to be understood as tokens of the advent of the day of the Lord, "that great
and notable day
," a day of judgment, but more immediately the day of God's salvation
to all who invoked His name.

In one majestic sentence Peter presents Jesus, who is back of the Pentecostal miracle
and back of the whole prophecy of Joel.
The directness, completeness, conciseness with which the essentials about Jesus are combined
into one sentence deserves our complete appreciation.
Simon Peter began with the phrase, "Jesus of Nazareth."

We must remember that name was absolutely hated by the rulers.
The personal name, "Jesus," with "Nazarene," from the town
of His long residence, added to distinguish him from others who had the same personal name.

For Yehoshu'a, later Yeshu'a (Joshua = Jesus) was a name that was frequently chosen
for sons and meant "Yahweh is help," i.e. on or through whom Yahweh
effects salvation.

Also, Peter says, "a man," the object being to recall Jesus to his hearers
as they had seen Him so often during His earthly life.
Then: "Even as you yourselves know" appeals to the knowledge of the hearers
of the tremendous fact that was so prominent in the life of Jesus -- His miracles.

The whole Jewish world rang with the story of these miracles.
Jesus was not someone about: they had read or about a story which they had read.
Jesus was someone whom they met and knew and had experienced.
He was a living presence alive forevermore.

Now Peter springs a bomb on these people.
"This one" sums up all that has been said.
"This man" -- the Lord upon whom men must call,
Peter announces, is none other than the Prophet who was crucified 50 days ago
right here in the city of Jerusalem: "Jesus of Nazareth."

"Him, the Jews murdered!"
This stunning announcement fell upon the ears of these people with fantastic power.

In dealing with the death of Jesus, Peter gave an amazingly full treatment in a few words.
The death was not divorced from the life (verse 22).
The life, which preceded, and the resurrection which followed were indispensable to the meaning
of the cross.
The death was not that of a helpless martyr who was simply overpowered by circumstances,
which He did not anticipate; Jesus foreknew it.
When the eternal Word entered into the redemptive work, He foresaw the cost, yet He gave Himself to it.

This does not mean that Jesus sought to be killed or that the Father wanted Him to be crucified,
but it does not mean that when the choice to redeem was made, the cost was not foreseen.

However, men are not freed of the guilt of crucifying Jesus.
Peter placed the major guilt upon the Jews, but the lawless Gentiles also came in for their share of guilt.
(3: 18; 4: 28; 13:29)
The cross was God's eternal plan.

The lesson of Acts safeguards us from serious errors in our thinking about the death of Jesus.
We must never think that the cross is a kind of emergency measure flung out by God
when everything else had failed.
It is part of the very life of God.

And we must never think that anything Jesus did change the attitude of God about men.
We must never set a gentle, loving Jesus over against an angry, vengeful God.
Remember, it was God who sent Jesus.
It was God who planned the coming of Jesus into the world.

And the message of Acts sets out to prove that the suffering and death of Christ were the
fulfillment of prophecy.
To the Jew the idea of a crucified Messiah was incredible.
Their law said, "Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree."
To the orthodox Jew the cross was the one fact which made it impossible to that Jesus could be
the Messiah.
But the early preachers responded: "If you would only read your Scriptures rightly
you would see that all was foretold
."

The cross was a window in time that allowed us to see the suffering love which is eternally
in the heart of God.
Jesus was crucified by the hands of lawless men.
The crucifixion is the greatest crime in history.

It shows supremely what sin can do.
Sin can take the loveliest life the world ever saw and murder that life on a cross.

"When Jesus died on Calvary,
I, too, was there;
''Twas in my place He stood for me
And now accepted -- even as He,
His right I share.

When I shall reach my home in glory
And see my Saviour face to face,
This shall be all my song and story --
A sinner saved by grace!

I'll tell how by His blood He bought me
With all our lost and ransomed race,
And how so tenderly He sought me
And saved me by His grace."

Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White

 

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