But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.”
Now where can we go with just this one verse? Do you see anything valuable or useful in this little bit of the opening statement at the start of his first sermon? It doesn’t seem to say very much that might help us to understand God’s Word any better.
So, what did you hear or what did you see taking place here?
As you ponder that for a moment: let me add this. Sometimes in the manufacture of a product or a system, something else is produced that was not realized or thought of at first. A product or service that has a wide use or value – something that appeared or is discovered during the first process. The invention of RADAR was one of these. Just after WWII, experimentation on the microwave systems that gave us RADAR (an acronym for Radio detection and ranging), produced the theory and materials that made microwave ovens commonplace about 25 years later. We got a product as an offshoot of the original that had a wider base and use – starting a new industry. Verse 14 should be viewed as a by-product of events that led up to the beginning of the church and which produced a much greater impact than might have been thought.
“But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them…” These are the same eleven – of whom, in Mark 14:50 it was said, “they all forsook him and fled.”
At the time of the record in Acts 2, those now twelve Apostles were not a very imposing group. Made up to 4 fishermen, 1 tax collector, one member of a political party (Simon the Zealot); and two sets of brothers, with one possible father son duo, and one cousin, with all of them just common everyday folks. Next to nothing is known about most of them. So, what do you think might be a by-product of the events here?
First: “Peter stood up…” A large portion of the religious Jewish male population had gathered, probably standing or just sitting on the ground, up on the Temple mount that morning. They had come together because they had awakened to the sound of a storm – “a rushing mighty wind.” But when they got outside there was just the sound, the noise, but no wind at all. The Day of Pentecost mixed with some new wonderment, brought them together at Solomon’s Portico at the Temple. A storm with no wind – though subtle, that’s a sure fire way to get people’s attention. And there were listed nineteen countries or languages represented. This was the end of the Festival of the booths (tabernacle means booths or tents). One of the three of four yearly gatherings where all Jewish males were to present themselves before God and the priests. They stayed on or near the temple ground in temporary tents or booths, to remind them how their ancestors had lived during the 40 year wanderings.
As they were still considering the great windless noise, and as Peter stepped forward, do you think that any of the crowd knew who he was? A month and-a-half earlier he had lied about knowing Christ denying him publicly. Do you suppose that no one that morning knew anything about the trial of Jesus, who was well known throughout both Judea and Galilee? The crowd had to have had some in its number who either had participated in those earlier events, knew about them, knew of the healings and feedings, or had witnessed some of it.
Second: The rest – the other eleven Apostles also stood up. That was the most unpopular thing these twelve men could have done on this memorial day. Nobody likes interruptions to their carefully planned and ordained gatherings or Holy offerings. To them it was sacrilege. We like things done decently and in order.
By standing up and speaking of Christ what did Peter accomplish? Peter “confesses” that his denial earlier had been wrong. And when he fled, it showed fear and moral weakness. But, when he stood up that morning – it showed an entirely different man, a higher level of commitment and a new found moral courage. And as the other eleven stood, they showed unity in what they were about to say and do – and solidarity with Peter. It is not easy to take the strong position, when by saying nothing or by just leaving, you can spare yourself the brighter spotlight, the dispute or something even worse. And what is honor or your name good for, if you’re dead? Did not the leaders of these Jews and religious groups thrive on snuffing out the opposition? What about their Roman masters? Would they have put up with a mob action by the Jews?
A Christian should not hesitate. If you truly know the truth and seek the glory of God, don’t back step. Peter not only stood with the other eleven in the presence of those who had crucified Christ. But he told them exactly what they had done. “You have taken and with wicked hands have crucified and slain this Jesus” (V. 23).
Do you think the Jewish leaders cared about that? What do you see, how did it set up? There was no effort to soften the crime (the deacon Stephen would later call it murder). Second, there was no apology – it was not a conciliatory effort. He came straight at them without hedging. I wonder how we would put it today with our exuberance for political correctness – and our want to be “where never is heard a discouraging word…”
What fix did Peter give them for their actions? What was the offered remedy? It was all totally foreign to the religion of the OT and the Jews. His answer – “Repent and be baptized, in the name of Jesus Christ…” (V. 38).
This is the only fix for everyone then or now – no other offer would ever come or was ever made. No effort was made to make the consequences lighter or seem less important. No easier way… No alternative plan was offered – there is no “Door #2.” The same individual action is required now or you will perish. That falls indelicately on our senses, and for the most part, people have rejected it and just simply don’t believe it. Yet, that is what the Lord said. Do we believe Him? No hint of compromise was offered due to the person’s station in life or their rank within a family, tribe, business or hierarchy. And they could not carry any baggage out of their old life or religion and into the new. There was just one way offered, one thing they could do.
Every bit of that took courage and conviction on the part of Peter and the rest — to stand and deliver. It took an unselfish and clear devotion to what they knew was the truth. It took knowledge and courage to respond exactly to what was asked.