A sermon idea based on Acts 2:14a, 31-36.
The Big Idea
Everything is different about the world because of what God did in and through Jesus Christ. In the same way, everything about our lives should look different after we come to know him. We are forever different in light of the cross and the empty tomb.
Acts 2:14a, 2:36-42 NRSV
[14a] But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them,
 “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”  And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.”
 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.  They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Peter stands up to preach to a crowd of primarily Jewish listeners who, just weeks before, had completely missed out on the big lesson about God’s Kingdom. They hadn’t understood that he was coming to “save” the world in a way they hadn’t anticipated.
On Palm Sunday, they welcomed Jesus as a political and empirical deliverer. By midweek the tables were turning and by Friday, the crowds were calling for Jesus’ crucifixion. But instead of the disciples disappearing and fading back into the monotony of their old lives, they were completely changed and energized by the story that Jesus had risen again from the dead and was bringing to the world a kind of salvation that was far larger in scope than simply the overthrow of Rome.
Something about this movement of early believers was contagious. Their faith was indeed radical. And people were beginning to see the light.
So the crowd, on the Day of Pentecost, was asking for direction, and Peter answers two big questions people were asking that day that people are still asking now…
First, what now?
Now that we see our need for a Savior on multiple levels… Now that we see our need for God’s redemption… Now that we understand Jesus was the Son of God, the incarnation of the divine in the body of a human… Now that we know his crucifixion was anticipated in advance and his resurrection has solidified his message of hope…
Now that we “get it,” how should we respond? And Peter’s answer is twofold.
- Be baptized.
Repentance has to do with real change that happens from the inside out. Was Peter calling the nation of Israel to repent of its rejection of Jesus? Or was he calling on individuals to change their thinking about sin and salvation and to personally receive Jesus by faith? Probably both.
For most of us who are reading or hearing this message today, the latter is pertinent.
In light of what Jesus accomplished on the cross by putting God’s love, grace, and mercy on display for all to see and in light of his resurrection and enthronement as King of God’s Kingdom, which is near and all around us, how should we respond? By repenting. Changing. Doing a 180.
We should turn from our selfishness and sin to follow the One who died for our sins. We should agree with God about the nature of our wrongs and begin to see the world from his perspective. We should step off the throne of our own lives and submit to the rule of the good King Jesus.
And then, we should be baptized as the outward sign of that inward change. Our baptism will be symbolic of the death and resurrection of our King as well as the death and resurrection that has now happened on the inside of us once real repentance has happened.
And our baptism will also link us with all others who follow Christ. We will identify, together, with the One who came to save the world.
Second, what next?
Once we’ve embraced Jesus through repentance and faith, and once we’ve declared that faith to others through the waters of baptism, what next? Do we just go our separate ways back to our normal lives?
No, the early believers did something else, and though we’ve stumbled through every generation, the church has kept doing these simple things for two thousand years all over the world.
- We continue in the apostles’ teaching.
- We continue in fellowship.
- We break bread together.
- We pray as one.
The church isn’t perfect. It’s broken and splintered and riddled with the pockmarks left behind from all the ways in which human beings have contributed to the life of the church out of our brokenness and selfishness. But… the church is still the body of Christ on earth.
We need to keep wrestling through our imperfections because Jesus died for the church, sent the Spirit to empower the church, and commissioned the church to keep sharing the good news to the ends of the earth.
About the Cover Art: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash.