Peter gives the first sermon
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: John 21:15-19
Devotional text: Acts 2:14-41
Today, my friends, we are looking at the Apostle Peter on Pentecost Day, for it was Peter who offered the first sermon to the new church.
Remember Peter? The Apostle who walked on water with Jesus then, doubting, started to sink? Jesus took his hand and raised him up again and into the boat (Matt. 14:28-32).
Peter, the one who was always quick to speak, sometimes to the detriment of what was happening around him: like wanting to build tents for the holy men during Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-9) and denying Jesus three times after his arrest (Luke 22:54-62).
Then, after his resurrection, Peter was one of the first at the tomb of Jesus (John 20:3-9) and later was with the disciples when Jesus appeared to the believers (John 20:19-22, 24).
Found only in the gospel of John 21:15-19, we find Jesus asking Peter if he loved him. Jesus asked this question of Peter three times, reminding us of the three times Peter denied Jesus after his arrest. Three times Peter answers Jesus that he loves him, and three times Jesus follows Peter’s assertation with the command “Feed my lambs, “Take care of my sheep, “Feed my sheep.”
We might think of Peter as a misfit, yet he was a specially chosen man of God. Mistakes and all, God had a plan for Peter. After all, didn’t Jesus also refer to Peter as the rock on which he would build his church (Matt.16:15-20)?
Founded by Jesus (the Rock), Peter (called the rock by Jesus), would become an early leader of the believers.
Now we come to the Day of Pentecost. The disciples are speaking in the tongues of many nations, enabled by the Holy Spirit, to spread the good news about Jesus.
As the crowd was amazed by what was happening, and as some even scoffed at it by saying, “They have had too much wine” (Acts 2:13), Peter stood up along with the other 11 Apostles and raised his voice to be heard by the crowd.
In verse 14, Peter addressed the scoffers, letting them know the disciples were not drunk, as it was only nine in the morning. Using the prophecy of Joel 2:28-32, Peter spoke to the crowd, “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people (17) … And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (21).”
Thus, Peter began his sermon to those who would help birth the new church of Jesus the Christ.
Continuing in verses 22-24, Peter spoke about Jesus, as the one sent by God to fulfill the prophecies. Jesus, he said, was raised from the dead by God, “because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”
Next, Peter recited Psalm 16:8-11, written by David. Here, in part, is what he said: “I saw the Lord always before me … Therefore, my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body will also live in hope, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay … ”
Explaining these words from scripture, Peter told the crowd that, although the remains of King David are in the tomb today, God made a promise to him that one of his descendants would take the throne, be resurrected from the dead and his body would not decay.
Then, as he continued, Peter pointed to Jesus as that man, saying that those believers who were in Jerusalem at the time of his death on the cross also knew of the resurrection of Jesus, who now sat on the right hand of the Father, as stated by David in Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool at my feet.”
At verse 36, Peter proclaimed to the crowd, “Therefore, let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
As the people listened to the words of Peter, their hearts were opened and many became convinced of Jesus, the Savior, and asked Peter what should they now do. In verses 38-39, Peter’s reply was to “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit … ”
The last two verses, 40-41, are a recap of what happened after that: with Peter “pleading with them to save themselves from this corrupt generation.” The believers were then baptized and numbered about 3,000.
As we continue in Acts, after Pentecost, chapters three and four continue to tell us about the actions of Peter, including how he continued to speak to the people.
Pentecost Day, the new church had a great boost in believers. These believers, who lived in and near Jerusalem, would continue to meet daily, share all they had in common with one another, take the sacrament of communion together, watch the many signs and miracles offered by the Apostles and (47) “enjoyed the favor of the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Here we are, almost 2,000 years later. Millions of people around the world believe today and still receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We still meet together, now weekly, or more often, to praise and worship God, to sing hymns and psalms, and read our Bibles, to hear sermons by our pastors. We still continue to help the needy, to reach out to our communities in times of need and in times of joy. We still maintain a presence of God’s love and mercy and compassion and hope.
And we remember Peter, an imperfect man, chosen by Jesus “to feed his sheep.” Peter, an uneducated fisherman from the shores of Galilee, who doubted, who denied and who spoke without understanding, became a blessing for all believers, as he became a leader in the new church and even traveled abroad to spread the hope of Jesus.
Jesus can and does use anyone, whoever you may be, whatever you may have done or failed to do. He’s just asking you, “Do you love me?”