Acts 2: 14 – 21 Peter addresses the crowd
Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:
‘ “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” ’
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Luke reports that when the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples they began to speak in other tongues. They must have shown great exuberance and joy, because a crowd gathered to listen. Many were bewildered, as they realised the disciples were speaking to them in their own language – and there were many foreigners in the crowd. Some, noticing the disciples’ euphoria, made fun of them, saying ‘They have had too much wine.’
Peter, to whom this event was as unexpected as to anyone, stood up to explain to the crowd what was happening. He hadn’t had a chance to plan a sermon; the words he spoke were given to him by the Holy Spirit. This was in line with Jesus’ prophecies:
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (John 16: 13)
“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” (Luke 12: 11 – 12)
Just as when he walked to Jesus on the water, Peter here has to step out in faith and say the words he’s been given.
I’ll pause to say something about the nature of the words that are written here. St Luke, who is almost certainly the author of Acts, was probably not an eye-witness of these events. Luke has written parts of Acts in the first person, and other parts in the third person. This is unlikely to be carelessness on his part; it’s much more likely intended to indicate whether or not he was actually present. This passage about the day of Pentecost is written in the third person, which strongly suggests that St Luke wasn’t an eye witness.
However, St Luke says that he has “carefully investigated everything from the beginning.” (Luke 1: 3) It’s reasonable to assume that the broad outline of Peter’s address is as he spoke it, and, indeed, it may be an accurate record. But, if we look ahead a little, we come across the words, “With many other words he warned them;” (Acts 2: 40). That suggests to me that St Luke has taken the main themes that Peter used and stitched them together into a coherent narrative.
It’s a well-constructed narrative, too. Peter starts by identifying with his audience. “Fellow Jews,” he says, “and all of you who live in Jerusalem.” He doesn’t start with criticism, he starts by saying, “I’m one of you. I’m a Jew living in Jerusalem; we are fellows.”
He then considers their point of view. Most of them are bewildered by what is happening, and some of them are scornful, saying the disciples have drunk too much wine. So Peter says, “I know what you’re thinking; you’re wondering what’s going on, and thinking these people are drunk. But listen; it’s only nine o’clock in the morning! Let me explain…”
He turns to the Scriptures, a way of making a case that would have been familiar to his listeners. The words are those of Joel, who prophesied about the coming of “the great and glorious day of the Lord”.
And Peter finishes his quotation at the words, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
That concludes the introduction; now it’s time for him to spell out the significance of Jesus in God’s plan. We shall see what he said about that in tomorrow’s blog post.
Thank you for the gift of your Holy Spirit. Help us to accept your prompting as you lead us into all truth. Help us to rely on the words you give us when we speak to others about Jesus.
In Jesus’ name, Amen