April 21, 2024. Sermon Title: Acts: A Call to Repent

First Mennonite Church

April 21, 2024

A Call to Repent

Text: Acts 2: 29-42

Our passage this morning is the conclusion of Peter’s answer to those asking about the meaning of the events that occurred on that Pentecost Day. When the Spirit came, the disciples started to speak in foreign languages. At the sound of both the wind and of human voices, a large crowd of diverse linguistic backgrounds gathered, wanting to know what was happening. The disciples were speaking about God’s great deeds in a variety of languages known to the gathered crowd.

While some were amazed and perplexed, others thought the strange behavior was due to drunkenness. But Peter, once again, taking his role as the spokesperson for the group, only that this time he was a transformed man, addressed the crowd. The Holy Spirit gave Peter the ability to recall, reinterpret, and apply the Jewish scripture to explain what was happening. Peter clarified that the behavior and special abilities the disciples were displaying were the result of God’s Spirit being poured out on them, according to the prophecy in Joel. Peter then charged his audience with the words of our passage this morning.

It is so amazing to see a radically transformed Peter. His preaching reflected the wondrous power of the Holy Spirit in his life. Peter had always been vocal and impetuous. He had always been the first to speak and to do so on behalf of the twelve. However, oftentimes Peter spoke it was either with his heart or mind disconnected from his mouth. He once earned Jesus’ harshest rebuke: “Get behind me, Satan.” However, on this day, Peter, with his heart burning with holy fire, spoke with power and eloquence. I would guess his friends could not believe their ears it was Peter who was speaking. Peter not only quoted the Scriptures so lucidly, but he interpreted the person of Jesus in light of prophecy. He not only defended the behavior of the disciples, but he also laid responsibility on the authorities for the death of Jesus. In verse 23, Peter said, This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”

Here is a word of caution about this part of Peter’s speech. From that day through the next 20 centuries, the Jewish people have been blamed for the death of Jesus. Peter’s generalized accusation against the Jews on that day: You kill the Messiah of God” has become an unmerited label the Jewish people have had to bear. They have suffered religious persecution at the hands of “Christians.” They have been reviled, hunted, and even suffered the attempt of extermination. As reflected in the movie, Fiddler on the Roof, the Jews in Anatevka are called “Christ killers.”[1] 

We need to realize that Jesus and his disciples were Jews. Up to that day of Peter’s preaching even the thousands who became followers of Christ were all Jews. When we read this passage, let us remember that it was the religious authorities who instigated the crowds to do their bidding in order to get Jesus crucified. It was Pilate, the Roman governor who authorized the death of Jesus.

Luke’s Gospel seems to portray an innocent Pilate, who finds Jesus innocent. But Pilate was no saint. He was a ruthless man and for that reason, according to history, he was removed by Caesar. Pilate obviously would not have allowed any rival. And Jesus could have been seen by Pilate as one. Thus, the cross was where the enemies of Pilate ended.

So again, Peter not only explained the earthly life of Jesus but affirmed the glorified position of Jesus after his ascension. “He is exalted and sitting at the right hand of God,” Peter affirmed.  

Peter addressed his audience, from the highest official to the common man and woman. He urged his audience to turn to God. “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation,” Peter charged.

We are told that the audience was moved by Peter’s sermon to the point that they were desperately asking, “Brothers, what should we do?” The people were made aware of their participation and actions concerning the death of Jesus. They were made known that what was happening was God’s continued presence among them, as Jesus promised them.

Peter had a straightforward answer for those inquiring about what to do: “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.”

So once again, we are reminded that at the heart of the gospel message is the call to repentance. John the Baptist called for repentance. Jesus began his ministry by calling people to repent. In Mark chapter one, verse 15, Jesus proclaimed: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

It was the same message Peter gave his audience: “repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven.” We need to remember that Peter shared the Hebrew concept of repentance. Repentance involves five key elements.

  1. Recognition of wrongdoing
  2. A feeling of remorse or regret
  3. A desire to desist from doing what is wrong
  4. Restitution/reconciliation
  5. Confession of sins

Peter’s sermon brought awareness to his audience about their misstep regarding Jesus. They unknowingly participated in the death of Jesus. Therefore, Peter called his audience to recognize their wrongdoing.

Upon hearing Peter, verse 37 tells us that the audience “was cut to the heart.” They felt remorse for what they had done.

Then Peter’s audience was desperately asking, “What should we do?” They wanted to desist from going against Christ. They wanted to be reconciled with God.

Lastly, we are told that those who accepted the message were baptized, which according to the practice in the early church, confession of sins preceded baptism. The people confessed to God their sins and were baptized.

My dear friends, if there is anyone among us who has not accepted the message of God’s love through his Son, that means you have been either oblivious to the ways God has been reaching out to you, or you have been resisting his voice. Today, I want you to know that there is salvation in Christ Jesus. You need to repent so that you may be forgiven of your sins. The apostle Peter says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2Peter 3:9).

For those of us who have accepted the Lord, it is important that we take time to ponder about our life and our actions before God. It is important that from time to time we ask God to search our hearts and allow him to raise awareness in us about the path we walk and the idols of the heart. Maybe God wants to show us things for which we need to repent.

Let us be reminded that God will never be appalled by the way we might be living. God will never be surprised, no matter what he might find in us. However, that does not mean that God’s Spirit is not grieved. Sin grieves the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, if we open our hearts to God, he certainly will rejoice with us. There is a promise to everyone who opens their heart to the Lord. There is a promise to everyone who repents before God. Peter said, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” God gives new life to everyone who repents. God recreates life through repentance. Let us open our hearts to the Lord. Amen!

Let us pray:

Our dear Lord, you know everything about our lives. However, we ask you to search our hearts and show us the things we need to change, confess, and turn away from. May your Holy Spirit reveal to us your holiness. Amen!

Pastor Romero

Jewison, N. (1971). Fiddler on the Roof. United Artists.