Acts 2:22-41 After The Biggest Mistake

Sun, 11/06/2017 - 10:30 -- James Oakley

We’ve just baptized Finlay. I don’t know what you make of baptism.

The Bible reading we had told the story of one of the biggest baptisms in history. About 3000 people,  baptised on a single day. 3000. That’s most of the population of Kemsing. What could possibly make that number of people decide to be baptized on a single day?

Well, it was the result of a speech given by Simon Peter, one of Jesus’ first disciples. There had been some strange goings on; a crowd coming together; so Peter gave his speech to explain what had happened. And then the response saw 3000 people baptised.

Which makes this Bible reading a good place to start if we want to explore what baptism is all about. What prompted 3000 people to be baptized? The answer is Peter’s speech. Let’s see what was in that speech.


As I say, Peter was speaking because the crowd was curious at some strange goings on.

Those strange goings on were what we call the day of Pentecost. Here’s what happened.

Before this point, people had known about God. They’d seen, heard and touched Jesus. They’d followed Jesus. But it was all external. God was “out there”.

On the day of Pentecost, that all changed. God poured out his Holy Spirit. Now, God would live inside each of his people. To change and transform us from within. To be with us always. To make us new people.

That day, each of the 120 Christian believers received God’s Holy Spirit.

Because that was the very first time, day 1, God made sure that everyone could see what was happening. There were strange goings on. A sound like a violent wind. Flames of fire that appeared, and landed to rest on each person. God’s people, praising God in languages they’d never learnt.

All of this brought a crowd together. These goings on needed explaining. So Peter set to.


It was all, he told them, about Jesus.

The crowd would have heard about Jesus. They’d have heard of his amazing miracles.

They’d also have heard of his death. Jesus was killed by a cruel collaboration between the Jews in Jerusalem and the Roman occupying forces. As Peter says (it’s verse 23 in our reading): “You, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to a cross.”

Peter lays the blame at their door. They couldn’t have done it without the Romans, but it was the Jews in Jerusalem who killed Jesus. The crowd he’s speaking to are to blame.

I should just pause here. Sometimes, people have tried to blame Jews of other generations for the death of Jesus. We mustn’t do that. It was nothing to do with them. But it was everything to do with the Jews who actually did it, the ones Peter was speaking to. It was their fault, make no mistake.

But the story doesn’t end with his death. Peter tells the crowd that Jesus rose from the dead. And then he returned to heaven. He’s the one who poured out the Holy Spirit. Verse 33: “Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”

This confirms two things about Jesus. Firstly, he’s the one God has chosen to be king of this world. He’s in God’s throne-room, on the throne. And second, he is nothing less than God himself. Because only God can give the gift of God’s Holy Spirit.

The Jesus they crucified is risen, he’s ascended to heaven, and he’s given this gift of the Spirit. That means he’s God’s chosen king, and he’s God himself.

And that’s how Peter’s speech ends. Verse 36: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah (which means king).”

At this point, the penny drops. They killed the wrong bloke. Awkward!

The one they had killed just 50 days before was nobody less than God himself, and God’s chosen king on earth. What’s more he’s back from the dead. What’s more, he’s now the king of heaven and earth, he’s running the world, he’s fully in charge.

“Oh my goodness, we’re in deep trouble.” Or, to use the words on the page: “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’”

I remember a scene in a police drama, I think it was DCI Banks, when a police officer was applying for promotion. Having been quite rude to one of their seniors, and sent him away with a flea in his ear, she stepped into her promotion interview the next day. To find that he was the one leading the interview. Awkward.

That’s tiny compared to the position this crowd was in. They’d not just been a bit rude to Jesus. They’d killed him. He wasn’t just deciding whether they got promotion. He’s now running the cosmos, and decides whether they live to take another breath.

Quite simply, it’s nothing short of a miracle that they’re still alive. It’s a miracle that Jesus didn’t send fire to destroy Jerusalem and everyone living in it. Somehow, by a miracle, the crowd are still there, listening to Peter.

So the question is: How can they fix this? “Brothers, what shall we do?”

And Peter says there’s two things they need to do, with two results.

Repent and be baptised.

Verse 38: “Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptised’”.

To repent is to turn around. To change the direction of your life. The Roman army used the word to turn on the march.

This is about genuine sorrow for the way they’ve lived, sorrow that is so real it leads to a new direction. The crowd had treated Jesus as disposable. Someone to be got rid of. They now need the opposite approach. If he’s the king, then what he says goes. From today, life must be all about him.

Then baptism is a symbol of this radical new start. The water symbolises many things, including death and new birth. This is a new beginning. You can always say that “today is the first day of the rest of your life”. It’s meaningless Of course it is. But with baptism, it really is. Life begins again. From that day on, they’re a new person.

It’s a total new direction. A total new beginning.

Baptism feels tame to us. We do them all the time. It’s actually a really radical statement. Let me show you that by taking us back in time, and then around the world in our own day.

Back in Jesus’ day, baptism was something that non-Jews did when they wanted to become Jews. Peter’s audience was entirely Jewish. It’s almost offensive to suggest that they needed baptising. But they did. They needed to follow Jesus. That is a radical new start as dramatic as a non-Jew entering the Jewish faith.

In some other countries and communities today, new Christians feel how radical this is. Picture the new Christian in Iraq or Syria. You don’t become a Christian in private. To be baptised is to make a public statement that from today you follow Jesus, identify as Christian. That will be noted. In some places, you sign your own death warrant by doing this.

What should the crowd do? Recognise that the Jesus they killed is now the king. Turn their lives around to follow him, to live his way, to let him take charge. And to do so with the very public statement of being baptised.

“Repent and be baptised”.

And if they do this, two things will follow.


First, forgiveness.

Remember these are the people who saw to it that Jesus was killed?

Look at how verse 38 goes on: “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”

If they repent and are baptised, the past will be wiped out.

If you’ve just killed the Son of God, forgiveness is a wonderful thing. But it’s wonderful for everyone. Most people long to be forgiven. We find it so hard to forgive others, which means we all go through life with a string of things that people we love cannot forget. We long to have the slate wiped clean, a genuine fresh start, with our past mistakes never brought up again.

That’s what God promise. They’ll be forgiven for their part in Jesus’ death. They’ll be forgiven for everything else they’ve done wrong. Forgiven for the little things. Forgiven for the big things.

The Gift of the Holy Spirit

The second thing that follows is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

“… for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

This is not just for the 120 who were following Jesus before the day of Pentecost. This is God’s gift for everyone who follows Jesus, whenever they live, wherever they live.

Not only does God wipe out the past. He makes us new people.


They went for it. 3000 of them. Verse 41: “Those who accepted his message were baptised, and about three thousand of them were added to their number that day.”

They saw what they’d done to Jesus. They regretted it deeply. They started life all over again, in a public way by being baptised. And they received forgiveness for the past and God’s presence to change and transform them going forwards. With an offer like that, why on earth not?

None of us was alive when Jesus was killed. None of us shouted for his death. But we’re all in just as much trouble as they were.

We all treat him as disposable. It doesn’t make any difference whether you go to church regularly or not. You can go to church every week, and then push Jesus out of the rest of your week. Or you can push church out as well. We all treat the king of the universe as though he was not terribly important. We get on with our lives, as though Jesus has very little to do with them.

That is the same attitude that led the crowd to do what they did. It still wishes Jesus out of the way, treats him as though he was out of the way.

We, too, need to see that he is back from the dead, God himself, and God’s chosen king. We need to see that this puts us in deep trouble. We’re on collision course with the risen Jesus. Nobody sets themselves against the risen Jesus and comes off well.

We need God to bring us to the point where we too are crying out: “What shall we do?”

The answer today is the same. We must repent. And we must be baptised. If you’ve never repented, why not do so today? Why not make today a brand new beginning, with Jesus now the one in charge. And if you’ve never been baptised, drop me a line and we’ll talk about setting that up.

Because the gifts God is offering are just too good to miss out on. He offers the forgiveness of our sins. The big ones. The small ones. All of them. Full and free forgiveness! How wonderful! Well God’s just put that on the table for us.

And the gift of his Holy Spirit. To change us. To be with us. To transform us. To make us the new people God wants us to be.

3000 were added to their number that day. Is anything stopping you from being added to their number this day?

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