Rev’d Jonathan Gale
Acts 2: 14 – 15, 22 – 24, 32 – 42
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them: ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.
22‘You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know— 23this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law. 24But God raised him up, having freed him from death, because it was impossible for him to be held in its power.
32This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’ ” 36 Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.’
The First Converts
37Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what should we do?’ 38Peter 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. 39For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.’ 40And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.’ 41So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Acts 10: 30 – 48
30Cornelius replied, ‘Four days ago at this very hour, at three o’clock, I was praying in my house when suddenly a man in dazzling clothes stood before me. 31He said, “Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon, who is called Peter; he is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner, by the sea.” 33Therefore I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. So now all of us are here in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say.’
Gentiles Hear the Good News
34Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’
Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit
44 While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word. 45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles, 46for they heard them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter said, 47‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ 48So he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they invited him to stay for several days.
Peter had a way of responding to Jesus with all his heart.
- Jesus calls and he immediately leaves his fishing boat and follows
- Jesus is walking on the water and Peter jumps right in to come to him
- Jesus appears with Moses and Elijah and Peter wants to erect tents in their honour
- When Jesus asks who people say that he is, Peter is the first to declare him to be the Messiah
- At the last supper he isn’t satisfied that Jesus washes only his feet. He wants his whole body washed
- When Jesus is arrested Peter pulls out a sword, takes a big swing at the high Priest’s servant and cuts off his ear
- At Jesus’ trial he denies with an oath knowing who Jesus is
- After the resurrection Peter is the first person to enter the empty tomb
- When he returns to fishing and recognises Jesus on the shore he leaps into the water to swim to him
Peter was a man of action and a man of passion. He is a man for the big occasion. He has energy and he likes doing things with a flourish.
- At Pentecost when the Holy Spirit is poured out on the disciples it is Peter who stands up and preaches the first mega-sermon that sees 3000 people join the church
- And significantly, it is Peter who visits Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, preaches the gospel to them and watches in amazement how God pours out the Holy Spirit upon Gentiles – non Jews
It is then that Peter utters those memorable words: 47‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’
However, has God had to force Peter’s hand in this matter of including the Gentiles? If the Holy Spirit had not intervened so dramatically would Peter have been persuaded to welcome the Gentiles as fellow believers?
This sounds like the ‘Peter of the big flourish’. But is it? Peter feels the need to make an appeal to his fellow Jews. He does not cry, “Wonder upon wonders! God has opened the door to the Gentiles. Praise be to the God of our fathers! Let us proceed to baptise our new brothers and sisters!”
No. ‘Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ he asks.
Peter was assertive but was he kind? Was he inclusive? Later Paul writes these words to the Galatians:
But when Cephas (that is, Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction. (Galatians 2: 11 – 12)
Last Sunday we took note of a great leader in Israel – King David – and commented upon his generosity of spirit.
Kindness, it seems, did not come easily to Peter. And yet Jesus entrusted to him the leadership of the fledgling community that became the Church.
Kindness is central to the personality of Jesus as summed up in what is known as the fruit of the Holy Spirit
By contrast, (says Paul) the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5: 22 – 23)
These are the personality traits God is looking for; but that does not exclude anyone whose heart is set on God and who may not possess these characteristics.
I think that it’s encouraging that Jesus chose this impulsive, bull-at-a-gate, possibly even slightly immature man to lead.
King David loved God more than anyone or any thing. His dancing in worshipful joy before God embarrassed his wife who despised him for it.
Peter was a bit like that. And like David, he made mistakes.
In closing, listen to this conversation between Jesus and Peter from John 21:
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 16A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ 17He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.
“Feed my sheep.” That’s a task. It’s an instruction. He can carry that out. But going into life with the commands of Jesus ringing in our ears is not enough. Having energy and drive is not enough.
The real question is the first one Jesus asked. “Do you love me?” Peter loved Jesus passionately. He could answer honestly that he did love him.
Jesus asks each of us the same question today: “Do you love me?”
God bless you.