by The Rev. Charles Henrickson
Scripture: Acts 2:14a, 22-36
Acts 2:14a, 22-36 (ESV)
Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them. . . .
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know--this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
”Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 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 yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.’
Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Our text today is the second reading, from the second chapter of Acts. Now if that sounds familiar to you, it should. We said the same thing last week, when our text likewise came from Acts 2, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and the beginning of Peter’s Pentecost sermon. Today our reading continues on with Peter’s sermon. But wait a minute: Last week was Pentecost. Today is the Feast of the Holy Trinity. What are we doing with a Pentecost text on Trinity Sunday? That’s seems odd. Well, not really. And the reason is, as our text will show, this was a very Trinitarian Pentecost.
“A Trinitarian Pentecost”: What do I mean by that? I mean that in the event of Pentecost itself and in Peter’s preaching on that day, there is a very strong emphasis on the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And not as just some abstract doctrinal concept, a theory. No, this is reality going on here, a most blessed heavenly reality that is, at the same time, entirely down to earth. This is God in action, acting to save sinners, the likes of you and me. Today let’s find out more of the God who saves us, the God in whom our salvation rests and in whom we can have complete confidence. Today it’s “A Trinitarian Pentecost,” on Holy Trinity Sunday.
The place in this sermon where the Apostle Peter most directly and explicitly preaches the Holy Trinity is in verses 32 and 33, as follows: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 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 yourselves are seeing and hearing.” Here we have all three persons of the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, all involved in what’s going on. God the Father, raising up his Son Jesus. This Jesus, exalted now at God’s right hand. And then Jesus, receiving from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, pouring out the Spirit on his disciples. A very Trinitarian Pentecost, as I said. Let’s explore this a little more deeply and see how it all applies to us.
“This Jesus God raised up,” Peter says. Peter is speaking of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. The relationship of the Father and the Son is woven throughout this sermon--specifically, in the will and action of the Father in sending his divine, eternal Son to this earth, in the flesh, to suffer and die and to be raised and exalted again, having completed his saving mission. You can’t talk about God the Father here without talking about what he has done in and through his Son. The Son glorifies the Father, and the Father, in turn, glorifies the Son. That’s how it goes.
What has God the Father done in and through his Son? Peter gets there in this sermon by working his way out, starting with the man who was on everybody’s mind, that man Jesus of Nazareth--you know, the one who had been killed there in Jerusalem, crucified, in fact, just a couple of months earlier. It was a well-known case that had been the buzz of the city at the time. Yet Peter says there was more going on there than his listeners had realized: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. . . .”
So Jesus’ works, the works that he did during his public ministry--things like healing the sick, casting out demons, feeding the multitudes--these mighty works and wonders and signs attested to the fact that Jesus came from God, that God was working through him, that Jesus was operating with divine power and approval, to bring God’s mercy and help to people in distress. Jesus’ ministry of bestowing unmistakably divine blessings upon people pointed to his identity as a man come from God.
Even so, what happened? “This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Peter is saying: You guys blew it! You should have known better. Instead of welcoming him and believing in him, as you should have done--instead, you guys rejected Jesus and, more than that, had him killed, put to death, in a most shameful, outrageous manner: crucified, like a common criminal.
But Peter is also saying: This all happened according to God’s plan. Don’t think that this was just some tragic error or that you were in charge of those events. You may have had your reasons for having Jesus put to death, but God had reasons of his own. And so God the Father used your hatred and rejection of Jesus for his own purposes, to achieve something very great, something that required the death of God’s own Son. This happened, Peter says, “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”
Dear friends, what was that great purpose of God, that required the death of his own beloved Son? It was your salvation, my friends, your forgiveness. For you had blown it, too. Oh, maybe you weren’t there in Jerusalem, participating in the handing over of Jesus to be crucified. But it was because of you that Jesus had to suffer and die. For it took the death of God’s own Son, the shedding of his holy blood, his innocent suffering and death, to be the atoning sacrifice for your sins. You sins separated you from God, and there was nothing you could do to get back to him, to make up for your sinful nature that leads you into all sorts of specific sins. This was too much for you to deal with. Only God could fix your problem. That’s why God sent his Son in the flesh, so that he could die as your perfect substitute, thus serving the full punishment for all sinners--all of them, in all times and places, including you here today. Christ’s sacrificial death purchased your full and free forgiveness.
The proof of that then showed up in Christ’s resurrection. “God raised him up,” Peter says, for it was not possible for the divine Son of God to be held by death. And God the Father approved so much of what his Son had done by dying for the sins of the world that he raised up Jesus, raising him from the dead on Easter Day.
That brings us to the verse we started with here a few moments ago: “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” The apostolic band there in Jerusalem had seen Jesus raised from the dead, on Easter Day and then over the forty days until he was taken up into heaven at his ascension. This was all part of the Father glorifying, exalting, his Son, in divine approval of Christ accomplishing the mission he set out to do when he came to earth from heaven, as a man.
Here we are getting to the great mystery of the person of Christ, how he is true God and true man in one person, the eternal Son of God from eternity, and now, from his incarnation on, also true man, who lived and died and rose again and ascended into heaven and is seated the right hand of God the Father. That’s who this Jesus is. There’s a lot more going on with this man than you may have realized, Peter is saying.
Listen to what he says. Peter goes on to say that Christ’s ascension into heaven fulfills the ancient psalm of David, wherein the Lord God of Israel says to David’s Lord, the Messiah: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” This Jesus, exalted to God’s right hand, now is ruling and governing all things with divine, royal authority. That’s what it means to be seated at God’s right hand, to exercise that authority. And Christ is victorious over all of his enemies--sin, death, the devil, hell, all defeated and conquered by the mighty Lord Jesus Christ. All that remains is for the final outcome of that victory to become apparent at the Last Day. That’s when God will raise up you, dear Christian, all of you who believe in Christ as your Savior--you will share in Christ’s victory over death and the grave, the victory he so graciously shares with you, when you too are raised from the dead unto life everlasting. Christ has defeated your enemies for you! What wonderful news this is!
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Yes, this is the exaltation of Jesus, the God-man Savior, that Peter is preaching here. And it is only according to the fact that God’s Son came in the flesh, with a fully human nature, that we can talk about the Father “making” him Lord, exalting him to his right hand of power and authority. For the Son of God had all that power and authority and glory from eternity, as the Second Person of the Trinity. Christ didn’t need to be “given” anything or “made” anything, in that sense. But according to his human nature, yes, Jesus is declared to be Lord and Christ and is exalted and seated at the right hand of God.
Now we said that this was a very Trinitarian Pentecost, and we have spoken at length about the Father and the Son, but we haven’t said much yet about the Spirit. So let’s do that now. “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he [Jesus] has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” You see, it all ties together. The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The exalted Son receives from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, and then he bestows the Spirit upon his church. That’s what happened at Pentecost, and it continues to this day. Jesus gives the Spirit to his church to empower her preaching of the gospel, bringing salvation to untold millions of people around the world, from the day of Pentecost up until this day, and till the day of Christ’s return. The Holy Trinity is doing something, actively rescuing sinners, giving us salvation, by bringing us the saving gospel. You yourself are among those recipients.
By faith we receive the good news, in joy. By the Spirit’s working we believe in our Savior Jesus and so share in his victory. And by that same faith we now have and now a loving heavenly Father. It’s all good!
Yes, this Holy Trinity Sunday is a day for us to celebrate all that the triune God has done for us, is doing for us, and will do for us, as Peter so rightly declared on that very Trinitarian Pentecost. You know a God, the triune God, in whom you can have complete confidence, in whom your salvation rests secure. And so now we can say with David the psalmist--and with Jesus our Messiah--these wonderful words of praise: “Therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. . . . You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.”
Pentecost: Feast of the New Covenant
by Pope Benedict XVI
by Pope John Paul II
Devotional Thoughts for Pentecost Sunday
by Rev. Dr. V KurianThomas Valiyaparambil
A Model Relationship
by HG Yuhanon Mor Meletius
Jesus as the Model of Love
by William Loader, Murdoch University, Australia
Abiding in Jesus: Joy, Faith and Discipleship
by Susan Hedahl
Sermon for Pentecost Sunday
by St Leo the Great
Sermon for the Day of Pentecost
by Charles Henrickson
St. John's Orthodox Church
Sermons and Bible Commentaries for Pentecost
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