The resurrection of Jesus is an event that demands a response. The three biblical texts above essentially depicts that fact. In the resurrection of Jesus, God acted decisively and transformed death to life. The texts above illustrate that the resurrection was a community-forming event.
In Acts 2:14a, Peter speaks to an event that occurred as a result of the resurrection event. The Holy Spirit was poured out and this caused confused. Peter address the audience by making it clear that there ought to be no confusion about what had just happened. He stated boldly, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us 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 both see and hear” (V. 32-33). Peter in his address connects the resurrection events with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and concludes that “therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified” (v.36).
God’s action of raising Jesus from death affirmed Jesus and his mission say Karl Barth. This action decisively pronounced the powers that be defeated, and Jesus as the exalted one who now through this action been made both Lord and Messiah; this implies that the promised Messianic kingdom has arrived in the resurrected Jesus. Peter appealed to the community’s memory and presented himself as a witness that God has acted. His address left the audience with a decision and they asked, “Brother, what should we do”? to which Peter responded, “Repent, and be baptized everyone 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.”
Repentance is not simply about feeling sorry for our sins, it means that, but it more comprehensively mean a reorientation of worldview, an abandonment of the old formative story.Those who hear this transforming act of God respond by letting go of other stories and world views and are formed into a new community that is oriented and is continually being shaped not by the stories of death, but the story of life. This community can proclaim a loud, “we see new life”!, it is a community through which God’s healing and hope flows to the world, a community that shares God’s love and compassion for all in the name of Christ by responding to basic human needs and working for peace and justice, a community that embodies God’s righteousness and praise before all the nations! In this community and through its members, life has the last word not death.
Acts 2 begins with the Pentecost event. Pentecost was an important Festival in the Ancient Jewish calendar. It was to celebrate the end of Passover; the great liberating event for the Jewish people, the Exodus. It had also become an event that marked the giving of the Torah the community forming instructions. It was harvest time and God chose to break in and present the first fruits of the great kingdom harvest. It was an earth-shattering event in Jerusalem.
The author of Acts describes the event thus:When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:1-4).
The way this event is described invites no debate, no explanation; it leaves us in wonder! The event shook things up; complacency could not be the mood of the moment, things were stirred up because God showed up spectacularly to present the first fruit of God’s kingdom. The author mentions “the blowing of mighty rushing wind” which was a way of describing God’s presence. Who can stand such a phenomena or would not be changed by such an event? The waiting was over and work kicked off by a surge of a dangerous power. It was only described as “like” wind, “like” fire. Allusion of tongues of fire and the actual tongues of speech points to the all-powerful God breaking through the world leaving us amazed. It was both a disruptive and creative happening. What was all this about? It was about “the mighty works of God” (v. 11) which was declared by all.
The call is for repentance and reception of the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit, God brings about new life, which speaks an opposite word of death and “winter” so to speak. Many people are living in “winter” crushed by oppression, broken-hearted, mourning, captive to selfishness, trapped in exploitative systems, cities are devastated by violence and the world groans in misery, distress and oppressed, and devastated but in “spring” through the Holy Spirit, they are freed and transformed, a resurrection occurs. A community that emerges from this encounter is:
- Disciplined community shaped by the word & fellowship (v.42)
- Transforming community that continually encounters the transforming the acts of God (v. 43)
- Changed economic practice (mutual aid)-(v.44-45)
- Community of praise (v.46-47).
What does this mean for us today? The situation in our western society is very similar to the first Christians to whom Peter wrote. There is a kind of hostility to the Christian faith (whether it is warranted by our way of life or not). Peter encouraged believers in Asia Minor to focus on hope, to the salvation is to be revealed (this is not escapism). The future was to be their defining principle in the present. (1:5; 1:18-21). To make sure they understood what he was saying to them, he reminded them of their previous position that they had been redeemed from (v.18). Their salvation did not come about by anything else not even by silver or gold but by the blood of the lamb (1 Pet. 1:18-21). Now they are born a new (v. 23) and ought to be confident people (v.21). New life in Christ is clearly being implied here. The resurrection is the ground of faith and hope and ought to inform our current living characterized by genuine mutual love from the heart. It is a new reality that demands obedience even in the midst of pressure to give up.
God has chosen to recruit us for this transforming work. God recruits us to collaborate with him in his work. He calls us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, to clothe the naked and to heal the broken hearted and also to confront the powers and structures of the kingdom of darkness. Jesus’ resurrection indeed calls for a response, how are you being shaped by this world-shuttering event? How are you responding?
(Sermon preached at Mt Joy Mennonite Church May 4, 2014)