Tuesday, June 14, 2011

God made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you all crucified! - Acts 2

Here it is, the biblical Pentecost. Now, this shouldn’t go without saying. Pentecost comes from the Greek word for 50, and is another one of the names for the “Feast of Weeks” (Exodus 34:22, Deuteronomy 16:10), or Feast of Ingathering/Harvest/Reaping. This harvest was celebrated 49 days (7 weeks) after Passover (Easter), hence the 50. It celebrated the spring harvest as God’s people thanked him for his goodness for giving them the land as their inheritance, and as they didn't abuse what they had, but instead gave their first-fruits to the Lord in Jerusalem. The whole intricate system of Mosaic sacrifices is something I want to know more about. I agree with the venerable N.T. Wright (http://www.altervideomagazine.com/2011/06/08/old-testament-sacrifices/) that they were about more than just “penal substitutionary atonement,” though that's certainly a key element in at least some of them 

It just blows my mind sometimes when I consider how God worked out all the regulations and festivals in the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) to prepare his people for Jesus the Messiah and illustrate beautifully what Jesus came to accomplish. The Pentecost festival itself was a “party-time” where people feasted and celebrated. How fitting is it that God chose in his plan and foreknowledge (2:23) to institute this festival and use it to harvest souls and start this multi-national (the list of nationalities shows there were people from all over that known world) explosion of getting the good news out about Jesus’ resurrection! And like I wrote on Sunday, Pentecost means Jesus rules, and he’s calling the world to acknowledge it and act accordingly by changing their ways (repenting) and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins so they can, too, become part of the people of God.

Here’s a technical issue, so if you don’t know what Septuagint and Masoretic text is, skip this paragraph. What are we to take from Peter’s words when he refers to Joel? He seems to be quoting interpretively since he doesn't quote the LXX or MT precisely (at least the witnesses we have) and switches the order of sentences a bit, which occurs elsewhere in the New Testament and I believe was commonplace in Second Temple Judaism (am I right on this?). In a strange way (I think it’s strange, at least), this gives me comfort because the Christian faith is so prevalent throughout the entire Bible that we don’t depend on the nitpicky wording on any particular verse (I know you can go too far with this, but I’m just saying).

Peter’s “sermon” is truly a masterpiece (good job, Spirit!), and you can see how the Spirit changed this “three-fold Jesus denier” into a bold spokesman for the risen Lord. Peter definitely acknowledged predictive prophesy, and as I stated about Psalm 2 this morning, he says how even though the Psalms had an original meaning, they weren’t complete until Jesus fulfilled them (that is, he shows how Psalm 16 referred to Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead, and how Psalm 110 spoke of Jesus’ ascension and “heavenly enthronement at God’s right hand,” if you will).

The more and more I study the Old Testament and study Judaism at the time of Jesus, the more 2:36 strikes me and makes me just stand in awe of Jesus’ majesty, “Therefore, Let the entire house of Israel for sure understand that God made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you all crucified!” What a call to repentance (hence 2:37), and what a clear announcement of the good news about Jesus. Israel’s Messiah is the crucified (by you!) and risen man Jesus who has become the world one true Lord!  This is microcosm of what Christians are called to do. Announce what Jesus did (preach the Gospel, many word it) so that those whom God has chosen will trust and obey him by repenting and being baptized for the forgiveness of their sins, which is the gift (not something earned or deserved) of God’s Holy Spirit, so they can join the people of God who will be glorified with Jesus at the great resurrection on the Last Day when Jesus comes again to judge the world (good for God’s people, bad for those who reject him a la Psalm 2)! Dense wording, I know. But that’s it right there, front in center, throughout Acts, and it never gets old.

And, once people are brought to trust in Jesus (2:40 in Greek clearly means “be saved,” not “save yourself”…), they have fellowship. 2:42-47 is such an insightful picture of what Christian fellowship looks like, studying the apostolic teaching, eating together, praying together, sharing your material blessings, getting together at each other’s houses, praising God and letting your light shine. Awesome…

Here’s a question I feel I have a good answer to, but I want to put out there. Is Acts advocating communism when talking of this early Christian fellowship?

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