May 31, 2005

Withering

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

In Mark 3, Jesus heals a man with a withered hand. In doing so, as Austin Farrer points out, Jesus is doing the second half of the sign in 1 Kings 13. There, when King Jeroboam of Israel threatens the prophet who has rebuked him for his false worship, Jeroboam’s hand withers. When Jeroboam asks the prophet to pray to Yahweh, his hand is restored.

Given that withered hands aren’t common in Scripture and given that the only other withered hand we hear about in Scripture is Jeroboam’s, it seems that the presence of this man in a synagogue may be a sign that there’s something wrong with the synagogues. The synagogues too need to “repent and believe the good news” Jesus preaches (1:14-15) and until they do they are dangerously similar to Jeroboam’s calf-worship.

But when Jesus comes to the man with the withered hand, He heals him. When the rulers of the synagogue, the scribes and Pharisees, attack him they are like Jeroboam. But when people trust Him, Jesus responds with restoration.

But then, as Farrer points out, near the end of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus comes to a fig tree, finds no fruit on it, and curses it so that it withers — the same word used in Mark 3. Israel has not repented and believed the good news. And now Jesus performs the first half of the sign from 1 Kings 13, though instead of withering the hands of all the “Jeroboams” who oppose Him, Jesus withers the fig tree which represents Israel.

So far Farrar, and I think he’s right.

Last week, I was working on Mark 4, where Jesus tells the parable of the seed and the four sorts of soil. In that parable, Jesus says that the seed sown on the rocky soil springs up immediately but doesn’t put down good roots, so that when the sun rises, the plant withers. It seems to me that there may be a connection here with the theme of withering in the previous chapter, the theme picked up again when the fig tree withers.

Israel appears to receive the word with gladness. Many people are delighted to think that Jesus could be the Messiah, that God’s kingdom was coming in and through Him. But their joy in Jesus will be short-lived. When persecution arises on account of the word — specifically, when Jesus is arrested and crucified — once-enthusiastic Israel withers.

It seems to me that there’s something here, but I probably need to think some more about it.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:11 pm | Discuss (0)
May 30, 2005

Sea and Land Again (Mark 4:1)

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

Back in March, I Interacted with something from R. T. France’s commentary on Mark. While discussing Jesus’ parable of the soils (Mark 4:1-20), he includes a footnote interacting with Mary Ann Tolbert’s observation that Jesus tells the parable while He is on the sea and the crowds are on the land. Jesus is not Himself on the soil. The audience is, and Jesus compares them to soil. They are on the soil and they are soil.

France doesn’t buy it, but it is attractive, given that the same word is used throughout to refer both to where the crowd is standing and to where the seed lands in the parable. In my earlier comments, I said I liked his suggestion.

On the other hand, we should also remember that Jesus’ audience is not limited to the people on the land. They aren’t the only ones who are soil. So are the disciples and other followers of Jesus who are with Him in boats on the water. So maybe Tolbert’s suggestion does break down. Still, it’s worth thinking about.

Posted by John Barach @ 11:55 am | Discuss (0)
May 29, 2005

Mark 4:1-20 Sermon Notes

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

DARK SAYINGS: THE SEED AND THE SOILS
Mark 4:1-20
(May 29, 2005 Sermon Notes)

Jesus didn’t always use parables. He began to only when opposition arose (Mark 2-3). Now, in Mark 4, Jesus not only uses parables; He also discusses why He uses them. He uses them because of their effect on those who hear them. And the first parable is all about hearing.

WHY PARABLES? (4:1-12)

Jesus teaches by the sea again and a crowd gathers. This time, however, the crowd came so close to crushing Him (3:9) that Jesus got into the boat. They don’t want to listen; they crowd Him to be healed.

Jesus responds by distancing Himself physically (in the boat) and in His manner of teaching (parables). In the Bible, parables are not illustrations to make things clear. They are “dark sayings,” designed to hide things from those outside. Parables go hand in hand with judgment (e.g., Jud. 9:7-20; 2 Sam. 12:1ff.; Ps. 78:2ff.; Ezek. 17:2ff.; 24:3ff.)

Jesus no longer speaks plainly to the crowd; instead He uses parables. When His disciples ask about the parable, Jesus distinguishes insiders (those with Him) from outsiders (see also 3:31-35).

God has graciously given the insiders the knowledge of the mystery of God’s kingdom: They don’t know everything, but they know it’s coming in and through Jesus. But — as in Isaiah 6, which Jesus quotes — the outsiders get everything (including Jesus’ actions) in parables as a form of judgment to leave them blind and deaf under God’s wrath, the wrath they deserve because they trusted their own wisdom instead of following Jesus.

We are insiders, members of Christ’s church. With the disciples, we receive Jesus’ explanation. Indeed, we receive more than the disciples. In the light of the gospel, Jesus’ parables don’t just conceal; they reveal.

THE SEED AND THE SOILS (4:13-20)

Before Jesus explains the parable, He rebukes His followers. God has granted them knowledge of the mystery of His kingdom and they should be able to use that knowledge to figure out the parable. If they can’t figure it out, if they don’t learn the right attitude from it, they will be like the “outsiders,” unable to understand any of the parables.

But Jesus wants His followers to understand and so He provides the information we need to understand this parable. The sower is Jesus (who “goes out” [1:38; 2:13, 17] to preach “the word” [1:45; 2:2; 4:33; 8:32]), but some people are as hard as the path through the field. The word doesn’t sink in and Satan takes it away. But the fault is their own: If they had been good soil, Satan wouldn’t have been able to snatch the seed away.

Others are rocky soil and what grows doesn’t put down roots. When the sun beats down on them — that is, when persecution comes — they wither. Others let the concerns of “this age” (the Old Covenant era) — their allegiance to temple, land, etc. — become thorns that choke the word. Today, too, other concerns (work, sports, family) may keep us from hearing Christ’s word fruitfully.

This parable isn’t a warning to unbelievers only. Peter acts like the hard path, rejecting Jesus’ word, and Jesus calls him “Satan” (8:32-33). The disciples are rocky soil: when persecution comes because of Jesus’ word, they stumble (14:27). It is not as if a person is only one of these soils throughout his life. Each of us may be one or more of these bad soils at various times.

But the sower’s mission will not fail. The seed will fall in good soil and bear an abundant harvest. But to bear that harvest, we need to make sure Jesus’ word sinks into us, sets down deep roots, and grows unhampered by thorns. If we have ears to hear, we must hear. And when we hear the word and receive it we will bear fruit to God’s glory.

Posted by John Barach @ 9:44 am | Discuss (0)
May 28, 2005

Mark 3:19b-35 Sermon Notes

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

A TALE OF TWO HOUSES
Mark 3:19b-35
(February 20, 2005, Sermon Notes)

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus follows a pattern: He goes to the sea, calls men to follow Him, and then eats with them — and around that time there is an attack. Here, an attack by the scribes is sandwiched between two parts of the story of an attack from Jesus’ relatives.

THE HOUSE OF THE STRONG MAN (3:19B-30)

Normally, Jesus calls men and eats with them. This time, He can’t eat because He is serving the crowds. Jesus’ relatives hear about it and think He is insane. David acted insane to escape from a Gentile king; then he protected his parents. Jesus, the new David, isn’t insane, but His own relatives think He is and they come to take Him into protective custody.

The scribes from Jerusalem have a different explanation: Jesus isn’t insane; He is possessed by Beelzebul. He is casting out demons by the power of the ruler of the demons. They come to protect Israel from this demonic seducer who is leading them astray (Deut. 13).

Jesus responds by showing the foolishness of their charge: If Satan is at war with himself, his kingdom would collapse and he wouldn’t be strong. But Satan is still the strong one. So how can Jesus do what He is doing?

Jesus answer: As Israel plundered the Egyptians at the Exodus (Ex. 12:35-36), as Yahweh promised to take away the captives of the mighty (Isa. 49:25), Jesus is plundering the strong one’s house. Israel has become Satan’s house, but Jesus is setting his captives free.

He can do that because He is the stronger one and He has already bound the strong man. As Israel defeated the Philistines because David defeated Goliath, so Jesus can cast out demons because He has already overcome their ruler, Satan, in the wilderness (Mark 1:13).

Jesus then warns His hearers not to speak against the Holy Spirit. The Son’s ministry will be followed by the Spirit’s ministry through the disciples (Mark 1:8; see Luke 12:9-12). If they reject the Son now, they can still repent and be forgiven. But if they speak against the Spirit after Pentecost, God’s patience will run out and judgment will fall on Israel, Jerusalem, and the Temple from which the scribes come. The application is clear: Repent the first time you’re warned (see Prov. 29:1).

THE HOUSE OF THE STRONGER ONE (3:31-35)

Now Jesus’ family arrives. They stand outside and call Jesus. But Jesus responds in a shocking way. He acts as if they aren’t His family. His relatives are those around Him, those who do God’s will and follow Jesus.

There are insiders and outsiders. If you don’t follow Jesus, you’re left outside, even if you’re His physical mother. If you do follow Jesus, you’re inside, a part of His family, no matter what sins you’ve committed or what your background is. We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters because Jesus’ Father is our Father. Don’t just claim to be His family; act like it.

Posted by John Barach @ 12:45 pm | Discuss (0)
May 27, 2005

Mark 3:13-19 Sermon Notes

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

THE NEW ISRAEL
Mark 3:13-19
(February 20, 2005, Sermon Notes)

Up to this point, Jesus has been working alone, followed by His disciples. Now, however, He reconstitutes His kingdom and calls twelve men to be leaders in it.

THE MOUNTAIN (3:13)

When Mark tells us that Jesus “went up on the mountain,” he isn’t just sketching the scenery. There is a reason for Jesus’ location when He chooses the twelve, a reason rooted in the history of biblical symbolism.

Eden was on a mountain. From it a river flowed to the Garden and then branched into four rivers (Gen. 2:10). Adam would follow those rivers to the four corners of the earth, subduing the world to God’s glory.

Adam was banished from the Garden. But God promised to restore men to His holy mountain. The Temple was built on Mount Moriah and was full of garden imagery. In the temple was a bronze sea with twelve chariots of water (1 Kgs 7), a sign that the water would flow from God’s holy mountain viaa renewed Israel (twelve tribes) to the world again (Ezek. 47).

Jesus is God’s son, the new Adam, and He ascends the mountain. He is not banished from God’s presence as others are, and He calls and restores others to fellowship with God. But He also sends them out. Through the twelve disciples, the river of life will flow to Israel and the world.

God also established His covenant with Israel and formed her into a nation on a mountain. Jesus withdrew from the new Pharaoahs, the Pharisees, to the sea (3:7). Now He goes up a mountain to form a new Israel. He is Yahweh, who calls whomever He wants. And when He calls they come. His Word creates faith and draws men to Himself.

THE TWELVE (3:14-19)

Jesus calls twelve men to be His special representatives. There were twelve tribes in Israel, and these twelve will be the foundation of a new Israel. To be part of the new Israel which will inherit the kingdom, you must come to Jesus and build on the foundation of these twelve apostles.

The disciples will first be with Jesus, to learn who He is. Then, He will send them out with His authority to do His works, healing the sick and casting out demons. The church still preaches and works with that authority so that people are healed (James 5:13-15) and freed from Satan’s power.

Like David (2 Sam. 23), Jesus has three special “mighty men,” though unlike David Jesus will have to die for them. He gives them names indicating what they will become: Simon will be a foundation Rock (“Peter”); James and John will speak with thunder like their Father (Ps. 104:7; Jn. 12:29).

The last disciple named is Judas, “who betrayed Him.” The new Israel isn’t better than the old. One of Jesus’ own people will betray Him. But that betrayal will carry out Jesus’ plans. By His betrayal, death, and resurrection He will form a new and faithful Israel and extend His salvation to the world.

Posted by John Barach @ 11:26 am | Discuss (0)
May 26, 2005

Mark 3:7-12 Sermon Notes

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

RETREAT AND REGROUP
Mark 3:7-12
(February 13, 2005, Sermon Notes)

Mark 3:7-12 is a major turning-point in Jesus’ ministry. He has been displaying His authority as the king. People are following Him in spite of the controversy. But now, after the confrontation with the Pharisees in the synagogue in Capernaum (3:1-6), Jesus withdraws.

THE EXODUS FROM CAPERNAUM’S SYNAGOGUE (3:7)

Jesus healed paralyzed legs and a withered hand. Later, He will heal ears, mouths, and eyes. Israel is conformed to the image of man-made idols (Ps. 115), but Jesus restores people to the image of God again.

But in their Pharaoh-like hardheartedness (3:5), the Pharisees plot to kill Jesus (3:6). Like Moses leading Israel to the Red Sea, Jesus flees to the sea. The synagogue at Capernaum has become an Egypt and it will be judged as Egypt was — and so will every church that rejects Jesus and will not follow Him. But those who do follow Jesus experience the new Exodus that He brings about and they inherit the kingdom of God.

Jesus is a new Moses here. He is also a new David. Saul turned against David because he was jealous of him. He thought Israel was going to make David king. But when he tried to kill David, David escaped (1 Sam. 21). Jesus is the new David, but the Pharisees are the new Sauls. Like Saul, they will lose the kingdom. But like David, Jesus humbles Himself, withdraws, and waits for God to exalt Him as king.

THE EXPANSION OF CHRIST’S KINGDOM (3:7-12)

But He doesn’t withdraw alone. His disciples come with Him, and so does a great crowd. Just as everyone who was miserable came to David when he fled (1 Sam. 22:2), so too a vast multitude comes to Jesus.

Some are from Galilee where Jesus has been working. Others have heard about Jesus, and that report draws them to Him. They come from Judah and Jerusalem, where Jesus is heading, but also from the Gentile lands around Israel, including Idumea (Edom), where Herod is from. The Herodians are attacking Jesus, but God draws other Idumeans to Him. Eventually, Jesus and His gospel will go to all these regions.

But now Jesus prepares to withdraw from the crowd (v. 9). The very people who are coming to Him might end up endangering Him — and that is what happens later on. They are coming to Him, not because they recognize Him as king but because He is healing their afflictions (literally “stripes”: see Isa. 53:5) and cleansing them by casting out unclean spirits.

The demons, unlike Israel, do recognize Jesus. They bow to Him and acknowledge Him as “the Son of God.” But Jesus shuts them up. He doesn’t want them to stir up trouble. Nor does He want Israel hearing from them who He is. His people will have to follow Him and figure it out. But the demon’s message is a comfort: Out of all this conflict, God will exalt Him as His Son, the king who shatters His enemies and rules the world (Ps. 2).

Posted by John Barach @ 11:03 am | Discuss (0)
May 25, 2005

Mark 3:1-6 Sermon Notes

Category: Bible - NT - Mark :: Permalink

SABBATH LIFE OR SABBATH DEATH
Mark 3:1-6
(February 6, 2005, Sermon Notes)

Our debates about the Sabbath are rarely deadly, but the one in Mark 3 is because the real issue here is not the interpretation of the Fourth Commandment but the identity of Jesus. The Pharisees want to expose Jesus, but instead Jesus ends up exposing them.

PROPER SABBATH BEHAVIOUR (3:1-4)

Jesus is back in the synagogue at Capernaum, but this time the Pharisees are collecting evidence for an official charge against Him. Exhibit A will be Jesus’ response to a man with a withered hand. This man isn’t in danger; his healing can wait till another day.

But Jesus doesn’t see it that way. He calls the man (literally) to “Arise into the midst.” That resurrection language reminds us that Jesus came to bring life. And Jesus wants everyone to see it.

Before He heals, Jesus asks the Pharisees a question “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” That may seem like a false dilemma. There are other options. And surely no one would say that it lawful to kill someone or to do evil on the Sabbath.

But Jesus sees only two options: Either you behave like God and use the Sabbath to give people life and rest and refreshment, or you act like Satan and kill. Either you give people access to God or you rob them of it.

Israel was to be a priestly nation, but withered hands kept you from access to God (Lev. 21:16-24). The Pharisees called Israel to a priestly level of holiness, but Jesus actually restores access to God and restores this man so that he can serve God as Israel was intended to do.

THE SIGN OF THE RESTORED HAND (3:5-6)

The Pharisees’ minds are made up. They don’t answer Jesus, and their silence enrages and grieves Him. This man is in bondage but they want him to stay there because their hearts are hard. They are new Pharaohs, keeping Israel in slavery. Just as God gave Israel the sign of Moses’ leprous hand (Ex. 4), God gives Israel another sign involving a hand. But, like Pharaoh, the Pharisees harden their hearts.

Jesus tells the man to stretch out his hand. That phrase ought to remind us of things we hear in the rest of Scripture. Sin barred Adam from stretching out his hand to the Tree of Life (Gen. 3), but God promsied restoration. Now this man stretches out his hand in faith and receives life.

This passage also echoes 1 Kings 13: Jeroboam’s hand was withered because of his false worship, but when he repented it was restored. The withered hand suggests that the synagogue worship is in danger of becoming like Jeroboam’s, but Jesus brings healing and restoration.

The Pharisees plot with the Herodians. King Herod was an Edomite. The Pharisees are new Sauls, plotting against the new David, and Herod is another Doeg the Edomite (1 Sam. 22), ready to kill him. Is it lawful on the Sabbath to save life or to kill? They choose to kill,but Jesus dies to give life.

Posted by John Barach @ 5:05 pm | Discuss (0)
May 22, 2005

1 Peter 3:8-12 Sermon Notes

Category: Bible - NT - 1 Peter :: Permalink

RELATIONSHIPS IN THE LIGHT OF THE CROSS VI:
BLESS AND BE BLESSED
1 Peter 3:8-12
(May 22, 2005, Sermon Notes)

Peter has been calling us to live such good lives that the unbelievers around us join us in praising God. That good lifestyle involves submission to those in authority and honouring others. After giving several examples, Peter now calls all of us to bless others so that we receive God’s blessing.

RENDERING BLESSING TO OTHERS (3:8-9a)

Peter has told us that we are dead to sins and alive to righteousness (2:24) and that new life becomes visible in our relationships with each other. We are to be “of one mind.” That doesn’t mean that we all have the same tastes or opinions, even on doctrinal matters. But it does mean that we are united in trusting Christ, living by God’s word, and following Jesus’ footsteps, especially when it comes to humbling ourselves to serve others.

Our world is characterized by division, but Jesus has formed us into His own special people and He gives us unity. Because we are one, we must have compassion for one another and be tenderhearted. Because we are one family, we must “love as brothers” (see John 13:35).

Peter isn’t saying that we should be busybodies (4:15), always in each other’s business, but he is saying that we should sympathize with each other and do what we can to meet each other’s needs.

Doing so also requires courtesy, the kind of friendliness which puts others ahead of ourselves and treating them with honour.

That’s hard work. We’re afraid we’ll get hurt. But that is what Jesus did for us. And in showing us love, He was hurt. But He died so that now we might live a life modeled after His own, even when it hurts.

Even when people reject our love, Peter points us to Jesus’ command (Luke 6) to love our enemies, to return good for evil, to bless those who curse us. Christ calls us to break the spiral of hostility with love.

RECEIVING BLESSING FROM GOD (3:10-12)

Why should we bless others who curse us? Because only in this way will we inherit God’s blessing. You can’t earn that blessing; it’s a gift you inherit. But you receive that inheritance only on this path: If you want to be blessed, you must be a blessing.

What motivates our love isn’t primarily a sense of duty or even a sense of gratitude to God. It’s hope. It’s our anticipation of God’s reward. That’s what Psalm 34:12-16 teaches us. Those who want a good life must turn our mouths — and our lives — from evil, do good, and pursue peace.

Those who live that way receive God’s blessing, the final inheritance He promised and good days right now. Peter isn’t saying we’ll never suffer. But even in our suffering we will have the Lord’s eyes on us and His ears will be open to hear our prayers and His face against our enemies.

Posted by John Barach @ 9:34 am | Discuss (0)
May 19, 2005

Calling on the Lord’s Name (Acts 2)

Category: Bible - NT - Acts :: Permalink

In Acts 2, Peter quotes from Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28-32): “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” The rest of Peter’s sermon explains to the crowd that Jesus, whom they have crucified, thereby incurring God’s judgment, is that Lord (2:36). His goal is to exhort the crowd, as he later does, to “be saved from this perverse generation” (2:40), that is from rebellious Israel facing God’s wrath. The crowd responds by asking, “Men, brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter’s reply may take us by surprise. Peter doesn’t say, “Call on the name of Yahweh,” which is what Joel says. He doesn’t even say, “Call on the name of Jesus the Messiah,” though he has identified Jesus as Yahweh and though that is implicit in the answer he does give.

What Peter says the crowd must do is this: “Repent, and let each of you be baptized into the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” But if it is those who call on the name of the Lord who will be saved and if the crowd must repent and be baptized into the name of Jesus Christ in order to be forgiven and to receive the Spirit, then it appears that Peter sees repenting and being baptized as the concrete shape that calling on the Lord’s name takes in this situation.

This is not the only passage where Luke makes this connection. When Ananias comes to Saul (who will later be called Paul), he says to him, “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” It might sound as if Ananias is saying that, at some point before, during, or after the baptism Saul should call (in prayer) on the Lord’s name — and it’s possible that Saul did. But from Acts 2, it appears that the baptism itself should be seen as the call on the Lord’s name.

Furthermore, the same Peter who preached the sermon in Acts 2 also wrote later on that baptism is itself a request for a good conscience toward God (1 Pet. 3:21). He doesn’t say that one who is baptized must make such a request (orally or mentally) at the time of baptism; rather, he says that baptism itself is a plea for a good conscience.

All of this seems to me to have significance for our theology of baptism. To be baptized into the name of Jesus Christ is to call on the name of the Lord. That’s true, it seems to me, even in the case of those who are unable to speak or even consciously to call out to the Lord, even mentally. Perhaps that is one reason why Ursinus, among others of the early Reformers, spoke of baptism as itself being a profession of faith.

Of course, for clarification I hasten to add that those who are unable to be baptized and who cry out to the Lord for salvation will also be saved: baptism isn’t the only way one can call on the name of the Lord. I also want to stress that this baptismal call on the Lord’s name must lead to a life of calling on the Lord’s name, a life of faith in Jesus Christ: those who are call on the Lord’s name in their baptism and then turn away from Him will perish.

Posted by John Barach @ 7:54 pm | Discuss (0)

The Forgotten

Category: Movies :: Permalink

The Forgotten

While I’m on the subject of movies, last Friday Moriah, her mom, and I watched The Forgotten, which was, alas, forgettable. Like Secret Window, which Moriah and I watched last summer, it had a fascinating premise, a good opening, and a rather uninteresting resolution.

(Spoilers ahead!) I do wonder, however, how pro-abortion types react to the crucial scene in the film, assuming they even notice its significance. Everything, we discover, hinges on the fact that a baby in the womb is a living person.

Posted by John Barach @ 7:16 pm | Discuss (0)
May 18, 2005

Finding Neverland

Category: Movies :: Permalink

Finding Neverland

A week ago Saturday, Moriah, her mom, and I watched Finding Neverland, a fictionalized version of the story of J. M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan. It was quite moving.

J. Robert Parks said, “As I came out of Finding Neverland, I wanted to write my own play or take a walk by the lake or have a long conversation with a friend.” I’d add that it made me want to love my wife better, have children (I can hardly wait for our first baby to be born), play with them, and encourage and enrich their imaginations.

At one point in the movie, I was struck (again) by how much better the Christian comfort is than the comfort held out by the world in films like this. The best unbelievers can offer, it seems, is to say that those who have died live on in their works or in the children they’ve raised or in our hearts or (as in Finding Neverland) in our imaginations, where we can always visit them.

They rein in their imaginations (“Don’t dream too big!”) and they hand out paltry, watered-down comfort (“You can visit her in Neverland”). But stones are no substitute for bread and loved ones remembered and imagined, if they are not presented as a foretaste, are a poor substitute for loved ones living with Christ right now, one day to be raised from the dead and gloriously embodied.

Posted by John Barach @ 4:51 pm | Discuss (0)
May 15, 2005

Acts 2:14-21 Sermon Notes

Category: Bible - NT - Acts :: Permalink

THE SPIRIT, SIGNS, AND WONDERS
Acts 2:14-21
(May 15, 2005 Sermon Notes)

In some ways, what happened on Pentecost was unexpected. But in other ways, it was expected. It was promised by Jesus (Acts 1:4-5, 8 ), so the disciples should have anticipated it. But it was also promised by God through the prophets, and Israel should have anticipated it. That’s what Peter makes clear in his Pentecost sermon.

ALL FLESH (2:14-18)

When the church proclaimed God’s works in different tongues, some people accused them of being drunk. Peter rejects that interpretation: it’s the third hour (9 AM), too early to be drunk.

Since the number three often has to do with preliminary judgments in the Bible, it’s possible that there’s a hint of that here: The Spirit has passed by these people and that means that it’s time for them to repent and get on the right track before it’s too late.

Peter offers a different explanation of what happened: it is the fulfillment of what God said through Joel (2:28-32). These are the “last days” of the Old Covenant, the time when the Old Covenant reached its goal. Now, because Jesus has been glorified, God has at last poured out Hi Spirit on “all flesh,” that is, on the whole of Israel — parents and children, young and old — and even on Israel’s servants. In fact, we’ll see later in Acts that He is including Gentiles as well as Jews.

In Numbers 11, the Spirit came on the seventy elders of Israel. But Moses wished that all God’s people would be prophets. At Pentecost, God granted that wish. The whole church prophesied, proclaiming God’s works.

We don’t prophesy the same way today (i.e., speaking words inspired by God) and even these early Christians didn’t all keep doing so (see 1 Cor. 12), but we are all still prophets in other ways. We do all know God (Jer. 31:34). We’re members of His council who speak to Him and for Him. God’s Spirit empowers us to bear witness to Jesus.

THE DAY OF THE LORD (2:19-21)

The outpouring of the Spirit on the church, not on the rest of Israel, is itself a judgment and it’s the prelude to judgment. The “day of the Lord” is coming, the day when God would vindicate His people and destroy His enemies.

That day will involve signs and wonders. There will be signs of war on earth (blood, fire, smoke); rulers — described symbolically as heavenly bodies (see Gen. 1:14; Isa. 13:10; Ezek. 32:7-8) — will be destroyed. Peter is warning his hearers that Israel’s lights are about to go out.

That judgment, which happened in AD 70, is a foretaste of the final judgment which will involve all nations. But those who call on the name of the Lord (Jesus) and are baptized into His name will be saved and will receive His Spirit (Acts 2:38, 40) because Jesus bore the judgment for us.

Posted by John Barach @ 9:47 am | Discuss (0)