LEAVING GUILT BEHIND
Lord, thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit
Read ACTS 2:29–41
29 “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. 30 But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. 31 Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that he was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did his body see decay. 32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 34 For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
35 until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”’[a]
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
- Acts 2:35 Psalm 110:1
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all!’ (Rom 11:11).
Some writers, including Robert Eisenman (James the Lord’s Brother, Watkins, 2002, p58–59), have accused the New Testament of being anti-Semitic. Indeed, passages like verse 36, in which Peter talks to a Jewish crowd of ‘Jesus, whom you crucified’, have unfortunately been misused to hold all Jews accountable for Christ’s death.
However, far from rejecting the Jews here, Peter addresses them warmly as his brothers and sisters (29, TNIV). Furthermore, as Jon Weatherly points out (Jewish Responsibility for the Death of Jesus, Sheffield Academic, 1994, p83), he is addressing Jerusalem Jews here but not all Jews everywhere. Some of these would have been among those who have called for Jesus’ death, but even so his purpose was not to condemn them. As Acts 3:17 shows, Peter believes they had acted in ignorance, and in this speech he seeks to correct their lack of understanding by explaining that Jesus’ death and resurrection were foretold in their own Scriptures. Indeed, he stresses that the door remains wide to them, declaring that the ‘promise is for you’ and ‘your children’ as well as those far away (39). Rather than portraying Peter’s listeners as unresponsive and uncaring about what has happened to Christ, Luke says that they were ‘cut to the heart’ (37). These Jews even call the disciples ‘brothers’ and respond to their message by asking ‘what shall we do?’ They are so moved that about three thousand of them turn to Christ.
There is a wider message here, too: Christianity is good news. The purpose of repentance is not to highlight how worthless we are, so that we remain stuck forever in our guilt. Rather we acknowledge our mistakes, so we can move on from them, knowing God’s forgiveness and receiving the Spirit’s help to change in the future. Is this joyful message the impression of Christianity we convey to the world? May we be known for demonstrating grace and forgiveness rather than judgment and condemnation.
Sometimes we do need to challenge someone for wrongdoing. How can we do that without being unloving or appearing ‘holier than thou’?
Lord, we too are witnesses to the world of Your infinite love and mighty power.
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