I really like Harry Potter. I grew up reading the books. Chappy and I have been pestering our friends The Gunn’s to read the series for months now because we knew Tanner (12) and Jonathon (10) would love it! They asked why we liked it so much…what was our favorite thing about it? I told them that my favorite part, if I had to pick one thing, is how everything comes together in the end! J.K. Rowling will mention something in the beginning of the series that then comes back into play in the end and your mind is just blown by how she worked everything together from the beginning! I got thinking, and this happens in the Bible, too!
If you look at what comes after the Gospels in the Bible, it’s the book of Acts. If you think about what comes after the Gospel in Church, it’s the homily. In the book of Acts we find the first homily based on the Gospels and the life of Jesus, and this is a fantastic example of how things start to come together full circle.
We celebrated Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles, a couple of weeks ago. If we look in the second chapter of Acts we see the passage where this happened. If you look first at Acts 2:1-13 we see where the Holy Spirit comes to the 12 and the different reactions the people who witnessed this had. Think back to different ways you have seen the Holy Spirit represented before: fire, wind, a dove…those are the big three. The burning tongues is where things start to come back full circle. Think back to another time when you’ve seen the Holy Spirit/God appear as fire. What comes to mind first for me is Moses and the burning bush. In Exodus 19:18 God is present as fire to Moses to initiate the Covenant on Siani. Here the Holy Spirit acts upon the apostles, preparing them to proclaim the new covenant with its unique gift of spirit. This is a big thing happening here! The gift of being able to speak in different languages is showing the world wide mission of the church- that Jesus’ message needs to reach everyone.
Jews were visiting Jerusalem from all over- it would be like being at the Olympics and someone who speaks a more obscure language, like Portuguese, is speaking at the opening ceremony and everyone there can understand what he/she is saying…it’s pretty crazy. How would you react to that happening?? Look at how the people witnessing the Apostles reacted. Some people were in shock, some thought it was awesome, and some thought they were all just drunk. This is the set-up for the first homily on the Gospels…this is what Peter has to work with. What does he do?
Look at Acts 2:14-36. Peter says a whole mouthful there! There is so much being said it would take too long to pick it all apart, so we’re just going to look at the major things Peter does here. He quotes the Old Testament a lot. These are the words the people would know. When he says, as “the prophet Joel said”, or “as King David said” this means something to everyone listening. Basically what he is saying is, “Look, these guys aren’t drunk…it’s only 9am. Joel said this would happen, that God said he would pour out His Spirit on His people.” Then he tells them about Jesus, saying “most of you know this already, He did mighty deeds, wonders, and works- this guy was awesome…and then you killed him.” That’s kind of awkward right? Imagine being in that crowd. Some people may have felt ownership of that, but a lot of people were probably thinking, “Hey! I didn’t kill anyone!” But then Peter makes it all ok because he says, “but that was all part of God’s plan, and then…God raised Him from the dead.” And then he goes into defense mode! It’s like Peter knew he was going to have skeptics because he starts to prove how he knows Jesus was resurrected.
First he quotes David. He reminds them that King David said God’s anointed would be resurrected from the dead. This is proof in scripture. Then he says that the 12 of them were there and they know it happened; this is eye witness testimony. Then he leaves them with this. Look at verse 36 again. He reemphasizes his major point here: that God has made Jesus Lord, who is ruler of all, and Messiah, the anointed one prophesied in scripture that they had been waiting for. That is one amazing homily that Peter delivered, you can hear the passion in it! Think about if you were sitting in church and this is what you heard the priest say, what would your reaction be to hearing that homily?
Let’s look at what the peoples’ reaction was. Look at Acts 2:37-41. These people were convicted- “cut to the heart.” They wanted to know, “what do we do now?!” Look at what Peter tells them. He replies with commands and a promise. The commands are to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus said in Luke 24:46-47, “repentance and the forgiveness of sins would be preached in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT IS HAPPENING AT THIS MOMENT! Jesus knew that Peter would be having this moment and would need the words and wisdom, so he provided it to him. The promise was the promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise wasn’t just to those hearing these words at that time. This promise was to everyone, for all of time. This promise was to you and this promise was to me. How amazing is that?
Peter keeps talking to the people and answering their questions and at the end of the day 3,000 people were baptized. That is the beginning of it all. They proclaimed God’s message, shared the Good News, and the Word spread- all through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Even though this homily was preached literally thousands of years ago I think it still applies to us today. Look at the last thing Peter says in this passage: “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” What is our world today if not corrupt? Peter was not just talking to the 3,000 people who were baptized that day- he was talking to all of us in 2013. Are we willing to repent and accept the promise of the Holy Spirit?