Meeting Jesus: Peter


Meeting Jesus: Peter
A Message on Acts 2:32-41
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
June 9, 2019, Pentecost Sunday
By Doug Wintermute

Acts 2:32-41 (NRSV)

This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. 33 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. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

36 Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

The First Converts
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one 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. 39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” 40 And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added.

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Today is Pentecost, and important day in the life of the church. Pentecost is the considered the birthday of the church because it is the day the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples. Originally it was an observance of the wheat harvest which came 50 days after Easter. (That’s how it got the name “pentecost,” with “pent” being a latin prefix for 5… or something like that. A pentagon, for example, has five sides.)

The liturgical color for Pentecost is red. Why red? Well the answer lies in our first scripture reading today from the first part of the second chapter of Acts. The disciples were gathered all together when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. There was a sound like a rushing wind and “Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.” — Acts 2:3

Fire is red, so it was decided the liturgical color for Pentecost would be red. (And no, for all you Christmas folks out there, the liturgical color for Advent is purple or blue, not red.)

So today is Pentecost, but we are also going to continue our sermon series titled “Meeting Jesus,” exploring people in the Bible whose lives were changed by meeting Jesus, and today that person is Peter.

Peter is also called Simon Peter or even Cephas. Before he was called to follow Jesus he was, like many of the disciples, a fisherman. Andrew, also a fisherman, was his brother. Peter goes from fishing for fish to fishing for people when he answers Jesus call to “follow me.”

Peter becomes a leader of the 12 disciples. He was a very passionate leader. He was very spontaneous, the kind of person who would act first and explain later. Instead of “ready, aim, fire,” Peter was “fire, ready, aim.”

Peter is the one who walks on water in the middle of the storm, doing so successfully until he takes his eyes off of Jesus. The rest of the disciples stay in the boat, but not Peter.

Peter is a risk taker. If he ever went to Six Flags he would ride all the scary rides.

Peter is the one of the first people to recognize Jesus as the messiah. In Matthew 16 Jesus asks his disciple who people say he is, and then asks the disciples specifically who they think he is. Peter boldy replies, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

But Peter also had to deal with some guilt. It was Peter, after all, that denied Jesus three times the night he was arrested, even after being told he would do so. After his resurrection Jesus forgives him three times when they are by the side of the sea.

So that gives you a brief glimpse into who Peter was. Now let’s look at Peter’s role at Pentecost.

As we read in the second chapter of Acts, Peter is with the disciples when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. In the first chapter of Acts Jesus tells the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit comes upon them, and they do. They don’t know when it will be, but they have faith and wait. It happens at Pentecost, 50 days after Easter.

Once the Spirit comes upon them and they start speaking in all the different tongues, the people observing them start freaking out a little. Some people, in an attempt to explain the Disciples’ behavior, even accuse them of being drunk!

Peter is the one who comes to the disciples’ defence and is the spokesperson, if you will, for them. I love how he refutes the theory they are drunk by saying that it’s too early in the day, only 9 in the morning, so the disciples couldn’t be drunk.

Then he starts preaching. He starts telling about Jesus and how things have changed forever because of Jesus. He talks about how Jesus is, indeed, the messiah. He uses the Hebrew scriptures to show how Jesus fulfills the scriptures regarding the messiah.

They Peter switches gears, somewhat. After proving that Jesus is the messiah, he then turn evangelist and starts saving souls.

He tells them, “Repent, and be baptized every one 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.”

Peter is a very complex person. Passionate, dedicated, leader, and all-in follower of Jesus Christ. He was also very human, susceptible to the same temptations, the same fears, the same disappointments and rejections that we deal with.

Here’s what I think a news story about Peter’s denial of Jesus might sound like if Peter had been living today.

JERUSALEM–The group known as “The Disciples” is again in the public eye after the group found itself at the center of a disturbance in which witnesses say many foreign languages were spoken and supernatural phenomena took place.

The group is thought to have gone underground after the death of its leader, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was accused by Jewish authorities of false teachings and was arrested, tried, and executed by the Roman army. Although it has been denied by both Jewish religious authorities and the Roman government officials, several witnesses claim that three days after he was executed, Jesus rose from the dead.

The Disciples group went underground after Jesus death and had not appeared in public as a group for 50 days. Then, on Sunday, they appeared in Jerusalem to celebrate the harvest festival known as Pentecost.

Witnesses to the event say that a loud atmospheric phenomena, like the rushing sound of a violent wind, filled the building where the disciples were meeting. They also said tongues, which appeared to be fire, rested on each one of the disciples heads. No burns were reported, however. At the same time, the disciples began speaking in many different languages. The crowd expressed amazement that so many languages were being spoken.

Some who witnessed the event accused the disciples of being drunk in public, but one the leader of the disciples, Simon Peter, refuted that claim. He then gave an impassioned proclamation about Jesus, saying that Jesus is the Messiah and quoting scripture to substantiate that claim.

He ended by saying, “Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Many in the crowd heeded his words, as approximately 3,000 people were baptized and joined the movement.

Okay, so maybe something like that.

So what can we learn from Peter.

I think one thing we can learn is to respond to Jesus’ call on your life.

When we think of calls, we usually think of people who become ordained ministers. I certainly had a call, and in answering that call I became an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.

But I am convinced that every Christian, every single one, has a calling from God. It doesn’t have to be to ordained ministry. There are an infinite variety of callings, of ways you can respond to God. What is God calling you to do? And will you say yes, the way Peter did?

Another thing we can learn from Peter is to keep going through our failures. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for Peter to deal with the fact that he denied Jesus three times. Even when Jesus forgives him three times on the seashore after his resurrection, it had to be hard.

But Peter didn’t give up. He picked himself up and kept going. As that country song says, “If you’re going through Hell ,Keep on going, don’t slow down, If you’re scared, don’t show it, You might get out, Before the devil even knows you’re there.”

In our lives the easiest thing to do when we encounter difficulties is the give up. Just throw in the towel and say, “This is too hard. I can’t do this. I give up.”

But Peter didn’t quit. He kept on going, and in doing so became a great leader of the early church.

Another thing I think we can learn from Peter is that it’s okay to be passionate for Jesus. It’s okay to be enthusiastic, to be “on fire” for Jesus.

John Wesley once said, “When you set yourself on fire, people love to come and see you burn.” Now he doesn’t mean that literally, of course, but people are drawn to enthusiastic people.

There’s a nickname for congregations that just sit in the pews on Sunday and that’s it, they don’t do much of anything else. They are called the “frozen chosen.” Don’t be a frozen chosen.

The Holy Spirit came upon Peter and the disciples at Pentecost. It comes upon us at our baptism. We baptize with water, but also with the Holy Spirit. After the water is applied I place my hand on your head and say, “… the Holy Spirit work within you, that having been born through water and the Spirit, you may live as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Peter promises the gift of the Holy Spirit to those at Pentecost who are baptized. We also have the Holy Spirit in us. The problem is that some of us don’t act like it. There should be no such thing as a “passive Christian.” We are called to get up and go! We shouldn’t be sitting on the premises but should be standing on the promises!

Now we need to temper that enthusiasm. Peter learned that when he cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, Malchus, when the authorities came to arrest Jesus. Jesus tells Peter to put his sword away, and in Luke’s gospel Jesus touches Malchus’ ear and heals it.

So, my challenge to you this Pentecost Sunday is to let the Holy Spirit dwell within you. Have those characteristics that made Peter a great leader among the disciples. Respond to God’s call on your life. Keep going through the tough times. And be enthusiastic about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Just don’t cut off anyone’s ear.

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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