A few weeks before the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter was too terrified to admit to a serving girl that he knew Jesus (Lk 22:54-61). But the Lord’s resurrection has utterly transformed him and now he is ready to confront the Jerusalem crowds with what they’ve done (2:23,24). They, through their lawless leaders, killed God’s anointed king. So though they’ve moved on in life and are enjoying the festival, they need to pause and face the truth! The Spirit’s power in the disciples shows that God is bringing to fruition the words of the prophet Joel who spoke of a terrible judgement and the way to escape it (Joel 1-2). They are in urgent need of that salvation!
Peter is preaching for repentance (v38). He wants his hearers to change their minds. They believe they are honouring God and will know His blessing; in reality the opposite is true. But getting humans to see their need of repentance is hard. In his ministry, Jesus pointed out sins like pride (Lk 6:42) and greed (Lk 16:13,14), but many wouldn’t listen. It’s a common human habit. We all have ways to protect our sins: excuses for wrong attitudes, words and behaviour. Whether it’s our failure to love, immoral tendencies, deceitfulness or other sins, we stay away from repentance. So Peter’s attempt to get the people to see what they’ve done and seek forgiveness is a hard task.
But with the help of the Holy Spirit, he does drive the message home as he moves from Joel to Israel’s great hero: King David. Judah’s citizens long for another like David who can lead them to victory again. Peter tells them: he’s come; his name is Jesus; they killed him but God raised him (v24); and David predicted it all (v25-28)! Peter uses Psalm 16 to do this. In the psalm David writes of the threat to his life that he feels from those in Israel who would lead him astray. He then responds with a fresh determination to remain true to the Lord: so though others will die, he will not (Ps 16:4,8-11). Well, no doubt David experienced such a rescue in his lifetime. But, says Peter, he ultimately died (v29) so were his words in vain, in the end? No! They had a greater meaning. David headed up a family to which God promised a special, future son (v30; Ps 132:11; 2Sa 7:12). Christ is that son, and in his resurrection he has fulfilled Psalm 16 is a far richer way than David ever knew (v31) as the Christians themselves have seen (v32). The change and the supernatural power visible in the Jesus’ followers is clear evidence of this (v33).
However, did David really expect anything greater than his own experience? Yes (v34). Though David never ascended into heaven, he always longed for a life close to God, as seen in the way he: brought the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem (1Ch 16:1); sang of living in the house of God (Ps 23:6); and prophesied of a son who would rise higher than him, whom he referred to as his lord (v34,35; Ps 110). Peter tells the crowd that Jesus has fulfilled David’s desires and words. He has overcome all his enemies, even death, by being raised by God to the throne of heaven (v36). That is why the disciples are now so bold: they know and serve David’s greater son!
Jesus’ resurrection is at the heart of the Christian faith. If Jesus was still dead then Christianity would be an empty way of life (1Co 15:14,17,19). But he isn’t. Witnesses testify to it. The birth of the church shows it. And those who come to faith in him, find that in him we have a living hero and leader who truly meets all our needs, both now and for eternity.