Weekly Meditation - 30th April 2017
Acts 2:14a, 36-41
Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19
1 Peter 1:17-23
The first disciples of Jesus had only the Old Testament; the New Testament was still to be written. When they came to preach the good news about their risen Lord, they had just the ancient Scriptures to appeal to, together with their own eye-witness testimony. It was enough, however, because Jesus’ story is written across every page of the old Hebrew Bible.
When Jesus met with two dejected disciples along the road to Emmaus on the day he had conquered death, he 'opened the Scriptures' to them (Luke 24:32) and 'beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, he explained what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself' (24:27). What he said transformed them from two fearful and disheartened individuals into two men equipped to spread the gospel. The resurrection of Jesus galvanised all his disciples into a fearless bunch of preachers with a message about which they were certain and confident.
The first Christian sermon was preached to the crowd that had gathered in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost. Peter seized the opportunity that presented itself and, taking advantage of the crowd’s curiosity, he spoke to them of their saviour, Jesus Christ – whom they had crucified (Acts 2:36). He spoke in such a way they they were 'cut to the heart' (2:37) and when the crowd appealed to Peter, he instructed them to “repent and be baptised” (2:28). Peter’s words were so effective that 'about three thousand were added to their number that day' (2:41), giving birth to the Church and multiplying by twenty-five the number of Jesus’ followers.
Peter made the resurrection of Jesus his central message to the Pentecost crowd , and in doing so he referred to Old Testament scriptures – the prophet Joel (Acts 2:16-21), Psalm 16 (Acts 2:25-28) and Psalm 110 (Acts 2:34-35). Peter was able later also to write confidently about the death and resurrection of the Saviour, reminding his readers of the cost of their salvation. He wrote of their lives being purchased not with 'perishable things' – silver or gold – but with “the precious blood of Christ” (1st Peter 1:18-19). Peter contrasted the paltry things that are valued in the world’s 'empty way of life' from which Christians are to be redeemed (v 18), with the lasting value of the Saviour’s blood. Again there is an Old Testament allusion – this time to the unblemished sacrifices that the old law required (v 19, Exodus 12:5) – together with a reminder that all this was in God’s mind “before the creation of the world” (v 20).
For this reason, we are called to live 'as strangers' (v 17) in this world that covets shiny metal dug from the ground, rather than the redemption wrought by the blood of Christ.