Summary of the Text
Chapter two of Acts follows the ascension of Jesus and begins with his disciples gathered up all into one place. Before these followers are scattered out into the world, the world has come to them in Jerusalem as it was the day of Pentecost. Emboldened and enabled by the coming of the Spirit, Peter begins to speak to the crowds.
Remember that this is the very city where Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified. It is where Peter fearfully denied knowing Jesus. And what does he now say? He stands up to preach Christ and him crucified. He makes it abundantly clear whom he believes Jesus to be. Peter even makes sure to point out the people’s role in his crucifixion. Now having their attention (not just for content, but also for the miraculous way he is understood by all as read in prior verses), Peter lets them know the story of Jesus isn’t over.
Witnesses to Jesus
To this audience, the validity of a prophet wasn’t based only on their words. A prophet needed to perform signs, as well as have other witnesses who supported their ministry. This is why, just as Jesus himself does in John 5, Peter lists out a number of witnesses, arguing for the authority of Jesus. Jesus performed signs and wonders, David is called in as a witness, as Peter claims Psalm 16 points ahead to the Messiah, and then he closes with the witness of all those who were there that had seen the resurrected Jesus themselves.
So what connection is Peter making from the psalms to Christ? David writes this psalm as a song of trust in God. God watches over us and provides for us, God is our refuge, and David goes so far as to say, “you will not abandon my soul to Sheol or let your holy one see corruption.” Since David did in fact die, Peter says it must be that David saw a future promise of God. He was a prophet who knew God had a plan and would send a Messiah, so these words of David point to a richer meaning that is seen in Jesus, the one who even though he experienced death, could not be held by it. There is hope here for what can prevent God from providing for his people, if even death itself could not stop him?
The Unstoppable Gospel
Nothing could stop the plans of God, even though at times it looked to us like those plans had gone off the rails. Peter even rebukes Jesus when he thought Jesus was going the wrong way. Rather than being crowned king in Jerusalem, as many had desired or expected, Jesus is betrayed and arrested. Even when Jesus is handed over and killed, none of this actually was a hindrance to the purpose for which Christ came, rather it was part of the “deliberate plan” (v.23). Not even death could stop Jesus, and now that its power is removed, hope is abundant for the people of God.
It is easy for the church to read this today and identify with the Peter in Acts 2 whose eyes are now open and who has (finally) seen God’s plan. We do not want to stand alongside those who gravely misunderstood Jesus. But is necessary and humbling to remember that even now with the gift of God’s word, we will make mistakes and misunderstand. But part of that humility is knowing that ultimately our misunderstandings can’t stand in the way of God’s good plan. Misunderstandings led to Jesus being nailed to the cross. It seemed like the end. Yet it was indeed part of the plan of God that he used to bring about our salvation.
Casey Clark co-pastors New Monmouth Presbyterian Church with his wife, Rachel, in Lexington, VA. Previously he served a church in Durham, NC, focusing on discipleship and the study of Scriptures. During that time he started a website to encourage and equip others in personal Bible reading called Year in the Bible. His other interests include soccer, murder mysteries, and coffee. Casey studied history at James Madison University and earned an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary.
When you go through a trial, the sovereignty of God is the pillow upon which you lay your head.
“When the plane leveled off at 14,500 feet, Joan Murray took a deep breath and jumped out the door. The bank executive from Charlotte, North Carolina, was enjoying her free fall through the air until she pulled the ripcord for her parachute and nothing happened. Just about then she had an extreme rush of adrenaline.
“But she didn’t panic – she knew she had a back up parachute. She was falling 120 miles per hour when she released the reserve chute. It opened just fine, but she lost her bearings and in her struggle to right herself she deflated the chute. While the chute briefly slowed her descent, she continued to fall at 80 miles per hour.
“She struck the earth with a violent blow shattered her right side and jarred the fillings from her teeth. She was barely conscious and her heart was failing. Just when it seemed things could not get much worse, she realized she had fallen into a mound of fire ants that didn’t appreciate her disturbing their solitude. All told they stung her about 200 times before the paramedics arrived.” [People’s Stories of Survival, 15]
It reminds you of the old “Hee-Haw” song, “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”
But things are not always as they seem. The doctors that treated Joan believe that the ants actually saved her life. They theorized that the stings of the ants shocked her heart enough to keep it beating!