We have become very spoiled by the expectations our technology brings. Young people today can’t believe there was a time when you had to wait for a letter to arrive in order to learn information about what a person was doing. They can hardly fathom there was a time when long distance phone calls were a relatively expensive luxury that was not to be used all the time.
Instead, we have instantaneous communication through our cell phones, texting, social media, and email. There is no waiting. Hit some buttons and you can share information with another person or with thousands of people. Today we think nothing of picking up our cell phone and calling a person no matter where they live.
Now technology can’t remove all waiting. In fact in some ways it has increased the waiting. Online shopping is a huge part of our lives. We order, and then we have to wait for the items to arrive. But here too our technology spoils us. While we may have to wait, we often do so knowing where the item is and when it going to arrive. Online services often provide tracking for the shipment. They send you a link and you can click on it and know exactly where it is the course of transit, and when it is out for delivery.
The disciples of Jesus were in a very different situation as we meet them at beginning of our text. The risen Lord had been with the disciples for forty days. During that time he had left no doubt that he had indeed risen from the dead as he ate and drank with them, and taught them about the kingdom of God. We learn that he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
“Not many days from now” is not a very specific reference. How many days would it be? How long would they be waiting? Forty days after his resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven. Then a whole week passed and nothing happened. The disciples had no way of knowing when they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. We probably would have started to get impateient.
They obeyed our Lord’s word and remained in Jerusalem. Ten days after Jesus’ ascension the Jewish festival of Pentecost arrived. On that day the waiting ended in a dramatic fashion. Luke tells us that the disciples were gathered together. Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Faithful Jews from all over the Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds had chosen to live in Jerusalem because it was the place where the temple was located. Drawn by the sound of the rushing wind they came to the place where the disciples were. They were astounded to find the disciples speaking in their own native languages about the mighty things of God. It was clear that these were not sophisticated people – the sort of people you would expect to have these skills. Instead, the fact that they were speaking in these languages was amazing.
However, not all were so positive. Instead, some said that the disciple were just drunk. Peter took the lead as he stood up and declared that this was not the case. After all, it was too early in the morning. Instead, they were witnessing God’s dramatic action as he fulfilled his word.
Peter declared, “But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.’”
God had poured forth the Holy Spirit – an act that demonstrated the last days were present. Yet while this was dramatic, Peter immediately went on to explain why the Spirit had been poured forth. It was because of Jesus Christ.
Peter declared: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know-- this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”
Jesus had been crucified, but he had not stayed dead. Instead, Peter explained how King David had prophesied in Psalm 16 that the Christ’s flesh would not see corruption. Then Peter announced, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 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 yourselves are seeing and hearing.”
Peter teaches us that on Pentecost, the risen Lord poured forth the Holy Spirit on his Church. Exalted at God’s right hand, he has not left us alone. Instead, he has sent the Spirit as the presence of Christ with us. He has given the Spirit whose job it is to empower the Church in sharing the good news about Jesus with others.
Those who were listening to Peter did not initially hear his message as good news. Peter concluded his sermon by saying, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” We learn that those who heard it were cut to the heart, and asked Peter and the apostles, “What should be do.”
Peter’s preaching confronts us as well. After all, we are the ones who crucified Jesus. It was our sin that prompted God to send his Son to be numbered with transgressors and to die in our place. Jesus was crucified because of us. He gave himself in obedience to the Father and because of love for us, but make no mistake, our sin caused Jesus to be crucified.
Peter replied to the crowd, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
Peter calls us to repent. We consider the sin in our lives and confess it before God. We admit where we have sinned in thought, word, and deed. And then we return in faith to our baptism, for there we receive the forgiveness of sins. Paul says in Romans, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” We shared in Jesus’ death through baptism, and therefore we receive the forgiveness of sins that he won. Through faith in God’s promise about baptism we continue to receive forgiveness for every sin.
Our baptism is also the guarantee that we have received the Spirit. In baptism you received “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.” You have received the Spirit, and so the power of the Spirit is present and at work in you. This power helps you speak about Jesus to others. Consider the people you know in your life. Who doesn’t believe in Jesus? What opportunities do you have to speak about Jesus’ death and resurrection to them? How can you look for opportunities to do so?
The Spirit is also the power for living in ways the are true to Christ. Paul went on to say in Romans about baptism, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” It is the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead. The presence of the Spirit in you means that the power that raised Christ is at work in our life. The Spirit enables you to love your neighbor and to serve. The Spirit empowers you to forgive just as God has forgiven you in Christ.
Through the work of the Spirit, God has called you to himself. He has made you his child. He has worked faith in Jesus Christ. This is the Spirit’s work. We confess in the Small Catechism that “I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”
Called by the work of the Spirit, we now call upon Jesus Christ in faith. In our text, Peter quotes Joel as he says, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” We call on the name of the Lord in the confidence that Jesus is the crucified and risen Lord. In him we find the assurance that our sins are forgiven, and that resurrection and eternal life await us.
On Pentecost, the risen and exalted Lord poured forth the Spirt on his Church. The event of Pentecost occurred because we live in the Last Days that began with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Spirit is now present with us to empower us in speaking about Jesus Christ to others. You know that you have received the Spirit because you have been baptized. As you daily repent of your sins, you return to your baptism and receive forgiveness. The Spirit who gave you faith will continue to strengthen you in the knowledge that “everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”