Pentecost Sunday May 23, 2021
225, 231, 234, 644
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Editor’s Note: (please read Acts 2:1-47 from your Bibles)
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to attend concerts put on by various military bands and choirs. I remember really enjoying, for example, the U.S. Air Force choir. Those concerts were nice, but they weren’t wild. They weren’t, like some in my generation used to say, “radical.”
But if ever you were to go to a rock concert, say, to a band like “the Who” or some such band, you, especially if you weren’t used to such experiences, would think, “Boy, that was wild! That was radical.” And one reason is because at these kinds of concerts things explode. There’s all these flashing lights and spotlights swirling around the auditorium. It’s not like going to see the Marine Corps Band playing John Philipp Sousa. It’s radical!
I mention this not to get you interested in attending a rock concert, but to get you to understand that there was nothing tame or sedate about Pentecost, as we read in Acts 2. It was a radical event. While there were no explosions, there was a very loud, tornado-like sound sweeping through that upper room. To hear it would have made you jump. There were no flashing lights, but blazing fire broke off into many little tongues of fire and resting on the heads of the disciples. Can you imagine a flame of fire on each of our heads this morning? That would be radical. That would blow us away. And then the disciples spoke in languages that they had never learned. That would be like if I start preaching in Chinese, even though I don’t know one word of Chinese. Suddenly I can just do it. That would be wild.
In a rock concert the pyrotechnics are mostly just an attention getter; the music is the main thing. So it is with Pentecost. The wind, fire, the ability to speak in different languages is incredibly amazing, but the main thing, and the truly radical thing, was the message Peter preached that day.
Have you ever thought how radical, how way out there, the message of the Bible is? It’s not a tame little message. There’s nothing benign about it. It’s turn-everything-upside-down-and-on its-head-radical. It’s because it’s a message that comes from a Holy God to an unholy world.
God’s message just does not fit into the typical thinking of a world whose collective mind is in league with Satan and controlled by sin. What did Peter preach that was so earth shaking? So startling? So different?
First of all, Peter preached sin. Sin is a word you don’t hear too much nowadays. It’s a word that’s never been very popular. People don’t want to be told they’re sinful and out of line with God. You can tell me that I’m not perfect. Okay, I can deal with that. You can tell me I make a few mistakes once in a while. That doesn’t bother me. But there’s something jaw-dropping about telling someone he is sinfully corrupt by nature, and deserving of nothing less than eternal damnation in hell. Many would agree that this would be true of Adolf Hitler, Jack the Ripper, or Osama Bid Laden, but to tell the average garden-variety sinner that his sin is so bad as to merit hellfire, that’s radical.
“You mean my sweet little grandmother who never said an unkind word in her life is deserving death and damnation for her sin?” The Bible says, “Yes she is!” Romans 3: “All have sinned …” “There is no one righteous not even one … no one who does good, not even one …” (Romans 3: 10, 12, 23)
God doesn’t pull any punches. He’s not one to tell you something that isn’t true just to make you feel better. God is an honest Physician. “Here’s the X-Ray. You’re sick. You’re riddled through and through with sin. Unless something’s done about it, you’re going to die.” God is love and in love He lays it right out there because unless we see ourselves for what and who we are we have no chance of escaping the just punishment we all deserve. Romans 6:23—“The wages of sin is death.” Ezekiel 18:20—“The soul who sins shall die.”
In a world that doesn’t want to hear the truth—that is much more comfortable with lies—Bible truth is pretty radical. When Peter preached sin on Pentecost Sunday it was like a bomb went off. It was explosive. Peter made it clear that the people there killed Christ. The people killed the Lord. They killed God. I killed God. You killed God. We did because you and I are responsible for nailing Him to that cross and putting him to death because of our sins.
That’s how sin awful is. Maybe we need to ask ourselves: “I’m all concerned about the COVID- 19 virus, but why am I not far more concerned about my sinful heart and life?”
Peter’s preaching wasn’t radical just because he preached sin. It was truly radical because He preached the radical love of God. There are stories of human love that are remarkable. I remember reading a story of an Iraqi mother throwing herself on a grenade to save her children. We hear of people rushing into a burning building, giving up their lives, in order to rescue those inside. Hospital workers expose themselves to the coronavirus because they are dedicated to doing all in their power to save lives.
But God’s love, which saves us, is beyond our comprehension. Think of it: God who fills all things, who is bigger than the universe, comes into our world as a tiny flesh and blood baby. Throughout His earthly life He battles, as a true human being, against temptation, and never gives into sin, not once. He does this so that He can lay the gift of His righteous life at our feet as a free gift, so that His perfect life now covers over our sin. For us He is abused, rejected, scorned, and hated. Then, in a breathtaking act of self-sacrifice, God, in the person of Jesus Christ, endures the shame of death by crucifixion. God takes our sin into his own human body.
He endures the pain of hell itself for the sins of everybody. He dies for Adolf Hitler, for Jack the Ripper, for Judas Iscariot. He dies for the cop who killed George Floyd. He dies for those in Minneapolis who looted and vandalized. He dies for a world who wants nothing to do with God. He dies for me and you.
And what does He accomplish? Life without end for all as a free gift, so that whoever believes by the power of the Spirit, has life without end. And it’s not just the soul that lives on forever. The startling truth Peter proclaimed is that Jesus came back from the dead. He went into death but then came back out of it to declare His victory over it. What this means for us is that the body, the body we have now, will one day be raised and live on forever, albeit a glorified body that will
never again suffer because of the effects of sin. That’s a mind-blowing truth, and it’s wonderful beyond comprehension.
Isn’t it radical to think of a world with no hospitals, no cancer, no arthritis, no open heart surgery, no COVID-19, no pain, no hatred, no injustice, no violence, no death. No headaches. No heartaches. No hurting other people’s feelings or getting hurt by others. We’re so used to these things, but the radical love of Christ has promised to one day free of us these things; and God will deliver on His promise.
A radical message of sin, a radical message of God’s Love, but then a radical message of a changed life.
In the concluding verses of this second chapter of Acts we are told that 3000 persons were brought to faith as a result of Peter’s preaching. 3000 people were cut to the heart by Peter’s no-nonsense preaching of Law, but through his preaching of the Gospel they were also led to trust in the Crucified and Risen Christ for the forgiveness of sins. What happened to them that day changed them in a dramatic way. Verses 44 and 45: “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.”
What had changed about them was that now they were no longer living for themselves. They were now living their lives for Him Who died for them and rose again. I’m not saying that after that they never did a selfish thing again in their lives. They still had a sinful nature to contend with, they still sinned, but they were no longer servants of sin and living for sin. They were now God’s blood-bought, baptized people, living for righteousness, living for Christ, living for others.
What happens when you take a magnet and rub it against a piece of steel? The steel begins to take on the properties of the magnet. The people who were brought to faith on Pentecost were like steel, with Jesus being the magnet. They, through Baptism and the Word, by the power of the Holy Spirit, were now attached to Jesus, and were starting to become more and more like Jesus. His unselfish, live for God, live for others, loving and holy way of thinking and living began to flow into them and change them. Friends, our forgiveness and salvation is a done deal, fully complete. But our growing to be more like Jesus in how we think, talk, and live our lives is a lifelong process, sometimes a very slow process. But it’s real and it’s radical.
The magnetic power of Jesus and His Word changes us. “I don’t’ want to watch these kinds of movies anymore. I don’t want to listen to this kind of music with these kinds of words anymore. I don’t want put other things ahead of hearing and studying God’s Word anymore. I don’t want to treat my wife the way I’ve been treating her. I want to live for the One Who loved me so much that He gave His life for me so that I could live forever with Him.”
It’s not about me. Now it’s about God and the other person. It’s about putting others first. That’s a way-out-there concept if you think about it, so much so that it involves loving and forgiving our enemies, those who sin against us, those who do us wrong.
I challenge you to read the book of Acts. The book of Acts tells how the Spirit by the power of a Message—the Message of the Savior Jesus— changed people forever. It’s about people who bravely reached out with the love of Jesus and changed the world. The Roman world of the 1st century, a selfish and depraved world, was absolutely shocked by the radical approach to life of these Christians. They were so different. Be different. Be radical. Be who you are in Jesus Christ. Draw on the power of the Holy Spirit, Who, through the Word, convicts of sin, comforts us with God’s amazing love, and changes us from the inside out. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.