The Church’s Mission in Jerusalem
Beloved heavenly Father,
On the Jewish feast of Pentecost in 30 AD, You rained down upon Jesus’ disciples the baptismal fire of Your Holy Spirit, signifying the birth of the New Covenant Church. We thank You for Your great gift and pray that we may grow in grace through the indwelling of the Spirit as holy children who are committed to living according to Your will for our lives. Please send Your Spirit to guide us, Lord, in our lesson as the faithful remnant of Israel becomes the first Christian community in Jerusalem and moves forward, under St. Peter’s guidance, to fulfill the mission Jesus’ gave them at His Ascension “to carry the Gospel message of salvation to Jerusalem to Judea, to Samaria and to the ends of the earth. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.
I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. I will set a sign among them; from them I will send fugitives to the nations: to Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have never heard of my fame, or seen my glory; and they shall proclaim my glory among the nations.
Chapter 2: The Events of Pentecost Continued
It is fifty days since the Feast of Firstfruits and Jesus’ Resurrection. According to the Jewish liturgical calendar, the count is now completed (Acts 2:1) and it is day of the Feast of Weeks/Pentecost (Lev 23:15-16). It is a pilgrim feast in which every adult male of the covenant (age 13 and older) must present himself before God’s holy altar at the Jerusalem Temple; and he must not come “empty handed” (Ex 23:14-16, 17; Dt 16:9-12, 16-17). The morning Temple worship service is a required holy day of worship and rest for all generations (Lev 23:21). After the offering of the morning communal sacrifice of the Tamid lamb (Num 28:26-31), the multiple prescribed communal sacrifices for Pentecost are offered (Lev 23:18-19), as well as the required individual offerings of two loaves of leavened wheat bread from every district of the pilgrims with the required profession of faith, recalling God’s mighty works in calling Israel to holy nationhood (Lev 23:17; Dt 26:4-11; Jewish Study Bible notes page 423). In addition, there are the festival communion sacrifices (hagigah) of groups of the worshippers which are sacrificed with the fat and blood offered at the altar while the skinned body of the victim is taken to be cooked and eaten in the city that day are (Mishnah: Hagigah). The pilgrim feast of Pentecost was a sacred annual festival that remembered the Theophany of God at Mt. Sinai, the giving of the Law, and the formation of the Sinai covenant with Israel. The Jews viewed Pentecost as a covenant renewal ceremony (Jubilees 6:17-21) and the Babylonian Talmud (c. 250 AD) also identifies the feast with the “day the Torah was given” to Israel (Babylonian Talmud: Pes., 68b).(1)
Acts Part II: The Church’s Mission in Jerusalem (Acts 2:14-8:4)
- Peter’s Pentecost homily (2:14-41)
- The Communal Life of the Jerusalem Community (2:42-47)
- Teaching at the Temple & Persecution (3:1-6:15)
- Martyrdom of Stephen (7:1-8:4)
Acts 2:14-36 ~ St. Peter’s Homily on the Feast of Pentecost
When the Apostles and other disciples emerged from the Upper Room after the filling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-13), they all began to joyfully profess Jesus’ Gospel of salvation. The people in the crowd, Jews from provinces from across the Roman Empire who had traveled to Jerusalem to attend the pilgrim feast of Pentecost, all heard the message of the Gospel in their own languages and dialects. So joyful and exuberant were the disciples that some in the crowd accused them of being drunk on “new wine” (Acts 2:13). The Greek word gleukos is only found in Acts 2:13 in the New Testament and refers to new, sweet wine. It is ironic that some in the crowd should accuse the disciples of being full of “new wine” since drinking the best of the new wine is one of the symbols of the Old Testament prophets for restored communion with the Lord. This symbol of covenant union has been fulfilled in the “new wine” of the Eucharist which is a sharing in the life blood of Christ Jesus.
[examples in Scripture]
Joy of drinking good wine
Drinking the “cup of God’s wrath”
Rejoicing in the best “new wine” at the Master’s table
Promise: Zec 9:15-16
Acts 2:14-24 ~ The Prophecy of the Prophet Joel
14 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, “You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen to my words. 15 These people are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock [literally the third hour] in the morning. 16 No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 17 It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says, that I will pour out a portion of my Spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my Spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below: blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and splendid day of the Lord, 21 and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.’ 22 You who are Israelites, hear these words. Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. 23 This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death, because it was impossible for him to be held by it.
Once again Peter exercises his role as the Vicar of Christ and the ordained leader of the Church (Mt 16:17-19) by addressing the crowd of Jews in the street outside the Upper Room. This is the first of five homilies Peter will deliver giving the kerygma (Greek for “proclamation”) of the Gospel message of salvation (Acts 2:14-39; 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43).
St. Peter’s Pentecost homily in Acts 2:14-41 can be divided into three parts:
- The Prophecy of the Prophet Joel 2:28-32 LXX [3:1-5 NAB] ( Acts 2:14-25 )
- King David’s Prophecies of the Messiah ( Acts 2:26-36)
- The Crowd’s Response to Peter’s Homily ( Acts 2:37-41 )
It is significant that verse 14 records that Peter stood up with the eleven Apostles. He is one of the Twelve but here the emphasis is on Peter who is with but separate/stands alone from the eleven.
Question: What might be the significance of this distinction?
Answer: Perhaps it is because Peter is not simply one of twelve but the recognized leader of the eleven which is the first apostolic college of the Church.
Peter speaks as the leader of the apostolic body as he did in Acts 1:15 and continues to do in Acts 2:37; 3:4, 6, 12; 4:8, 13; 5:3, 8-9, 15, 29; chapters 10-11 and 15:7-11. In Peter’s homily to the Jewish crowd at Pentecost, he preaches as Jesus taught the Apostles and disciples in Luke chapter 24, referring to Sacred Scripture that is fulfilled in Jesus the promised Messiah. Peter quotes from several Scripture passages and applies them to the present situation. He quotes from the book of the Prophet Joel and from the Psalms of David. All quotes and references to Old Testament Scripture appear to be from the Septuagint (LXX) translation (some are the same in the Greek as in the Hebrew texts). Peter alters some words in the passages slightly to fit the present occasion.
He begins his discourse by defending the disciples (men and women) and telling the crowd that they have not consumed too much wine (the accusation made in 2:13), pointing out that it is only “the third hour” or 9 in the morning our time.
Question: What is significant about the third hour or 9 in the morning? What happens every morning at 9 AM but is especially important this morning. See the Chart on the
Answer: It is the hour when the morning liturgy begins at the Temple and it is the reason there is such a large crowd of people in the street. They are making their way to the Temple for the morning worship service and the observance of the Feast of Pentecost and its required sacrifices that must be made in addition to the morning Tamid sacrifice.
In his defense of the Apostles and disciples who are proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Peter begins by quoting the Messianic prophecy from the book of the Prophet Joel in the Greek Septuagint translation (LXX). In 2:16 Peter says No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: Then he quotes from LXX Joel 2:28-32 (3:1-5 other translations like the NAB) ~ 17 It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says, that I will pour out a portion of my Spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my Spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below: blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and splendid day of the Lord, 21 and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.’
Peter changes the first words of LXX Joel 2:28 (3:1 in the NAB), “in those days,” to “in the last days.” This doesn’t refer to the “last days” after the Second Advent of Christ but to these “last days” that signal the Final Age of Man “putting the miracle of Pentecost in 30 AD in an eschatological context. In the Old Testament the Spirit of God is a gift bestowed only on certain members of the covenant acting specifically as God’s agents. Now, the gift of the Holy Spirit is not limited; it is eschatological in that it inaugurates the new age, the Final Age of man that will end in the “Day of the Lord” that is the Last Judgment. He also adds “God” to verse 17 when Peter tells the crowd “God says that I will pour out a portion of my Spirit upon all flesh.”
Question: What is meant by “all flesh,” why is the wording important to this crowd, and what theme of Luke do these words support? See the same wording in John the Baptist’s quote of Is 40:5 in Lk 3:4-6.
Answer: “All flesh” means God’s salvation if open to all humanity and not just to the Jews. The wording points to Luke’s theme of universal salvation.
Question: The events at Pentecost 30 AD, not only fulfill the prophecy of Joel 3:1-5 but what other prophecy of universal salvation that was made when baby Jesus was dedicated at the Temple at the time of Mary’s purification? See Lk 2:30-32.
Answer: Simeon’s prophecy of salvation being extended to the Gentiles when he held the baby Jesus in his arms at the Temple forty days after Jesus was born.
Acts 2:17 and Joel 3:1 ~ Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams. 18 Indeed, upon my servants and my handmaids I will pour out a portion of my Spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy.
Visions and dreams are significant vehicles of prophetic activities in the Old and New Testaments including Acts.(2) The prophecy in Joel speaks of both men and women (sons and daughters, servants and handmaids) being given the spiritual gift of prophecy through God’s Spirit in verses 17 and 18. This was surely the case on the New Covenant Church’s Pentecost Sunday. We know that the community of those praying in the Upper Room with the Virgin Mary included Apostles and Jesus’ men and women disciples (Acts 1:13-14).
Question: Can you think of some examples where visions and/or dreams were prophetic communications from God to individuals?
Answer: Possible answer:
- Joseph son of Jacob had several prophetic dreams in Genesis
- The call of the prophet Samuel
- The Prophet Nathan’s messages to David
- The visions of the Prophet Daniel
- The dream in which an angel told Joseph to take Mary as his wife
- The warning Joseph received in a dream to take the holy family into Egypt and later when it was safe to return
- The visions of John in the Book of Revelation.
Question: What petition did Moses make to God that is fulfilled in this event? See Num 1:24-29.
Answer: It was Moses’ prayer “that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!” In the event of the Second Great Pentecost, Moses’ petition was fulfilled.
Peter’s point is that this prophecy of the “last days” (“days” in the context of an Age in salvation history) has been fulfilled in the presence of the crowd.
Question: How has the prophecy been fulfilled?
Answer: The the “sons and daughters” of the redeemed Israel, who are the obedient “servants and handmaids” of God, have been filled with God’s Spirit and have proclaimed the Gospel message of salvation to the Jews and to the Gentile converts in the crowd “representatives of “all flesh.”
Acts 2:19 and Joel 2:28-32 LXX (3:1-5 in the NAB) 19 And I will work wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below: blood, fire, and a cloud of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the coming of the great and splendid [manifest] day of the Lord, 21 and it shall be that everyone shall be saved who calls on the name of the Lord.’
Question: What is the name that must be called in order to be saved? See Acts 12:4; Rom 10:9-13.
“The great and splendid day of the Lord” the New American translation is in the Hebrew text translated “the great and terrible/awesome day of the Lord.” In the LXX quoted by Peter, the word epiphane should probably be better translated “the great and manifest day of the Lord” (Johnston, The Acts of the Apostles, page 50). The language of this passage is apocalyptic (see Amos 5:18, 20). The “day of the Lord” no longer just refers to Yahweh, God of Israel’s final Day of Judgment (see Amos 5:18; Mal 3:2, 19-21; Joel 2:1-3; Zep 1:14-18), but to the manifestation of the Christ in the Messianic Age (the Final Age of mankind) and to His Second Advent when He will return in glory to judge the nations. It is interesting, that in Peter’s quote from the LXX that he does not include the last half of verse 21 (see Joel 3:5b in the Hebrew text; 2:32b in the LXX). The significance of that omission will become clear later in its fulfillment in the response of the crowd to Peter’s homily. The first part of verse 32 from Joel 2 LXX [3:5 NAB] “calling on the name” and “being saved” is also cited by St. Paul (Rom 10:13; also see echoes 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Tim 2:22 and Heb 11:16), and it will be repeated throughout Acts (i.e., 4:12; 7:59; 9:14, 21; 22:16) and refers to Jesus Christ.
The gift of the Spirit at Pentecost inaugurates a new age, but it is not yet the climax of that age. The climax of that age will come in Jesus’ Second Advent. See the same imagery in Matthew 24:29-31 when Jesus said: Immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming upon the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
Also see imagery similar to Matthew 24:29-31 in:
- Daniel 7:13 for the Son of Man “coming in glory.”
- Zechariah 12:10-14 linking “the tribes of the earth mourning” for the Messiah as in Mt 24:30 ~ I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and petition, and they shall look on him whom they have thrust through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only son, and they shall grieve over him as one grieves over a first-born.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:16, Christ will return with the sound of the trumpet as in Matthew 24:31 (also Zeph 1:16 and Zec 9:14b).
Question: Who can be saved on this great Day of Judgment?
Answer: Only those who call on the name of Jesus will be saved.
Christians are defined as those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus (see Acts 4:12; 9:14, 21; 22:16; 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Tim 2:22). “Lord” no longer only refers to God the Father but also to God the Son (see Acts 3:16; Phil 2:11). On Judgment Day people will be either saved or condemned according to whether or not they “invoke the name” by acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Savior:
- There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved (Acts 4:12).
- … for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so if justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved (Rom 10:9-10).
In Acts 2:22-24 Peter continues addressing the crowd: “You who are Israelites, hear these words. Jesus the Nazorean was a man commended to you by God with mighty deeds, wonders, and signs, which God worked through him in your midst, as you yourselves know. 23 This man, delivered up by the set plan and foreknowledge of God, you killed, using lawless men to crucify him. 24 But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death [Hades], because it was impossible for him to be held by it.”
For three years Jesus ministered to the “Israelites.” This is the inclusive term for all descendants of the twelve tribes and includes Galileans, Jews from Judea, and all those living outside the Holy Land in the diaspora of the Gentile world. Peter tells them that it was God’s Divine Plan that Jesus should suffer and die to be raised up from death. This, he says, they should understand from the prophecies in Sacred Scripture (see Lk 18:31; 22:22; 24:25-27, 44; and repeated in Acts 3:18; 4:28; 8:32-35; 9:22; 10:43; 13:39; 17:2-3; 18:5, 28; 26:22-23, 27; 28:23).
Question: What did St. Peter say about God’s plan for Jesus in 1 Peter 1:10-12, 18-21?
Answer: It was God’s divine plan since the foundation of the world that Christ should die as the unblemished victim of sacrifice in atonement for the sins of mankind.
Peter acknowledges that the Jews were responsible for the Messiah’s death at the hands of the pagan Romans, but their actions were also part of God’s plan: 24 But God raised him up, releasing him from the throes of death [Hades], because it was impossible for him to be held by it.” It is God who released Jesus from the state into which all the dead were destined to descend before the Resurrection of the Messiah “Hades in Greek and Sheol in Hebrew (also referred to in English translations as “the abode of the dead,” “the grave,” or “the netherworld” as in the NAB translation of Acts 2:27 and 31). Both the righteous and the wicked went to Sheol/Hades in death. It was a place of purification of sin, judgment for sinners, and a place to await the Messiah for the righteous. See Sirach 3:1-12 where verse 7 refers to the promised liberation of the righteous from Sheol described in 1 Peter 3:18-20 and 4:6. Jesus describes the different conditions in Sheol for the righteous and the sinner in the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man in Luke 16:19-31 (also see CCC 632-633).
Question: Why was it necessary that Jesus should descend to Sheol/Hades, the grave/abode of the dead and why couldn’t He be held there?
Answer: Upon His death Jesus descended into Sheol/Hades just like all humans because He was fully man, but Sheol/Hades could not hold Him because He was also fully God.
Acts 2:25-36 ~ King David’s Prophecies of the Messiah
25 “For David says of him: I saw the Lord ever before me, with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. 26 Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted; my flesh, too, will dwell in hope, 27 because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ 29 My brothers, one can confidently say to you about the patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day. 30 But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. 33 Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you both see and hear. 34 For David did not go up into heaven, but he himself said: The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” 36 Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Continuing his theme of the prophecies that pointed to the coming of the Messiah and the new age Jesus was destined to inaugurate that are foretold in Sacred Scripture, Peter now turns to the Psalms of David. According to Jewish tradition, King David was born and later died on the Feast of Pentecost c. 970 BC.
Peter begins by quoting first, without any additions or alterations, from Psalms 15:8-11 LXX (16:8-11 in the Hebrew translation in NAB) in Acts 2:25-28: For David says of him: I saw the Lord ever before me, with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed. 26 Therefore my heart has been glad and my tongue has exulted; my flesh, too, will dwell in hope, 27 because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld, nor will you suffer your holy one to see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.’ It is a psalm attributed to David in its title, and is therefore understood to be a reflection of David’s personal experience/understanding.
Question: Viewing this quotation from the perspective of Jesus’ Resurrection, what words and phrases appear to anticipate those God ordained events?
Answer: Even in His darkest moments on the Cross, Jesus did not despair because He knew God was with Him, and He knew the promise of His Resurrection. His flesh was not abandoned to Hades nor did His Body suffer corruption. Jesus knew that He was going to be resurrected and that He would ascend to the Father.
Acts 2:29 My brothers, one can confidently say to you about the patriarch David that he died and was buried, and his tomb is in our midst to this day.
According to a long standing Christian tradition, dating back to the 4th century AD when St. Helena went to the Holy Land to identify the sites associated with Christ and the early Church, the Upper Room was built above the tomb of King David. Most modern scholars dismiss this tradition, but in St. Peter’s statement in verse 29 you can almost see him standing outside the house with the Upper Room and gesturing to the tomb of David on the first floor. According the Scripture, David was buried in the holy city of Jerusalem (1 Kng 2:10). According to the Jewish historian/priest Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD), there could be no graves in the holy city of Jerusalem except those of David and his family and the prophetess Huldah (Antiquities of the Jews, 7.15.3; 13.8.4; Jewish Wars, 1.2.5).(3)
Acts 2:30 But since he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne…
Question: God made an eternal covenant with David. What was the essence of that unconditional royal grant covenant? See 1 Sam 7:12, 16; 23:5; Ps 89:21, 29-30; 110:1-5; 132:11-18; Sir 45:25. For more information on the differences between royal grant and conditional covenants see the document “The Covenant Treaty Format of the Old and New Testaments: Treaties with God as Sovereign Lord.”
Answer: The covenant was based on the unconditional promise that David’s throne would endure forever and his descendant would rule an eternal kingdom.
Question: Who first acknowledges that Jesus is the Messianic heir of David? See Lk 1:32.
Answer: It is announced at His Incarnation to Mary by the angel Gabriel.
Acts 2:31 … he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld nor did his flesh see corruption.
Since God’s anointed would not see “corruption” (Acts 2:27 and LXX 16:10) as is the case for all members of humanity, it can be assumed that David had foreknowledge of the Messianic heir’s resurrection from the dead. Peter’s point is that this prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth and proves He is the Davidic Messiah, as he states in verse 32: God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses. Under the Law, two or more witnesses are needed to establish a fact in a court of law (Dt 19:15), and here all the members of the Christian community are testifying to the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension into heaven.
Acts 2:33 Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you both see and hear. In fact, Peter tells them, they have proof of Jesus’ true identity as the Son of God who sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven (position of honor and power) in what they have witnessed today in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit!
34 For David did not go up into heaven, but he himself said: The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” David could not have been talking about himself in this psalm, Peter continues, because he did not go up to heaven but was buried and confined to the grave and corruption. But Jesus did ascend to heaven (as the disciples witnessed). And to make the point Peter quotes from Psalm 110:1 (109:1 LXX), the psalm most often quoted by Jesus and the interpretation of which He taught the Sadducees and Scribes in Luke 20:41-44. Jesus taught that in this psalm David is referring to the Messiah and not to his earthly son because, Jesus says, “David here calls him Lord; how then can he be his son?” (Lk 20:44).
Acts 2:36 Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified. This is the conclusion of Peter’s argument from Scripture. It is by the proof of His Resurrection that Jesus can be declared the “Lord” of whom Psalms 109:1 LXX (110:1 NAB) speaks and the Messiah referred to in Psalms 15:7-11 LXX (16:7-11 NAB) who was not abandoned to Sheol!
Acts 2:37-41 ~ The Crowd’s Response to Peter’s Homily
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?” 38 Peter said to them, “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. 39 For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call.” 40 He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves [be saved] from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day. [..] literal translation IBGE, vol. IV, page 326 (passive tense “be saved” and not “save yourselves”; Johnson, the Acts of the Apostles, page 58).
Moved by the force of the arguments offered in St. Peter’s homily, the Jews accept the proofs that Peter has offered from Scripture concerning the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth. Realizing that they have indeed crucified their Messiah, the crowd cries out in horror “What are we to do, my brothers?” It is the same question the crowd asked St. John the Baptism in Luke 3:10. The people are asking St. Peter what they can do to separate themselves from their failed generation. Their plea picks up on a part of the Joel passage that Peter didn’t quote from the end of the last verse (2:32b LXX; 3:5b in NAB).
To be saved from a larger part of the generation means to become a select group of a remnant people. Peter’s quote from the prophet Joel left out the last line of the prophecy, but that line is fulfilled in the plea of the crowd (see missing line in underlined text): Joel 3:5 in the Hebrew text of the NAB reads: Then everyone shall be rescued who calls on the name of the LORD; for on Mount Zion there shall be a remnant, as the LORD has said, and in Jerusalem survivors whom the LORD shall call. But the Septuagint [LXX] translation of Joel 2:32 is even more appropriate to the event and reads: Then everyone shall be rescued who calls on the name of the Lord. For it will be in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem that there will be a remnant [estai anasozomenos], just as the Lord said, and they will be preached the good news [gospel = euangelizomenoi], those whom the Lord summons (Johnson, The Acts of the Apostles, page 61). The Upper Room, if it was indeed above King David’s tomb, is located in what was called the “city of David” on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem.
Question: What is Peter’s answer in Acts 2:38-40?
Answer: Peter tells those who have responded positively to his Gospel message to repent and be baptized “in the name of Jesus.” Through baptism by water and the Spirit they will be separated from their “corrupt generation” and become part of the faithful remnant of Israel that is ready to carry the Gospel message of the Messiah to the ends of the earth.
Repentance leads to baptism and baptism in the “name of Jesus” results in the forgiveness of sins (personal sin and original sin) and the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is not in contradiction to the Trinitarian baptismal formula Jesus gave the Apostles in Matthew 28:19, but is a summation “in the “name” of Jesus implies baptism as Jesus’ instructed. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit generates new life in the believer who is no longer a child in the family of Adam but becomes a new creature and an adopted son or daughter of God. It is the rebirth that Jesus spoke of in John 3:3-7, 16-18. The Apostles and disciples, obedient to Jesus’ command to baptize, will continue to make use of baptism by water and the Spirit as the sacred ritual of initiation into the Kingdom of the Church (Acts 2:41; 8:12, 38; 9:18; 10:48; 16:15, 33; 19:5).
Question: To whom is this promise of forgiveness and new life extended according to verse 39: For the promise is made to you and to your children and to all those far off, whomever the Lord our God will call …?
Answer: The promise extends to all generations of mankind: from the people who were listening to Peter, to their descendants, and to the Gentiles in distant lands. The promise of salvation is extended to whoever hears the message of the Gospel and responds in faith and belief.
Acts 2:40 He testified with many other arguments, and was exhorting them, “Save yourselves [be saved] from this corrupt generation.” The literal translation in the passive “Be saved” is a link to the “shall be saved” of Peter’s quote from Joel in Acts 2:21.
Question: Why does Peter call his generation “corrupt”/ “perverse”? Who else used the same harsh language to define this generation and what other generation of the covenant people was also so harshly judged and why? What did these two generations have in common? See Mt 17:17; Lk 9:41; Num 14:27, 35; Dt 32:5, 20.
Answer: Jesus judged His generation’s failure in the same way God judged the Exodus generation. No two generations in the history of mankind had witnessed so many great works of God and yet so many still failed to put their faith and trust in God.
Acts 2:41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.
The Exodus generation was also judged by God to be a perverse/corrupt generation. The Exodus generation was the first generation of a corporate covenant with God. All previous covenants were with individuals and their families. At Mt. Sinai God make a covenant with an entire people who were united as one body in what we call the Old Covenant Church (see Ex 19:5 in the singular). The New Covenant in Christ is the second corporate covenant in which all who profess Christ Lord and Savior are united in the Body of Christ which is the New Covenant Church (1 Cor 12:12, 27).
Question: What loss through a communal sin of the Old Covenant Exodus generation Church is reversed in the three thousand who were added on the day the New Covenant Church was born through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Pentecost? See Ex 20:3-5; 32:1-8, 15-20, 25-28.
Answer: The newly formed covenant people of the Exodus generation broke their covenant with God when they made and worshipped the image of a golden calf, a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments. In the battle that followed between the golden calf worshippers and the Levities who battled against them as God’s holy warriors, 3,000 Israelites were lost to the covenant people. In response to St. Peter’s homily on Pentecost Sunday, 3,000 were added to the New Covenant people of God “restoring what had been lost in the first corporate covenant at Sinai.
Acts 2:42-47 ~ The Communal Life of the Jerusalem Community
42 They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to many wonders and to the prayers. 43 Awe came upon everyone, and many wonders and signs were done through the Apostles. 44 All who believed were together and had all things in common; 45 they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the Temple area and to breaking bread in their homes. They ate their meals with exultation and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
- They were devoted to hearing and putting into practice the teaching of the Apostles.
- The lived communally as a family, sharing the goods in common.
- Their religious life was centered on the Eucharistic.
You will recall that many members of the early faith community were from the Galilee and had left their former occupations to follow Christ. Those who lived in Jerusalem helped to support the Galileans and the poor who joined the community by selling property and material goods and sharing the money to support the community. Although “breaking bread” suggests a typical Jewish meal in which the “father” or the one presiding over the meal broke the bread and pronounced a blessing before dividing the bread, for Christians it became the phrase to describe the Eucharistic meal and the Agape supper that came before as celebrated at this point in private homes, like the Upper Room (Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7, 11; 24:35; 1 Cor 10:16; 11:20-34; Didache, 9:3-4). They still attended daily liturgy in the Temple since at this stage they did not see a dividing line between Old and New Covenant worship “to them Christ was simply the fulfillment of what came before.
Chapter 3: Peter and John Teach and Heal in the Jerusalem Temple
Acts 3:1-4:22 is a story in five parts:
- The healing of a beggar who was lame from birth (Acts 3:1-10)
- Peter’s 2nd kerygmatic discourse (Acts 3:11-26)
- The religious authorities arrest Peter and John (Acts 4:1-4)
- Peter’s 3rd kerygmatic discourse before the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:5-12)
- The ruling of the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:13-22)
Acts 3:1-10 ~ The Healing of a Crippled Beggar
1 Now Peter and John were going up to the Temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer [at the ninth hour]. 2 And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the Temple called “the Beautiful Gate” every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the Temple. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to go into the Temple, he asked for alms. 4 But Peter looked intently at him as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 Peter said, “I have neither silver or gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.” 7 Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. 8 He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the one who used to sit begging at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, and they were filled with amazement and astonishment at what had happened to him. [..] literal translation IBGE, vol. IV, page 326.
Please notice that ever since Jesus sent Peter and John to prepare the Upper Room for the Last Supper, that these two are often paired together: Lk 22:8; Jn 13:22-24; 20:1-6; 21:20-21 (the “other/beloved” disciple is identified as John by the Church Fathers); Acts 1:13 (paired in the last list of Apostles); 3:1, 3, 11; 4:13, 19; 8:14 and Gal 2:9.
Acts 3:1 Now Peter and John were going up to the Temple area for the three o’clock hour of prayer [at the ninth hour].
There could only be one altar of sacrifice to the God of Israel and one Sanctuary unlike the pagan gods for whom multiple altars and temples of worship were established. The first Sanctuary was the one built by Moses and the children of Israel at Mt. Sinai (Ex 25-31 and 36-40). The furnishings of the Sanctuary and the altar of sacrifice were copies of what Moses saw in the heavenly Sanctuary (Ex 25:1-9). This was a movable Sanctuary that traveled with the Israelites during their forty years in the wilderness. When David conquered Jerusalem, the Sanctuary was permanently settled in Jerusalem as the place God chose as “a home for His name” (Dt 12:10-12; 1 Kng 11:36; 1 Chr 6:6). David’s son Solomon built the first Jerusalem Temple on the heights of Mt. Moriah in the 10th century BC (2 Chr 3:1-2). The first Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587/6 BC. After the Jews returned from exile seventy years later, they built the second Jerusalem Temple. When Herod the Great became the Roman appointed King of the Jews, he began a major building project to expand and beautify the Temple, making it one of the most beautiful buildings in the ancient world. Each of the nine gates that led into the Temple precincts had huge double doors. With the exception of the Corinthian gate that was made of bronze embellished with silver and gold, all the other gates leading into the Temple area were wooden doors that were completely covered with gold and silver on the front and back of each door (Josephus, The Jewish Wars, 5.5.3 [201-204].
Question: See the chart in the Appendix to this lesson. What happened at the Temple at three in the afternoon every day? You will recall this is the same time Jesus gave up His life on the altar of the Cross (i.e., Mk 15:34, 37).
Answer: It was the hour of the afternoon Liturgical worship service when the second communal Tamid sacrifice was slain and the Temple doors opened for prayer and worship.
Acts 3:2 And a man crippled from birth was carried and placed at the gate of the Temple called “the Beautiful Gate’ every day to beg for alms from the people who entered the Temple.
The identification and location of the “Beautiful Gate” has been a highly debated topic for Bible scholars.(4) This man’s deformity prevented him from attending worship in the inner courts of the Temple, and he counted on the generosity of those coming to the Temple to support himself (Lev 21:16-18; Dt 15:21; Mal 1:8, 13; Mishnah: Kelim, 1:5). He was crippled from birth and was now over forty years old (Acts 4:22).
Acts 3:5-6 He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 Peter said, “I have neither silver or gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.”
The gift Peter had to give the man was beyond any monetary contribution. Peter’s mention of “silver or gold” may be a reference to the beautifully embellished gate they were standing near that was covered with silver and gold.
Question: What promise did Jesus make His disciples in John 15:16, 25-27 and 16:23-24 that was fulfilled in Acts 3:6-8?
Answer: Through the power of the Holy Spirit they would testify about Him and that whatever they ask in the name of Jesus they will receive through the power of the Spirit.
For the ancients the “name” of a person was inseparable from the person himself and expressed the true moral essence of that person (see for example Ex 3:13). By invoking the “name of Jesus,” Peter has brought the life-force of Jesus into action.
Question: What other requirement is there for the active power of Jesus to be manifested in the invocation of His name? See Mt 8:10-13; Acts 4:16; 19:13-17.
Answer: Genuine faith in both the one receiving the healing and the one calling on the power of Jesus’ holy name and also submission to the will of God for both.
Jesus asked for faith when He worked His miracles (see Mt 8:13; 9:1-2; Mk 5:36-43; 10:51-52; Lk 17:14-19). Miracles require faith, without which the miracle loses its true significance since faith requires the submission/sacrifice of the whole person “mind and heart “to the will of God for his/her life.
Acts 3:7 Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. 8 He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.
Jesus healed the lame and the sick in fulfillment of the prophecies of the prophet Isaiah: Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing (Is 35:5-6). It is the same power Jesus gave the Apostles when He sent them on their first missionary journey to proclaim the Gospel (Lk 9:1-2), and that power and fulfillment continues in the Messianic Era as the crowds at the Temple witness the miracle of the healing of the man who was lame from birth. As in Jesus’ acts of healing, what Peter did was not simply as act of mercy, but it was a sign of Christ’s power in affirming the Apostle’s mission in proclaiming the Kingdom.
Acts 3:8 He leaped up, stood, and walked around, and went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God. Those who were deformed in any way were not allowed into the Temple past the outer courts. There were three inner courts: the first was Court of the Women, the second was the Court of Israel and the third was the Court of the Priests where the sacrificial altar was located. Notice that the healed man now enters into the Temple proper.
Question: What does his healing signify beyond the physical restoration?
Answer: He has also been restored to communal worship.
Acts 3:11-26 ~ Peter’s Homily to the Jews at the Temple
11 As he clung to Peter and John, all the people hurried in amazement toward them in the portico called “Solomon’s Portico.” 12 When Peter saw this, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why are you amazed at this, and why do you look so intently as us as if we had made him walk by our own power or piety? 13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence, when he had decided to release him. 14 You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. 16 And by faith in his name, this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong, and the faith that comes through it has given him this perfect health, in the presence of all of you. 17 Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; 18 but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, 20 and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Messiah already appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old. 22 For Moses said: A prophet like me will the Lord, you God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you. Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people.’ 24 Moreover, all the prophets who spoke, from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days. 25 You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he said to Abraham, In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”
Peter, John and the restored man have entered the gate and are now in Solomon’s Portico, a colonnade running along the inner side of the wall enclosing the outer court on the eastern side of the Temple. It had rows of columns 27 feet high and a roof of cedar and was used as a place to gather and to discuss Scripture (also see Jn 10:23 and Acts 5:12; The Archaeological Study Bible, page 1742). In verses 12-26 Peter puts the miracle of healing the lame man in the context of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is Peter’s 2nd kerygmatic discourse as he proclaims the Gospel to the Jewish crowd in the Temple.
Question: How does Peter begin by putting the healing of the lame man in the proper perspective?
Answer: Peter tells the crowd that is was not their miracle by which the man was healed, but it was Jesus the Messiah who healed him.
Peter tells the crowd they should be amazed. The prophet Isaiah listed the lame among those to receive Messianic healing (Is 35:3, 5-6; Lk 7:22) and are among the outcasts that Jesus said are to be invited to banquets (Lk 14:13, 21) and by extension those to whom Jesus will extent the invitation to attend the eschatological banquet at the end of time.
Acts 3:13-14 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors, has glorified his servant Jesus whom you handed over and denied in Pilate’s presence, when he had decided to release him. 14 You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.
In verse 13 Peter recalls God’s words to Moses in the event of the burning bush in Exodus 3:15 when He told Moses how to explain His identity to the children of Israel: God spoke further to Moses, “Thus shall you say to the Israelites: The LORD [Yahweh], the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” It is the God of Israel who sent Moses to liberate the Israelites from the Egyptians who also sent His servant Jesus to liberate them from sin and death. The use of the word “Servant” identifies Jesus with the “Suffering Servant” prophecies of Isaiah (52:13-53:12). This is the same Jesus that they denied and handed over to be crucified instead of the murderer Barabbas (Mt 27:20-23; Mk 15:11-15; Lk 23:18-25).
The words “Holy One” and “Righteous One” in verse 14 are titles of God (see Lev 11:44-45; Ps 78:41/ 77:41 LXX; 99:5/98:5 LXX; 103:1/102:1 LXX; Is 43:3; 49:7; etc.). Jesus said no one is good/righteous but God (Lk 18:19). Jesus is identified by the title “Holy One” by the angel Gabriel in Luke 1:35 and the demons who knew His true identity addressed Him as “holy one of God” (Lk 4:34). In using these titles for Jesus, Peter identifies Jesus not as a human Messiah but as God. He makes the same claim in the next verse when he calls Jesus the “author of life,” making the contrast between the one who gives life (Jesus) and the murderer Barabbas who takes it away: 15 The author of life you put to death, but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses. And in his next statement, Peter links the lame man’s healing to Jesus Resurrection in verse 15: 16 And by faith in his name, this man, whom you see and know, his name has made strong, and the faith that comes through it has given him this perfect health, in the presence of all of you.
Despite his harsh assessment of the Jew’s rejection of Jesus, Peter mercifully tempers that judgment by saying: 17 Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did …
Question: What statement did Jesus make from the Cross that expresses this same mercy to His Jewish kinsmen? See Lk 23:34.
Answer: Jesus asked God the Father to forgive them because they didn’t understand what they were doing.
Acts 3:18-21 … but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, 20 and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Messiah already appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.
Peter makes another reference to the suffering Servant prophecies of Isaiah 53, a teaching Jesus also gave to the Emmaus disciples in Luke 24:25-27, and to the other prophecies of the prophets fulfilled in Jesus, which Jesus taught His disciples in Luke 24:27, 44-47 and during the forty days before His Ascension. Peter then calls the crowd to repentance and conversion, which is a turning away from sin and a turning back to God, and to receive forgiveness for their sins. They must repent, convert their hearts to Christ and through Him be purified of their sins if they want to be a part of the universal restoration promised by the prophets (ie., Is 56:1-8)
Question: Why does Peter say Jesus has ascended to heaven?
Answer: It is God’s divine plan in order for the Messiah to effect the universal restoration of mankind spoken of by the prophets. When that restoration is completed, the Messiah will return.
Acts 3:22 For Moses said: A prophet like me will the Lord, you God, raise up for you from among your own kinsmen; to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you. Everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be cut off from the people.’
Peter quotes from Deuteronomy 18:15 and 19, identifying the prophecy as fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the supreme prophet. It is the prophecy God gave Moses that one day He would send a great prophet to the Israelites, from among their own people, and anyone who did not listen God’s prophet would be cut off from the covenant people and thereby cut off from God.
Question: At the epiphany of the Transfiguration, what did the divine voice of God the Father say from heaven to those who witnessed the event? See Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7 and Lk 9:35.
Answer: In each of the accounts in the Gospels, God identifies Jesus as His Son and includes the command “Listen to him.” It is the same command concerning the promised divine prophet.
Acts 3:24-26 Moreover, all the prophets who spoke, from Samuel and those afterwards, also announced these days. 25 You are the children of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors when he said to Abraham, In your offspring all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”
God made a three-fold covenant with Abraham, the patriarchal father of the Jews, in which He promised a kingdom, many descendants, and a world-wide blessing (Gen 12:1-3).
Question: How is the world-wide blessing promised to Abraham fulfilled in Jesus? See Gal 3:13-14, 29.
Answer: Peter’s point is that the promise of the world-wide blessing made to Abraham is fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah. It is the blessing of the extension of God’s covenant relationship beyond Israel and the gift of salvation to the nations of the world through the descendants of Abraham, the children of the Old Covenant who are now the children of the New Covenant Kingdom in Christ Jesus. They are the ones chosen to spread the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth. In this way, all who believe in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, became the true descendants of Abraham and the heirs of the covenant promises.
Acts 3:26 For you first, God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.”
Israel was always intended to be God’s vehicle of salvation extended to the Gentile nations of the earth (Is 42:6; 49:6; 66:18-19). Jesus the Messiah came to call a redeemed Israel to fulfill this mission. If they want to receive this blessing, they need to turn away from evil, repent their sins, turn to Christ to be saved and blessed to carry forth the mission that is their destiny.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
Question: After hearing Peter’s homily in Acts 2:38-40, the crowd realizes that they have killed God’s Son who is their promised Messiah, and in their heartfelt distress they ask St. Peter what they can do to be saved from their “corrupt generation. ” What does Peter’s answer to the crowd mean to us and how does that answer reverberate down through the generations?
Answer: What it means to us is that there is nothing so horrible, no sin so great, that God will not be willing to accept genuine repentance, whether from the repentance of one who then submits to the Sacrament of Baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ,” or the repentance of a baptized Christian who returns to God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There can be no restoration of fellowship with God without genuine repentance of sins. Those who repent and are baptized became a part of the “faithful remnant” of their corrupt generation. All Christians of every generation are called to be the “faithful remnants” of their corrupt generations.
Question: What miracles of faith have you witnessed in your life? Do you walk daily with God in seeking His will for your life or are you only a sporadic visitor or sometime companion, calling on God only in times of distress and using God like a lucky “rabbit’s foot” when you are fearful or unhappy? That kind of relationship with God often leads not to faith but to disappointment and unbelief. What are some good “faith practices” that encourage a more trusting and intimate relationship with God?