1) What is the mindset behind the response recorded in v.13?
2) What is the tone of Peter’s sermon?
3) Do you think it is possible to live today like they did in the first century church (vv. 42-47)? What are some barriers?
They have had too much wine. A crowd of God-fearing Jews, or in other words, a crowd of religious people, just witnessed a miraculous event. The Holy Spirit came down in power among a group of Christians. There were flaming tongues of fire, visible representations of the Spirit’s presence.
Then there was the more miraculous feat off of being able to speak in a foreign language. Some people from among this crowd of religious people are truly amazed because each one heard them speaking in his own language. This included Parthians, Medes and Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya and Rome.
It is a miracle, no doubt about it. And so the proper response is at the very least wonder, what’s going on here? And to investigate, maybe I should be listening more carefully to what these guys are saying.
But instead, some made fun of them sand said, “They have had too much wine.”
What is the mindset behind that comment?
It’s to make fun or to belittle it so that they can continue to feel fine about their religion. They are trying to explain this miracle away. It’s not a miracle, it’s just the effects of too much wine, yeah, yeah, that’s it.
This belittling or this technique of offering an alternative explanation happens all the time.
People ask you how you did on your midterm and your answer is, well, I didn’t study at all. You don’t even reveal the score, your answer is just to excuse your poor performance. You know, the reason I didn’t do well is not because I may not be the smartest in the class and I just didn’t get the material. And actually when no one was watching, I was studying my butt off but I still did bad.
But instead of saying all of this, we just say, I didn’t study. That explanation preserves our ego. It helps us to maintain our image, our status quo.
And this type of technique happens in reverse. Your friend says, I heard so and so rocked the test. And you are in the class and you barely passed and so when you hear this, you say, well, I saw that guy studying for that test a week straight. He was even asking upperclassmen for help, can you believe that? What’s wrong with that guy? We just can’t applaud that other person’s genius because it makes us feel less than spectacular.
A miracle happens. Undeniable. But for a religious person to admit this would immediately beg the question, then what about my religion? I go to the temple every Sunday but I never had that kind of experience. And instead of being bothered by this fact, it is much easier to say, well, that Peter is a drunkard. It’s got to be the wine. Jesus changed water to wine and he must have have taught this secret technique to the disciples and now they have an unlimited supply of wine.
Baptists and Presbyterians and Catholics look at their Pentecostal brothers and we say, these guys are too much. All they want is a spiritual high. Don’t they know that the outpouring of the Spirit stopped after the first century. That kind of stuff no longer happens in the 21st century. It’s all in their minds, or it’s a bunch of charlatans who have brainwashed their congregations. Or worse, it is demonic.
These are the types of explanations we give because deep down inside, we believe that our version of truth is the best. I’m a smart guy, I am well-balanced, God loves me, so of course, the way I practice my religion has to be the best. That’s how we all think.
Because we don’t want to be disturbed. We want to maintain our status quo because our version of faith has been working quite well. And to accept that these kinds of miraculous things can still happen forces these religious people to swallow their pride and possibly throw away years and years of tradition based on this latest data.
Tradition is important, I am not knocking that. But we have to be careful — for us who grew up in the church, we have the danger of falling into the trap of thinking that the way we exercise faith is the best way. And if you think this way, then there is a tendency to get comfortable and we stop being open to how God might want to speak to us in a fresh way.
I encourage you to never settle in your walk with God. Be spiritually hungry always — have a mentality, God, I’m open. If you say something and it rocks my world, I’m open. Because I acknowledge that you speak to me everyday. May I never turn you into a static entity that is satisfied by mere adherence to regulations. God is dynamic. He is a person. He speaks and we need to listen. And one word from God may take our lives in a completely new direction and we have to be open to this kind of leading.
You, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by mailing him to the cross.
Peter is addressing a crowd of religious people. And I just want to point out that he is rather direct. He doesn’t mince words. He said, you know that man you just witnessed being crucified. Well, that man was not your ordinary man. He was the Son of God. And guess what? You crucified him.
That’s rather confrontational. Being confrontational is not very PC today. The language we use today is God loves you, he died for you, he took your place. Isn’t that great? And all of that is true. But for religious people, this kind of one-sided depiction about God and human sin can cause us to be very passive.
God loves me. One japanese pastor once commented that God’s love is like being dunked in a hot spring. You feel so good, and God’s love feels so warm and fuzzy. It’s like being under your bed covers on a cold morning and you just don’t want to get out of bed. It just feels so wonderful.
And for many of us, this type of view of God’s love lulls us into complacency. We just take God’s love for granted.
Maybe once a year around Easter does the emphasis switch a bit from God’s warm fuzzy love to human responsibility, that it was our sin that nailed him to the cross.
You know that in the morning if you are really sleepy, nothing wakes you up better than a cold shower. And I think more than always bathing in God’s love, we need to be shocked by some cold water of truth. God loves us. God died for us. All of this is true. But we also need to recognize that the whole point of why Jesus had to die was because of our sin.
We enter the kingdom of God through continual repentance, not with songs of thanksgiving and praise. We need to balance language of God’s love with language of human sin and our utter depravity, our hopelessness and helplessness.
Repentance has to be a regular part of our Christian experience.
It is possible to live like the first century today.
It’s possible to live like they did in the first century but it would look really weird, wouldn’t it? It kind of sounds like Christian communism. Everyone selling everything and meeting together everyday — images of Waco Texas and the Amish and the Puritans come to mind. And so we say, it’s just too weird, it’s not feasible in our modern era, it’s not normal to live this way. Isn’t this how we think?
And I just want to pose the question — who determines for you what you consider to be normal behavior?
Who determines for us what is normal behavior? Our parents. Society. Our churches.
And we need to examine what does it mean to be a normal Christian in America. For many, it means to be patriotic. There is a weird assumption among the conservative right in this country that America is the chosen nation of God and thus whatever our government decides is God’s will. Along with that, there is a belief that God wants to bless me with wealth and the highest goal of a Christian is to focus everything on their family.
That’s a far cry from the first century church. But you may say, that was 2000 years ago. Times have changed. That is true. Culture changes. As a Christian in America, we are not under persecution as the Christians living in first century Jerusalem. But God doesn’t change. Human sin doesn’t change. Human progress and advancement of technology and “civilization” has not caused us to be less sinful in the modern era compared with the first century.
Much of the world in the first century was in poverty and much of the world today still lives below the poverty line. The power still resides in the hands of a few while most of the world still suffers. Times have not changed much.
But times have changed if you are a Christian living in America. So the only difference is that we are no longer a persecuted minority. Instead, we live in a Christian nation that happens to be a world superpower and has wealth. And a lot of the influence of wealth and power has infiltrated into the church culture.
And so we have to be careful what we consider normal as a Christian living in Pasadena. What we consider normal is not even normal for most of our Christian brethren around the world. Many still live in poverty. Many still live under persecution.
If you think about it, it is quite possible to live this way if we let go of some of the obstacles. If you believe your highest Christian duty is to your family, then you will never even consider living like the first century.
Money and providing a comfortable life for our immediate family is a driving force for most Americans, both Christian and non-Christian. So sooner or later, you will have to wrestle personally with this topic. Maybe it is too far removed or too abstract for you as a college student, but sooner or later, you will have to struggle with this question of how you will live out your Christian life in the context of your family and career.
I’m not saying we should all neglect our families and live like communists, but there is a reckless abandon and radical generosity and real concrete love that is very appealing this first century church. This church was so radical and powerful that in a few short decades, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.
The HS came upon this church in power and this early Christians were totally transformed and lived radical lives. Historians note that these Christians were the only ones who cared for people of other ethnic groups when they were abandoned or sick by their own people. When a plague hit a city, it was Christians who risked their own lives and many of them died while trying to offer concrete help. Certainly, their concern was much larger than just their own family.
I live in my own house, but I know for a fact that if I ever became bankrupt, I would have plenty of people besides my own blood family who would be willing to take us in and sacrifice their own physical space and open up their homes. Do you have such people in your life besides your physical family that you can count on for certain in times of crisis?
Let’s examine what we consider a normal Christian life. Life is more than money and our little clan. God wants to save the world as groups of people commit to the Lord and commit to one another and together represent a mini city on a hill for the world to see the power of the gospel to transform lives.