“The Front Porch of Peter’s Pentecost Sermon” (Acts 2:1-21)
The purpose of a front porch is to get people into the house. The front porch may be small, the front porch may be large, but it does its job if it gets people into the building. The front porch is not the place where you want people to stay, but it should provide a good entryway into the house. And ideally, it should match, and be suitable for, the rest of the building.
That’s the way it is with the front porch of a house. That’s the way it is with the front porch of a sermon. The introduction of a sermon is like the front porch of a house. It should provide an entryway to get people into the main part of the sermon itself. The introduction is not where you want people to stay, but it should lead the people in, draw the people in. And ideally, it should match, and be appropriate for, the rest of the sermon.
Well, today we get to hear the first part of Peter’s sermon that he preached on the Day of Pentecost. This is the introduction to his sermon that we find here in Acts chapter 2. It’s not the whole thing; we’ll hear the main part next week. But it does serve as a fitting entry point to get us into what Peter is getting at. And so our theme this morning: “The Front Porch of Peter’s Pentecost Sermon.”
“The front porch of Peter’s Pentecost sermon.” Well, the first thing is to get people up and onto the front porch. God is going to do something big to get people in a position where they can hear what Peter is going to say. There’s a crowd in town, and God is going to get a bunch of them over to where Peter is. The city is Jerusalem, and on this day there are thousands of people from all over the world visiting Jerusalem, because that’s where the temple is, and this is one of the major Jewish holidays. Yes, you heard me right, Pentecost was originally a Jewish holiday. In the Old Testament, it’s called the Feast of Weeks, Shavuot. Seven weeks after Passover, which itself was a pilgrimage festival, the people of Israel were to travel again to Jerusalem, to gather at the temple for this festival, the Feast of Weeks. So that means there are a large number of Jewish pilgrims in the city on this particular day.
And God is going to draw them, he’s going to get their attention. Not far from the temple, meeting in a room nearby, there is a group of the first Christians, about 120 in all. And as they’re there, all of a sudden, the sound of a mighty rushing wind comes over the place. Not the wind itself, but the big sound of a mighty rushing wind. Loud enough, it seems, to get the attention of the people nearby, near where the Christians are staying. Then tongues of fire appear over the heads of the Christians, and they begin to speak in other tongues, other languages. The sound of this, too–a group of people speaking in a variety of languages–this also gets people’s attention.
So a crowd now has gathered at the place where the Christians are, and they hear them speaking in these languages. The crowd outside is confused, because they can’t figure out how these folks are able to speak in all these languages. The people speaking in strange tongues were not from those countries where those languages were spoken. But the crowd of Jewish pilgrims, many of whom had traveled from those far distant lands–Parthians and Medes and Elamites and so on–a lot of them recognized those languages and understood what they were saying. Others in the crowd hear all this noise and what sounds to them like babbling, and they mock, saying that the Christians have gotten an early start in the day on getting drunk.
But those who recognize the languages the Christians are speaking in–what are they hearing them speak about? Answer: The mighty works of God. This is setting the stage, then, for what Peter is about to tell them, because Peter will them about God’s mightiest work of all: sending his own Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross as the Savior of all nations, and then God raising up this same Jesus from the dead as the mighty victor.
So now God’s got a crowd there for Peter to preach a sermon to. He’s got their attention. Peter gets up and starts to speak: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.” Peter rules out the drunken-babbling theory. Now he’s going to tell them what this is all about: “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.’”
OK, here’s the deal, Peter is saying. The sound of all these people speaking in strange tongues, declaring the mighty works of God–this is not a bunch of drunken babbling. This is not some random incident. This is not a flash mob up here, working out a practiced routine that we can show later on YouTube. No, none of that. Rather, this is the fulfillment of Scripture. The prophet Joel had told about this day many centuries earlier. He said that in the last days God would pour out his Spirit, not just on professional prophets and priests and the like, but indeed on all his people, men and women, young and old. That’s what you’ve been hearing here, as you hear us Christians praising God in all these languages. God is pouring out his Spirit, to empower the proclamation of the gospel to all nations now. That’s the meaning and the significance of all this–the sound of the mighty rushing wind, the tongues of fire, and the speaking in all these foreign languages. God is doing a new thing today.
And these strange signs that God is doing today–this also tells us that now we have entered into the last days, the time leading up to the final judgment. Peter continues from the prophet Joel, saying that this is what God declares: “And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.”
Yes, the day of the Lord is coming, that great and magnificent and final day. That day will be a day of judgment. There is a divine reckoning coming. It will be a dread day for many, a day of fear and trembling, when men’s lives are weighed in the balance, and they are found wanting. Be alert! Be aware! Are you ready for that day?
That’s what Peter is saying with this quote from Joel; that’s what he’s saying to his audience there in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. But, friends, this is also what he is saying to us here today. Are you ready? Will you be ready for the day of the Lord when it comes? For it will come, and it will come unexpectedly, it will come suddenly. And it will be a day of judgment. Are you ready for the final judgment? What will you say? How will you defend yourself from God’s all-scrutinizing eye?
Will it be by your works? Good luck with that! Your works won’t stand up in the courtroom of God’s law. They don’t measure up. You haven’t met the standard, which is 100% obedience. You sins are stacked against you–all you have done wrong, all you have failed to do right. Your righteousness will not avail. You will be declared guilty, if that’s the route you want to take.
No, you must look for your righteousness elsewhere. It must come from outside of you. But guess what? It does! This righteousness comes to you as a gift from God. It comes in the person of Jesus Christ.
Now this is where Peter is going with his sermon. His introduction is getting him there, but he’s not quite there yet. That will have to wait till next week, when we hear the rest of Peter’s sermon. But friends, this is today, and this is my sermon, so I’ve got to get to the good Jesus stuff before Peter does. Peter’s still on the front porch, but I’ve got to get you inside. I’ve got to get you to Jesus.
So let me tell you this: This Jesus–he is your hope on the day of judgment. He is the one you can bank on for the righteousness you need. You see, the sun did turn to darkness on the day when Jesus died on the cross. The judgment was falling on Jesus, in your place. He paid for your sins, all of them, with his holy blood, the blood of the only Son of God. There is the mighty work of God sufficient to meet your need. It’s in Christ, all of it, all of your righteousness, all of your hope, all of your salvation. This Jesus God raised from the dead, and he will raise you, too, all you who trust in him. You need not fear the judgment when Jesus is your Savior.
And so with that in mind, Peter wraps up the first part of his sermon. Continuing on with the quote from Joel, he says: “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Friends, this is a promise for you today! The prophecy about the last days, the day of the Lord, a day of judgment–this may cause you to fear, to become concerned about how you will stand on that day. But fear not. There is hope. “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Yes, this is a promise for you, dear friends! There is salvation for you! Call upon the name of the Lord in faith. And here is the name you should know: It is the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Yes, this is where the front porch of Peter’s sermon is taking us. It’s leading us into the place where Peter will tell us more about this man Jesus and what God has done for us through him. Today I’ve opened the door a bit to let you have a look inside, but by all means, don’t stay standing out there on the porch. Come on inside! In this house, you’re always welcome.