Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost
14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day.16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘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;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
Observations and Reflections
“But Peter, standing with the eleven…”
First thing the reader might notice is that Peter was with all his disciples. Reading 11 rather than 12 might lead one to believe that the newest disciple was not present for some reason but I believe Luke’s narrative is trying to numerate Peter + 11, not Peter as 1 of 11.
“these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day”
Peter must now address the locals who do not understand what is happening. Those who accused them of being drunk obviously did not hear their own native tongue being spoken or else they would have been amazing like the foreigners did hear the message in their own language. On the accusation that they were drunk, Peter notes that it is only the 3rd hour of the day (about 9:00 AM). This was a common time of Jewish prayer in the mornings was usually accompanied by a small bit of food after, but not drink. The fourth hour of the day was usually the first hour that it was acceptable to drink anything. Moreover, it was a feast day. They certainly would not have began the drinking and celebrating this early, during the harvest (Pentecost) festival. After all, there would be plenty drinking later in the day during the actual celebrations.1
Nevertheless, having confounded the Judeans who seemingly were not able to understand the disciple’s language, Peter attempts to explain to them what is happening and how it’s part of God’s prophecies. Peter’s understanding of the events is based on Joel 2:28-32. The events in the upper room and the speaking in tongues was an outpouring of the Spirit upon God’s people. Peter’s use of Joel was certainly not by accident. The believe in Jewish culture was that the presence of God was not longer with the Jewish people, as prophesied by Ezekiel.
Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim. 19 And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them. (Ezekiel 10:18-19)
But they believed that in the end times, the Spirit of God would be poured out upon all people; hence the use of Joel in Peter’s explanation. However, the use of Joel indicates that Peter (like most early Christians) believed they were living in the very last days. It is not until much later that Christian thought transitioned towards a longer duration before Christ returns.
“And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”
It should also not be overlooked that Peter’s quote of Joel includes the beginning of the gospel to the Gentiles. The remainder of Acts is going to greatly emphasis the gospel to the Gentiles.
Peter was a disciple that was known for always having his foot caught in his mouth. He was constantly either making bold unwarranted statements without thinking or completely shying away from the situation. Here we see a completely new side of Peter. He is still bold but has gained wisdom and understanding of all that Jesus has taught him. The Holy Spirit is now actively moving and leading Peter as he begins to preach this sermon.
This passage focuses on the first half of Peter’s sermon. He begins by addressing the crowds confusion head on by stating that what they see happening here is truly the work of God coming to reality. He brings them back to the Old Testament prophecy about this very event that has just taken place. He strikes at the heart of the Jewish beliefs, knowing that stating from the Old Testament would catch their attention.
He is not only reminding them of what was prophesied but he is also calling their attention to the fact that the time is now to call on God’s name and believe in Him. He talks about the day in which Jesus will come back to take home His believers and before that time is the opportunity to repent of one’s sins, call on God’s name and believe in Him.
There is nothing mystical about what has taken place here nor is it driven by those who are drunk. It is God’s hand at work in the life of His believers and He using them as means to spread the Gospel and preach to the world. The time for us is now to also boldly speak God’s truth into the lives of those in whom we come in contact with. Prayerfully consider whomever God has placed in your life that desperately needs to hear the Gospel and ask for a Peter-like boldness to step out and spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
1. [New American Commentary: Acts, Broadman & Holman Publishers, “2:14–16”]↩