Psalm 16 • Acts 2:14-36 • 1 Peter 1:3-9 • John 20:19-31
In our Acts reading we see Peter, at Pentecost, use verses 8-11 of Psalm 16 to confirm to the crowds that are listening to his sermon (as the Holy Spirit is impacted those present) that he is, indeed, talking about the same God that they worship.
King David, the Psalmist who proclaims that only God is his God and that he will not turn to the false gods as others do. When Peter refers to this proclamation from the Psalmist he is setting his credentials of following the same God of King David, and therefore, the same God that they follow. In other words, Peter is laying out a foundation to the people that the God he is talking about is not a foreign, or false, God, but actually, he is referring to their God.
Psalm 16 is the testimony of a man who had drawn a line in the sand and said, ‘I will only worship, follow, and trust the One True God.’ To understand why David would have taken such a firm stance, read Psalm 15 in which he talks about the man/woman who is accepted in the dwelling of God. Basically, Psalm 16 is the ‘How to Be…’ of Psalm 15
As the apostles went into the streets forty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, they were going at the push of the Holy Spirit in the midst of an international flood of Jews into the gates of Jerusalem. Christ had breathed the Holy Spirit into them prior to his ascension and now that same Spirit was preparing these crowds to hear the message of God coming from the disciples. As we saw in our Psalm primer above, Peter identifies with the crowd by aligning with the allegiance to, and worship of, the One True God. In referring to the Psalm passage, Peter does one more thing – He brings the fullness of the meaning of the Psalmist from simply being about David to a fuller understanding of the reference to Christ the Messiah. Peter, as he speaks to the religious and devout persons that make up the crowd, he is bringing their faith full circle, explaining how the God they worship is the God that gave his Son – the Son who is their long promised Messiah.
1 Peter 1:3-9
Peter was writing to Christians who were residents of five Roman provinces in the area of Asia Minor. Within the letters from Peter to these believers we see that they are suffering some type of persecution. Scholars differ on the type of persecution, whether it is physical or more of a social manner. It would make sense either way, they are a group ostracized by the majority of their communities due to their belief in God rather than that a King/ruler could be God. The believers are primarily new Christians and rather immature in their faith and in their relationship as ‘Church.’ Peter’s call to these is a call of perseverance and loyalty to Christ – to live a life above reproach while living amongst a hostile society with respect and hope.
In our assigned passage of the first letter of Peter, the apostle is referring to their current situation as being in the middle of trials and tribulation. As you read think on Peter’s use of joy for their earthly suffering and salvation for their eternal outcome. Also, consider Peter’s use of gold to describe the unseen process that is going on in their lives. Look at Zechariah 13:9, Malachi 3:2-3, Isaiah 48:10, and Proverbs 17:3 to better understand the use of this metaphor to describe what is going on as they experience trials and tribulation.
Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ–he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
In this Acts 10 passage which we read last week, we see the intentionality of the resurrection as well as the reports of those who, not only saw him, but interacted with him on a very intimate level following the resurrection. These, who did have the post resurrection moment of ‘being with Jesus’, were to be the eye witnesses to the resurrection and the life of Jesus Christ to the rest of the world – those who would have not experienced the, post resurrection, first person face to face with Jesus. The first of those witnesses was the women who went to the tomb the morning after the Sabbath. The other followers heard the testimony of the women but were suspicious and doubtful until they, themselves, had the same personal face to face interaction. In our passage from John we see Jesus appear to the disciples. Thomas was not there and insisted that he would not believe until he also had seen Jesus.
Thomas often gets a bad rap, his name if forever associated with doubt. The truth is that Thomas wanted, and needed (he assuredly was incapable, at that time, of realizing the necessity it was for him to have his own post resurrection face to face experience with Jesus), the same experience that the others had – the unique ‘experience of the risen Jesus’. Those eyewitnesses who would be the apostles forming the New Testament Church. When Jesus does appear to Thomas, there is no confrontation concerning the doubt Thomas expressed, instead, we see that Jesus met the disciples exactly where he needed to be met. Thomas needed to see Jesus to be able to testify to others that he had truly seen. For Thomas, doubt was a positive, it forced him to seek and search, he was looking and eventually he was seeing.
What is most important in this entrance of Jesus into the room was that his first words to the scared disciples was ‘Peace to You.’ Words he had said in his last encounter with the men, words that he said to the women, words, said or inferred, that were a common refrain in all his encounters. Words that would be said again – a command that continues to pertains to us, today, in the midst of our own strange experiences and circumstances.
Peace that is in spite of current situations and atmospheres. Peace that is dependent, not on earthly things, people, or institutions – Peace that is based one hundred percent on Jesus Christ.
Peace in the midst of fear. Peace in the midst of confusion. Peace in the midst of disillusionment. Peace in the midst of disappointment. Peace in the midst of doubt. Peace in the midst of hopelessness. Peace in the face of hatred. Peace in the midst of worry.