The difference?

Acts chapter 2

What made a man who had around seven weeks earlier flatly denied knowing (let alone being associated with) Jesus now stand and publicly fight His case in front of thousands of spectators?

What made a man who had, weeks earlier, cowered at the idea of being associated with Jesus now stand up and boldly confront those who’d executed Him?

What caused this 180º dramatic change in Peter and enabled him to publicly stand up for the cause of Jesus?

What’s more, what made those who were listening give him their attention? Had he not, only a few weeks ago, abandoned and flatly denied the cause that he was now so passionately and, at risk to himself, championing?

What triggered and sustained their interest to hear out this smelly fisherman from Galilee who had, just a few weeks back, opted to dissociate himself from the very person he was now preaching?

How come that they were eventually so deeply convicted?

What made the difference?

There were no natural causes or factors that the difference could be attributed to.

In fact, without any evidence and the lack of any other obvious reason this change in Peter’s position and the phenomenon that accompanied it was initially wrongly ascribed to alcohol. Alcohol was labelled as the prime suspect for this change of heart and unusual display of boldness.

These unruly and predominantly uneducated men and women from the lowly region of Galilee were ridiculed precisely because of that.  Here was a bunch of people who were hidden away in some obscure place for the past several weeks due to fear of the authorities – to an extent – and the resultant ripples and reverberations in the community, of Christ’s brutal crucifixion on the cross.

They were initially not even taken seriously but despised for their alleged intake of alcohol so early in the morning. However, the apostle Peter rises to the challenge by stating that it is totally unimaginable at such an early hour as it was only 9 am in the morning! (Verse 13)

Peter stands up in their defence, along with the rest, and the initially hostile and ridiculing crowd gradually takes notice as he begins to narrate the story behind this, hitherto unseen, phenomenon. They listen. First with suspicion. Then with disbelief. Finally with conviction mixed with fear. The conviction is so deep that the writer of the book can only describe it as “they were cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37) when they heard what Peter had to say.

In his presentation to the crowd expounding the genesis of the phenomenon which took place, this uneducated fisherman from Galilee does not only give a brief and cursory explanation. He preaches an impromptu but paradoxically profound and knowledgeable sermon that eventually sweeps them off their feet.  He harks back to the scriptures that they are already familiar with, a common reference point for all those present.  He grounds the experience they have just received in the very words of God that foretold this experience hundreds of years ago through the prophet Joel (verses 16 – 21). Peter gives a clear, detailed and verse by verse account of the prophecy relating to the Holy Spirit. In short, he puts it to them that this is not an unheralded and unannounced phenomenon that appeared out of the blue but one that was promised and foretold by God, grounded in the Holy Scriptures themselves.

Peter goes on to further corroborate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (which is fresh in the minds of those listening) with reference from these same scriptures so all are clear that nothing happened randomly but  “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,” (verse 23).

The core of the Peter’s sermon on the day is summed up in one single verse, verse 32, – “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” This was what the Lord Jesus Himself expressly desired them to be – His witnesses – and promised the arrival of Holy Spirit to empower them to be so.

In concluding his sermon, the apostle Peter, after grounding the phenomenon experienced by them and the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ in the promise, plans and foreknowledge of God as demonstrated in scriptures, ties the arrival of the Holy Spirit which just happened in front of their eyes, with the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the final precursor to it and to which they were eyewitnesses.

Whatever they heard it went deep inside them. It could not have gone any deeper.

Whatever they heard it was no mere human oratory. This went beyond the natural, something else was at work here that caused Peter to risk everything he had to declare the very same Jesus he had denied out of fear for his own life.

Something else was at work here that caused the crowd to be riveted to Peter’s speech and listen to him intently leading to their being deeply convicted – “cut to the heart”.

This conviction eventually led to their inquiring about what they need to do to be saved. Realising their condition they cry out for help.

What caused this change of heart both in Peter and the crowd that gave heed to his words? What was the difference?

It was and still is the Holy Spirit.

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