Acts 2:14 “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd.”
Peter always had a reputation for being impulsive. When Jesus asked the disciples a question, Peter was quick to answer. But that was generally in private situations. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples ran away. When he was on trial, Peter denied that he ever knew Jesus. When the disciples discovered Jesus’ empty tomb, they spent the night hiding behind locked doors–even Peter. They hardly looked like a brave band of Christian soldiers ready to turn the world on its head with their powerful preaching.
With the Spirit’s coming on the Day of Pentecost, something had changed. When Luke here tells us that these men “stood up,” the sense is not so much standing after sitting, but more like taking your stand, standing like the hymn “Stand up, stand up for Jesus!” urges us to do. The virtue isn’t in having your body erect, your knees locked, and your bottom off the cushion. It’s in making your position heard, your alliances clear, and not backing down from them. Peter and the eleven were done with fleeing, denying, and hiding. Now they were bold to stand up for what they believed–what they knew to be true.
If their body language gave some indication of where they stood, their voices left no doubt. Peter “raised his voice and addressed the crowd.” I remember classmates in high school Latin mumbling through parts of their translations because they weren’t very sure of their work. They hoped the teacher wouldn’t understand exactly what they said, that he might fill in their mumble with what he hoped to hear them say. They didn’t want to be confronted by the teacher for saying something wrong.
But there wasn’t any mumbling on Peter’s part on this day! He raised his voice. He addressed the crowd. He was never more sure of what he wanted to say. He was never less afraid of the reaction of those who heard him speak. It’s not hard to see the difference the Spirit’s coming on Pentecost Day made. They went from timid and frightened to bold.
We could still use a healthy dose of what they had on that day. My sinful nature, your sinful nature, still likes the path of least resistance. We want the easy way out in matters of faith and confession. We don’t have to publicly deny Jesus to reveal how timid we are. Sometimes we can hide our faith right out in the open. We try hard to blend in. We don’t run away and remove ourselves from society. We simply become society. We become so much like everyone else, that no one can tell there is anything different about us at all. God help us if we become so much like them that we share their eternal fate!
How, then, are we going to find the Spirit that makes us bold? Do we hunker down in a holy huddle somewhere, waiting for God to pour his Spirit down on us? Do we have to impress God into giving him to us by living an extraordinary life of kindness?
The Apostle Paul once asked the Galatians this rhetorical question: “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” He indicates the answer when he follows, “Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.” God gives his Spirit to those who believe the Gospel they have heard. The Spirit comes to us when the story of Jesus is told–that God loved us so much he did not spare his only Son. He sent him into our world to live under the same rules we live under–but to keep them; to suffer the same miseries we suffer–but to accept them; to die the death we deserve–but for our crimes; and to rise to the unending life we will live– but as death’s first conqueror.
The Spirit comes to us when forgiveness of sins and free salvation in Jesus Christ is preached. Then the shackles of doubt and fear fall off our hearts. The doors to the prison of “you still haven’t done enough for God” fly open. In Jesus we know that we are fully and finally free! The Spirit still comes to us in the gospel, and that makes us bold to speak like Peter and the apostles so many years ago.