Speaking the Wonderful Works of God
Peter proclaims that Joel’s prophecy is now fulfilled. God promised to pour out His Spirit on all flesh. He did just that on Pentecost. What a miracle! Joel said that sons and daughters, young and old, would proclaim God’s Word. Christians have been faithfully proclaiming the Gospel for nearly 2000 years now. What a miracle! Joel said, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved.” The Holy Spirit has been working that faith for centuries. That’s the miracle of Pentecost—speaking and being saved by the wonderful works of God!
But St. Peter knew that it would be a travesty and a tragedy to give a sermon without preaching Jesus. St. Peter knew that his congregation on that famous Pentecost Day needed to hear the wonderful works that God had done through His Son Jesus Christ. You see, Peter paid attention to Jesus. On the night when He was betrayed, Jesus said, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring your remembrance all that I have said to you” (Jn. 14:26). St. Peter knew that a sermon that does not give you Jesus and His message is not a sermon from the Holy Spirit. It’s not a Christian sermon, if it does not have Christ at the center for you.
So, here’s how St. Peter preached Jesus, on the first Pentecost Day and for you here tonight: “Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” After Peter showed from the Old Testament Psalms how Christ would rise again from the dead, he said, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.”
Through St. Peter’s sermon, God the Holy Spirit does two great miracles. First, He cuts like a scalpel to expose and remove the cancer of your sin, and second, He gives you the healing medicine of Jesus and His forgiveness. St. Peter concluded his Pentecost sermon with these words: “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
So, what does all this mean for you? You might think, “We were not there when they crucified the Lord.” Ah, but you were! You may not have been there physically, in space and time, but it was your sins that put Jesus on the cross. Your every ill thought of another person, your every hurtful action, and your every word meant to get even or make excuses, they all put Jesus on the cross. Your every excuse for missing out on hearing God’s Word and receiving the Eucharist in church put Christ on the bloody tree. Your every neglect of calling on God in time of need, of praying, praising, and giving thanks, they pierced His hands and feet. Your every worry and mistrust of God, even all the times you don’t even think about God, they all led to the perfect Son of God shedding His blood and dying in your place. And yet God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified—yes, you—God has made this Jesus…both Lord and Christ.
Here is the miracle of Pentecost. “Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart.” After all, God’s Word is sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12), sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel. They asked Peter and the other apostles, “What shall we do?” Notice how the Holy Spirit works through the Word of God as it’s proclaimed. Peter preaches, and his hearers come to repentance. The Holy Spirit still works that way. When you hear the Word of God, the Holy Spirit brings you to repentance. He leads you to say, “Oh, no! Look what I’ve done! I’ve sinned against God Himself! What shall I do?” And it’s a wonderful work of God!
Well, Peter does not leave the congregation in the throes of despair. No, he gives words of sweet comfort and healing: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). This is the wonderful work of God! This is the miracle of Pentecost! The Holy Spirit comes to you through God’s Word proclaimed to you and through the waters of your Baptism. In your Baptism, the Spirit gives you a new life and a new way of relating to God. Because Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose the third day, you are now pure, perfect, and holy. Now, you are forgiven and free. The Spirit brings you that message. Through that Good News the He makes you alive. That’s the wonderful work of God for you!
In his Large Catechism Dr. Martin Luther explained the Holy Spirit’s work this way: “Neither you nor I could ever know anything about Christ, or believe in Him and receive Him as Lord, unless these were offered to us and bestowed on our hearts through the preaching of the gospel by the Holy Spirit. The work is finished and completed; Christ has acquired and won the treasure for us by his sufferings, death, and resurrection, etc. But if the work remained hidden so that no one knew of it, it would have been all in vain, all lost. In order that this treasure might not remain buried but be put to use and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to be published and proclaimed, in which He has given the Holy Spirit to offer and apply to us this treasure, this redemption” (II:38; Kolb-Wengert, p. 436).
What a treasure it is to hear in your own language the wonderful news of God forgiving you in Christ. What a wonderful miracle that you can hear these words from your Lord Jesus: “I forgive you all your sins.”
And the Holy Spirit enables you to speak these same wonderful works of God to people around you. We have an easy enough time talking about the Cardinal’s game or the daily weather. What do you say we remember how easy it is to talk about Christ and His wonderful works of saving us from sin and death? After all, you have received the Holy Spirit. Now, you can speak the wonderful works of God in your language and with your very own tongue! Amen.