(Act 2:22-28 ESV) “Men of Israel, hear these words: 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 — 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades [not hell but the realm of the dead], or let your Holy One see corruption. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
Peter says to the audience that “you” crucified and killed him (v. 23). Really? Many were a 1,000 miles away at the time. But it makes sense if we see the crucifixion as part of God’s covenant history — as the working out of the prophecies of Deu 28 – 30.
God sent the entire nation into Exile. He promised to bring back the nation if they would repent and return to him — and yet the leaders of the nation crucified the Messiah! This is the furthest thing from returning to God! The nation itself was under judgment, and this was no way to escape judgment.
V. 24 declares the resurrection of Jesus, and then Peter quotes Psalm 16 as prophesying the resurrection.
(Act 2:29-31 ESV) “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.”
Peter then explains that Psalm 16 cannot be speaking of David, because David died and remains dead in his tomb, whereas Psalm 16 speaking of someone who will not be abandoned to the grave or rot as a corpse.
(Act 2:32 ESV) 32 “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.”
Peter then declares that the 120 disciples who had been speaking with the visible and audible presence of the Spirit were eyewitnesses to the resurrection.
(Act 2:33 ESV) 33 “Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”
Peter next cites as proof of his claims the fact that the Spirit has quite obviously been outpoured in accordance with prophecy. Therefore, the Messiah has come. The Messiah is the King of promise, and so Jesus is pictured as ruling from heaven.
(Act 2:34-36 ESV) 34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”‘ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”
Peter next quotes Psalm 110 for the claim that Jesus, as Messiah, sits at God’s right hand. Then, amazingly, he declares Jesus “both Lord and Christ.” Now, “Christ” means Messiah means Anointed One means the King of prophecy. “Lord” could mean anything from “sir” to God himself. But in context, he is referring to Joel 2:31, which he’d just quoted —
(Joe 2:32 ESV) 32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.
“LORD” in Joel 2:32 is YHWH in the Hebrew. Peter has the audacity to call Jesus by the Holy Name of God, YHWH. He is not only Messiah and the Son of God, but God the Son. He is divine in the fullest sense of the word.
Then he repeats the accusation: “this Jesus whom you crucified.”
(Act 2:37 ESV) Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Why “cut to the heart”? They weren’t accused of a sin they’d personally committed. But their nation — God’s elect people — had rejected the Messiah sent by God. And the Kingdom was dawning and Jesus was now in authority.
If you believed yourself a part of a nation in Exile because of its sins against God, and if you believed that the Exile would end when the nation returned to God and that God would send his Spirit to his people when they returned to him, well, what would you want to know?
They weren’t feeling damned in their immorality or legalism. Peter had not touched on either subject. The topic of the sermon was the Messiahship of Jesus and the rejection of him by the Jewish people — as a people.
Therefore, any devout Jew would know that he was about to miss his last chance to return to God and receive the blessings of Deu 30 — a return of the Lord’s favor that they’d been praying for for over 500 years!
This crooked generation
I know the readers are desperate to get to Acts 2:38, but we need to first skip to —
(Act 2:40 ESV) 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”
We assume that this means, “Save yourselves from these sinners.” But those present were devout Jews (as Luke has taken pains to point out earlier in chapter 2). Rather, Peter is quoting the Song of Moses, a psalm that Moses sang near the end of (you guessed it) Deuteronomy —
(Deu 32:4-6 ESV) 4 “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he. 5 They have dealt corruptly with him; they are no longer his children because they are blemished; they are a crooked and twisted generation. 6 Do you thus repay the LORD, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?”
This is, in very plain words, a threat to evict the Israelites as God’s children or chosen people because of their sins — their rejection of his grace. Again …
(Deu 32:18-22 ESV) 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. 19 “The LORD saw it and spurned them, because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters. 20 And he said, ‘I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness. 21 They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. 22 For a fire is kindled by my anger, and it burns to the depths of Sheol, devours the earth and its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.
The language is borrowed from a series of severe warnings against idolatry and a lack of faithfulness.
In short, Peter’s sermon declares that the nation of Israel is now living in the Deu 30 times, and they have a choice to make. Either return to God and receive hearts circumcised by the Spirit or else suffer the fate of the faithless in Deu 30 and the Song of Moses (Deu 32).