POST OVERVIEW. The second post of a two-post series which examines Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost. (See first post, #587 on November 16, 2022, which gave the background for the apostle’s message.) This second post will be a verse by verse exegesis of the sermon, showing how Peter brilliantly makes his meaning clear.
OVERVIEW OF THE SERMON
The last post (#587) gave important background information for the sermon Peter delivered on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. In that post, we explored why Peter began his message by referring to Jesus as “the Nazarene” and we considered the two Davidic psalms which Peter quoted in his sermon, Psalm 16 and Psalm 110. Building on that foundation, we are now going to examine the sermon verse by verse to see how Peter crafts his message so that he brings his audience to a saving understanding of who Jesus is.
Before the exegesis, however, we need to see the structure of the sermon and understand specifically what Peter is intending to communicate. (The section of Scripture we will be exploring is Acts 2:22-36, which is the main body of the sermon and contains Peter’s most important points.)
In broad strokes, Peter’s message is that Jesus the Nazarene, whom “you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23), this Jesus whom God raised up again (2:24, 32), “this Jesus whom you crucified” is “both Lord and Christ” (2:36). Thus, Peter must demonstrate from the Scriptures that this Jesus is the Christ, Israel’s promised Messiah, and he must demonstrate from the Scriptures that this Jesus is Lord, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.
The structure of the sermon is as follows:
- Acts 2:22-23. Opening. “You crucified Jesus the Nazarene.”
- Acts 2:24-32. From Psalm 16 (of David), Jesus is the Christ.
- Acts 2:33-35. From Psalm 110 (of David), Jesus is Lord.
- Acts 2:36. Closing. “You crucified Jesus, who is both Lord and Christ.”
Now that we see the direction of the sermon, we are ready to explore the details.
VERSE BY VERSE EXEGESIS
This exegesis assumes that the reader is following along in their Bible. I will be using the New American Standard Bible (1995 Edition).
Acts 2:22. Peter introduces Jesus the Nazarene. Although He had been crucified almost two months before Pentecost, Jesus’ name was still known to this Jewish crowd. Jesus’ earthly ministry had made an impression on the region around Jerusalem and into Galilee and beyond, so Peter here reminds them of Jesus. As we have said, Jesus as “the Nazarene” emphasizes His humble humanity and His humiliation in His shameful death. But also, Peter reminds the crowd that Jesus was no ordinary man, for He performed miracles and wonders and signs which were attested to many people. In fact, God performed these miracles through Jesus.
Acts 2:23. The vileness of Jesus’ execution and their own corporate guilt is now hammered home. “This Man you nailed to a cross and put Him to death.” Notice that Peter places the responsibility for Jesus’ death not on the ones who carried it out, but on the ones who planned it and agreed to it and who desired it. “YOU nailed Him to a cross.” But the Jews already knew and accepted this. “Yes, we saw to it that Jesus the Nazarene was executed. We were told He was a heretic.” So far, Peter is simply telling them facts they already know.
NOTE: This verse also contains the immensely important phrase, “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.” This post will not explore this but will leave its explanation for another post at a later date.
JESUS IS THE CHRIST
Acts 2:24. This verse begins the section of the sermon (2:24-32) in which Peter will demonstrate from Psalm 16 that Jesus is the Christ. “But God raised Him up again.” Peter delivers a thunderclap to the crowd: “You crucified Jesus, BUT GOD RAISED HIM UP.” The crowd begins to understand the wickedness of their act. “We put Jesus to death, but God raised Him to life again. Whom we crucified God resurrected. We must have acted against God.”
The big news, however, is that, in Jesus, we have a resurrection. Peter has thus made the focus of the sermon to be the resurrection. Among the Hebrews at that time, whenever the subject of the resurrection would come up in a conversation, Psalm 16 would be the Scripture referenced. So, if this is a resurrection, then this is a fulfilment of Psalm 16:8-11, which Peter will quote in the next verses.
Acts 2:25. Peter states that, in Psalm 16:8-11, David is speaking of Jesus. (NOTE: Acts 2:25-28 is a direct quote of Psalm 16:8-11.) Remember that, among Hebrew scholars of the time, this section of Psalm 16 was acknowledged to be Messianic. Also, as we have already mentioned, this section of Psalm 16 was the “go to” passage in the Old Testament for the resurrection. Therefore, when Peter says, “For David says of Him (Jesus),” he is saying that, in Psalm 16, David is telling of the resurrection of Jesus.
Acts 2:26. Peter continues to quote Psalm 16 with verse 9.
Acts 2:27. This is the key verse in the passage, a quote of Psalm 16:10.
Because You will not abandon my soul to Hades,
Nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
Before we dig deeper into this verse, we need to notice that Peter has established an important point. In Acts 2:25, Peter declared that, in Psalm 16:8-11, David was speaking about Jesus and here in a quote of Psalm 16:10, he refers to Your Holy One. Thus, Peter has established that “Your Holy One” is Jesus. Remember this when we get to Acts 2:31.
We had noted in post #587 that, at that time, the exact understanding of this verse remained a mystery. It was clear that the verse spoke about a resurrection (“Nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay”) and it was acknowledged that “Your Holy One” referred to the Messiah, but how the pieces fit together was a puzzle. For Messiah to be resurrected and “not undergo decay,” it would seem that He would need to die, but that did not agree with their teaching which said, the Christ is not to die, but “the Christ is to remain forever” (John 12:34). But now, with what Peter has said so far in his sermon, we have all the information we need to solve the puzzle. Peter, like any good preacher, will now connect the dots for his hearers so that they can fully grasp the significance of what has occurred and what he has said so far.
Acts 2:28. Peter finishes quoting Psalm 16 with verse 11 of that psalm.
Acts 2:29. In this verse, the apostle Peter eliminates the possibility of someone saying that David is here speaking about himself. In fact, Peter proves that David cannot possibly be referring to himself because “David died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.” Thus, David himself certainly underwent decay and was not resurrected. But if he is not speaking about himself, of whom was he speaking in Psalm 16:10?
Acts 2:30. Significantly, Peter reminds his audience that David was a prophet. This means that his writing is divinely inspired and, thus, absolutely true. (“The Scripture cannot be broken” – John 10:35; 2 Timothy 3:16; John 17:17). This leads into Acts 2:31.
Acts 2:31. The apostle Peter declares that David, as a prophet of God, spoke in Psalm 16:10 of the resurrection of the Christ. “He was neither abandoned to Hades, not did His flesh suffer decay.” Notice carefully what Peter has done. In quoting Psalm 16:10, he used the pronoun “His” in place of “Your Holy One.” But note that Peter has also said that this verse speaks of the resurrection of the Christ. Thus by simple logic, Peter has proved that “Your Holy One” is the Christ. But there is more. Remember from 2:27 that “Your Holy One” is Jesus. We again employ simple logic and discover that Peter has proven that Jesus is the Christ.
Acts 2:32. Peter again declares the resurrection of “this Jesus” (“God raised Him up again”) and adds that there are hundreds of witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. Therefore, from the clear teaching of the Scriptures, from logic, and from the fact that Jesus has been raised up by God from the dead, this Jesus is the Christ. This concludes the first part of the sermon.
JESUS IS THE LORD
Acts 2:33a. The second, brief part of the sermon (2:33-35) is intended to demonstrate that this Jesus (whom you crucified) is the Lord, that is, He is God. Peter makes two declarations in Acts 2:33 that we will address separately. First, he declares that this Jesus has been exalted to the right hand of God. We know that, when God raised Him up again, He seated Jesus at His right hand (Mark 16:19; Eph. 1:20; Heb. 1:3). So, now Jesus is at God’s right hand. Hold that thought until we consider 2:34.
Acts 2:33b. Peter also declares that Jesus is the one who “poured forth” the promised Holy Spirit. Now, to understand what Peter is doing, we need to look back in Acts 2 to the quote from Joel 2:28-32a in Acts 2:17-21. There we read (Acts 2:17) “THAT I WILL POUR FORTH OF MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND.” But we need to know who is speaking in Joel 2:28, 29/Acts 2:17, 18. Who is it that will “pour forth His Spirit?” To answer that question, we need only look back one verse to Joel 2:27, where we read, “I am the LORD your God, And there is no other.” The LORD your God is the one speaking in Acts 2:17, 18 and so “the LORD your God is the one who will “pour forth His Spirit.” But notice that Peter has declared that Jesus has poured forth the promised Holy Spirit. So, from the prophet Joel we can conclude that Jesus is the Lord.
Acts 2:34. Here, the apostle Peter first establishes that Jesus, not David, ascended into heaven, and then Peter quotes Psalm 110:1.
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”’
The main point to notice in this passage is that, according to Psalm 110:1, the Lord is seated at the LORD’s right hand. But wait! Peter has already demonstrated, in 2:33a, that Jesus is at God’s right hand. What do we conclude? Again, we must conclude that Jesus is the Lord.
Acts 2:35. Peter simply finishes the rest of Psalm 110:1. He has made his second point, that Jesus is Lord, and so will conclude his message.
Acts 2:36. With this verse, Peter will put the final nail in the coffin. He has demonstrated from Scripture that this Jesus is the Christ (2:24-32). He has proven from Scripture that this Jesus is the Lord (2:33-35). Now Peter delivers all the guilt of crucifying the Messiah onto the heads of all the house of Israel as he proclaims, “This Jesus whom you crucified is both Lord and Christ!”
What we have discovered in this two-part series is that the apostle Peter, an untrained fisherman from Galilee, has, by the power of the Holy Spirit, masterfully proven from two Davidic psalms, Psalm 16 and Psalm 110, that Jesus the Nazarene is, in fact, the Lord of the universe and the promised Messiah, the Christ.
SDG rmb 11/18/2022 #588