First Reading: Acts 2:14, 36-41
The Challenge of Salvation
What is wrong with the world today? Can the world be changed for the better?
14 Along with the other Apostles, Peter stood up and addressed the crowd, "Attention, everyone! I have something to say to you who live in Jerusalem and Judea. Listen! My words are true!
36 The nation of Israel should know something about Jesus. You nailed this man to a cross. But God made him Lord and Christ!"
37 When they heard Peter's words, they felt like a knife stabbed their hearts. "What should we do?" they demanded from Peter and the other Apostles.
38 "Turn back to God!" Peter replied. "Each one of you should be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then your sins will be forgiven and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 This is promise God made a long time ago. The promise is for you, your children, and to all the people God calls, even those who live far away." 40 Peter spoke for a long time about Jesus. He urged everyone, "Let God save you from this evil generation!"
41 Three thousand people believed Peter's message that day and were baptized.
14 Having stood, Peter (along) with the Eleven, raised his voice and spoke to them, "Men, (fellow) Judeans and all living in Jerusalem! Let this be know to you! Give ear to my words!
36 Certainly, then, let all (of you in) the house of Israel know that God made him, this Jesus, whom you crucified, (both) Lord and Christ."
37 Having heard (this), they were stabbed in the heart (by these words). (They) said to Peter and the other Apostles, "What must we do, men, (our) brothers?" 38 Peter said to them, "Turn (your) heart-mind away (from sin), let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For, (God's) promise is for you, your children, and to all in the far off (lands), as many (that) the Lord our God might call." 40 In many other words, he witnessed (with argument) and urged them, saying, "Be saved from (the punishment) this perverted generation (who crucified Jesus will receive)!" 41 So the (people), having received his word (in a complete manner), were baptized and were counted on that day as three thousand (saved) souls.
These verses complete Peter's first proclamation of the Good News on Pentecost. The proclamation had three parts: 1) an explanation of "tongues" with Joel 2:28-32 as a sign of the end times, 2) the proclamation of Jesus as Messiah, using an apologetic exposition of his death and resurrection in light of Psalm 16:8-11 and 110:1, 3) the response of his audience. In the proclamation, Peter implicitly divided the world of Judaism into three camps: those guilty of crucifying the Messiah, those innocent of the crime, and those who were to be judged. Notice it was God who would make the judgment.
Also notice the guilt of the crime lay beyond the border of personal responsibility. Indeed, Peter described the crime as universal, an offense so large all would share guilt if they rejected the Good News. So, Peter saw the world divided into the saved, the damned, and the those who hadn't heard about and decided for Jesus.
The challenge Peter lay before his countrymen was simple. How do people join the saved and removed themselves from the guilty? The choice for salvation had three steps: metanoia, baptism, and anticipation. Metanoia was a change in heart, mind, and lifestyle, a radical departure from the way of the world. Baptism was in the name of Jesus for the purpose of making that metanoia public, and with the result of God's forgiveness. Finally, there was the anticipation of God's gift, life in the Holy Spirit which the Apostles made evident on Pentecost. Notice the gift was "the promise God made" to those present, their families, and to those in the Diaspora (and, by extension, to the "righteous Gentiles"). These three steps placed the neophytes into the community of the end times. And, thus, distinct from the "perverted generation" that bore the guilt of Jesus' death.
So, pregnant within Peter's speech was a world view, as well as the steps for salvation. The world view was made possible by a simple change in outlook. Followers no longer saw the death of Jesus as a moment of despair, but as the starting point of the end times. With the final exhalation of Jesus on the cross, the Spirit became active. First, with the resurrection of Jesus. Then, with the empowerment of Pentecost. Even today, we Christians still look at the world through Peter's eyes.
How is today part of the end times? How does this world view inspire you to renew your faith?