Acts 2:36

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 must have been an interesting preacher to listen to. Not afraid to speak his mind. Contentious. Divisive.

He starts off his sermon at Pentecost by chiding his audience for misunderstanding what has been happening (the people before them are not drunk, they’re recipients of the Holy
Spirit, 2:15ff.), he moves on to naming them as conspirators with wicked men for the purpose of murder (2:22-23), and gives them one last kick with verse 36: “this Jesus whom you crucified” is the one who God has made both Lord and Christ.

Interesting method, we might say—but you can’t say that he doesn’t back up his claims.

Throughout his sermon, Peter draws on the Old Testament Scriptures at a number of points. After quoting Joel’s prophecy about the Spirit, Peter gives King David’s words careful attention. He quotes Psalm 16 twice, the first as it appears in the book of Psalms (2:27, cf. Ps 16:10-11), but the second time with a couple of alterations (2:31). The changes in question are that while David spoke of what would happen in the future to the anointed Messiah—he will not be abandoned to the grave; his body will not see decay—Peter points to the resurrection of Jesus as evidence that this has already come to pass. Jesus wasn’t abandoned to the grave (unlike David, v. 29); his body didn’t see decay. According to the prophecy of David, the resurrection they were witnesses to is a sure sign that Jesus is the promised Christ.

Furthermore, Jesus has ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9), exalted to the right hand of God. Again, it’s not David who has done this, it’s Jesus who is able to sit in the presence of God (2:33-34). Jesus, not David, is the one who has poured out the Spirit, resulting in everything that has been happening around Peter and his audience. The title of ‘Lord’ in the quotation from Psalm 110, another messianic psalm, therefore tells us about Jesus’ heavenly authority. He’s the Lord to call on in order to be saved (cf. 2:21).

Peter is showing us here that these Psalms about the Messiah and the Lord can’t refer to David. Instead, David’s words in these Psalms are prophetic, inspired by the Spirit of God, looking forward to the resurrection of Jesus. His resurrection and ascension show him to be the one that David spoke about, the Christ/Messiah who was to come.

All of this comes to a climax in verse 36. God’s action, in making plain that Jesus is Lord and Christ, is for all of God’s people to see. (It’s worth noting quickly what this verse is not saying. We shouldn’t read this as if Jesus was ‘adopted’ by God into being Lord and Christ at this point in time. As the author of both Acts and the gospel that bears his name, Luke clearly tells us that Jesus was called Messiah and Lord from his birth and throughout his ministry. Peter’s logic is that because he is the Messiah he was raised from the dead, not the other way around.) These events are declarations of God about the true order of things: Jesus is Lord.

Peter doesn’t just give a historical and theological lesson. He also tells us the appropriate response:

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?” And Peter said to them, “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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:37-39)

The events of Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension, and pouring out of the Spirit have demonstrated to everyone their position with respect to God. That includes us too—for those playing along at home, we’re part of that phrase “all who are far off”. All of us, even us who are part of a generation far removed from witnessing those events, need to recognize that Jesus is the Lord, the one by whose name we are saved. Repentance is required to turn and stand for Jesus and his message. Forgiveness of sins is offered in this one man. This Lord pours out the Holy Spirit. I pray that I’ll be the sort of disciple of Jesus who not only holds to these truths about my risen Lord, but that I’ll talk about him and proclaim him in such a way that the choice to follow Jesus is as clear as it was for Peter’s audience.

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